Leave it to the White Sox to pee those fresh, clean, first-day-spring sheets.
In a deep dive on Tony La Russa’s return to managing running in today’s USA Today, Bob Nightengale casually drops a nugget that seems ... huge.
When the White Sox started the interview process with La Russa in October, he also told Reinsdorf of the [February 2020 DUI]. Reinsdorf didn’t share it with anyone.
Given the criticism and praise parsed out for Jerry Reinsdorf in this very morning’s SSS Podcast, I’d like to go back and scrub some of that goodwill. Because this is a horrible revelation.
Sure, Reinsdorf was gonna hire La Russa no matter what, apparently. And he must have sensed that sharing La Russa’s DUI with his “family” entrusted with caretaking the White Sox — namely GM Rick Hahn and executive VP Ken Williams — was going to make bulldozing La Russa into the manager’s seat even more complicated.
But how insulting is it that the owner — again, the South Side purports to operate as family, so there should be no cold-hearted, cold-blooded robber baron behavior toward his own — withheld this crucial information from his hiring team?
Again, it may not have changed the outcome, as Reinsdorf was determined to follow through on this redemption story (why a Hall of Fame manager and filthy-rich World Series-winning owner need a redemption story is another article, entirely). But to hang two of his “sons,” Hahn and Williams, out to dry knowing the firestorm sure to come if the DUI ever came to light (as if it possibly wouldn’t) shatters the illusion of familial love in the executive suite.
Hahn has even committed to a lie, at least per Reinsdorf’s revelation to Nightengale today, that the GM was aware of La Russa’s DUI before hiring. I’m not going to parse past quotes, and perhaps Hahn was clear to say a collective “we” were aware of the DUI vs. the personal “I” was aware, but no matter, it’s unseemly. Hahn felt compelled to lie to cover for his owner’s selfishness and arrogance.
For his part, Hahn has immediately responded to an impending storm ... obtusely:
Hahn declines to discuss when in the hiring process he was informed of La Russa’s arrest. Said he’s enjoyed working with La Russa over the last few months and is looking forward to the future— James Fegan (@JRFegan) February 17, 2021
The nature of Nightengale work on the White Sox is to push a narrative directed by the front office. So his access to La Russa for this very thorough piece at the dawn of spring training is predicated on not pushing back on anything fishy. So, naturally, we don’t get a follow up question in the story that says “WHAT! Reinsdorf kept the DUI to himself!” But writing it into the story is its own revelation, one that is sure to distract from what La Russa was hired to do, manage the White Sox, on the first day camp is open.
If it’s any compensation, Nightengale also reveals that La Russa has been given a two-strike count with regard to DUIs going forward (“[the White Sox] never wavered in their support but cautioned the next time would be his last as a manager”). But ... yeah.
While the scribe isn’t the strongest, Nightengale does end his exclusive with a quote of damning clarity from La Russa. Sobering, if you will, for all of us Sox fans:
“I’ve always said I was the luckiest manager in baseball. This is the first time nobody disagrees with me.’’
The opening of spring training comes with it hope, and relief, in this of all years. The White Sox’s continued mismanagement now threatens to overshadow that hope, as a new round of questioning for manager, GM and owner is begged.