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Tony La Russa: The wrong man, at the wrong time

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It’s beyond nitpicking the process now — the new manager must go

Chicago White Sox Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

As the balance of the 2010s was spent underwater, White Sox fans slowly descended into Charlie Brownery, quick to poke fun at the franchise and roll out the woe-is-us. I’ve tried to avoid dipping too much into that, as it smacks of the “lovable loser” act than any Chicago baseball fan out of their teens knew far too well from the other side of town.

What made the otherwise truncated and dangerous 2020 season such a joy was the White Sox turning a corner into brighter days. Charlie Brown didn’t just kick the football, he snuck up on Lucy and split the uprights from 50 yards out.

There were plenty of legit reasons to criticize the La Russa hire, some of which start to tread into ageism and “lovable loser”-dom. Once again, the utter lack of a managerial hiring process — interviewing candidates, for crying out loud! — bit the Pale Hose. With Ricky Renteria, the team settled on a kindly babysitter who couldn’t advance that team against big-boy competition. With Robin Ventura, the White Sox played a hunch and missed badly, identifying only active first baseman Paul Konerko as a rival candidate in some form of self-parody.

It was in fact the active hiring process in 2003 that yielded the only title-winning manager in the past century: Ozzie Guillén. GM Ken Williams granted Ozzie a courtesy interview after the Guillén’s Marlins (he was their third-base coach) won the World Series; Ozzie, hung over and a bit belligerent, blew Williams away and stole the gig from Cito Gaston.

But the four paragraphs above bury the lede, because today’s revelations via ESPN make one thing clear in all of the muck of this hiring process: Tony La Russa must be dismissed as manager of the White Sox. It seems like a no-brainer, but it must be said, because the fog that surrounds the White Sox front office is thick.

The fact that the hire should never have been made is besides the point, at this juncture. What we know now — NOW, after it’s already been revealed that the White Sox interviewed no other managers, that La Russa’s purview embraces neither the modern player nor the makeup of White Sox leadership, that La Russa has failed to reach out to any of his players after getting the job — makes it impossible to spin this hire any further.

And it makes it impossible for the White Sox to win, period.

The White Sox were already going to face some steep challenges, including the possession of just two-fifths of a major-league rotation, lurking sophomore slumps, a crevasse in right field, and the specter of more fan-less games. A field manager who presents more obstacle than aid in surmounting those challenges is the wrong man, at the wrong time.

There really is no right time for a man twice arrested for DUI to manage in the big leagues. But let’s restrict it to here, with the White Sox, and now, for an up-and-coming team doing its best to attack a 2021 season and sprint to a pennant.

Tony must go.