Wednesday was the first day for pitchers and catchers to report to Camelback Ranch, the official/unofficial open to spring training.
Two stories — one the White Sox’s fault, the other, not really — spoiled that open.
Brett said it pretty well early in the day, when news broke that the abomination that was the Tony La Russa hiring — going ahead and offering the most plum open managerial job in the game to a man who’d just been nicked for a second DUI — was somehow worse than originally thought. Remember when GM Rick Hahn said that the team was aware of La Russa’s legal troubles and bad judgment and went ahead with the hire, sparking howls of outrage?
Well, Hahn wasn’t aware. In fact, no one beyond owner Jerry Reinsdorf was. Hahn found out when the rest of us did. What a farce.
Otherwise, Bob Nightengale’s USA Today piece (linked in the line above) was his usual routine.
Kenny Bob did let it leak that the White Sox have let La Russa know he is on thin ice, and any more legal trouble will cost him his job. Remarkably, La Russa managed to “joke” about that:
“I know there’s going to be pressure. My understanding is if I don’t do a good job in spring, I won’t make it to Opening Day. That’s just a little tongue-in-cheek, but not a big tongue-in cheek.”
Other things we learned from the USA Today piece:
- La Russa would not have taken the job if it would have cost him his Hall of Fame standing
- Tim Anderson has “warmed” to La Russa, in the sense that ice storms giving way to 20 degrees in Chicago qualifies as “warming” (“We’re going to see what happens,’’ Anderson said on the White Sox Podcast. “I don’t know Tony. Tony doesn’t know me. So I can’t go off what they say about this man, and he can’t go off what they say about me, because he doesn’t know me and I don’t know him. So really, the conversation we’re going to start at zero and just see where it goes.’’
- Dave Stewart, who didn’t exactly have a Hall of Fame general managing career with Arizona, essentially guarantees La Russa will be successful
- La Russa will embrace analytics ... sort of (“[La Russa] wants to return the human element to the game, not relying on metrics to prevent second-guessing.”)
- Jim Leyland: ““[La Russa] saw the game the way it was going and didn’t like it”
- La Russa thinks emotion in the game is great, as long as it’s not “phony”
- La Russa is open to protesting racial injustice (for example), but doesn’t want to disrespect veterans
- Angels owner Arte Moreno refused La Russa’s resignation when he offered it the day after his DUI last February
Meanwhile, Hahn pounced on any controversy with a pithy answer to the questions of ownership skullduggery brought out by Nightengale’s piece:
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
It’s almost as if Hahn was tipped off that this was coming.
(And it’s telling that this question was asked by radio personality Danny Parkins, and not a member of the beat or the White Sox coverage inner circle. The answer was much longer than what was condensed above for the tweet, but most of it Hahn hemming and hawing. The White Sox are just short of begging us all just to forget this mess of their own making.)
The second piece of bad news to start White Sox camp wasn’t their fault — well, sort of:
Breaking: Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Padres have agreed to a 14-year extension worth more than $300 million, sources tell me and @Ken_Rosenthal.— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) February 18, 2021
But we’ll always have James Shields’ fourth-highest ERA in White Sox history (370-plus IP).
The next item is actually pretty negative, too. Jace Fry had a back procedure (microdiscectomy) that will put him out of action into May.
On the other hand, contrary to what Hahn implied about Garrett Crochet early in the offseason — that the fireballer would start the season in the minors in order to work toward a starting role, then join the big club later in the season to work out of the pen — the blue-chipper will likely begin 2021 in the White Sox bullpen.
Per Scott Merkin, Michael Kopech is also seen as a long-term starter who could play more of a hybrid or bullpen role in the 2021 season. But per MLB’s Jon Morosi, Kopech will begin the season in the rotation but will face an innings limit.
Or, truth is, nobody really knows on February 17.
The other lefty in the White Sox pen, Aaron Bummer, was not in camp.
No, actually, some good news: Bummer is taking some family leave upon the birth of his daughter.
Hahn repeated that Andrew Vaughn could very well be the White Sox DH from the get-go, no service-time games, no extra seasoning in Charlotte. The quote: “Andrew Vaughn is very much in the mix to make this club.”
And let’s give Hahn the final word from today, as it’s been a rough one: “The goal is to win a World Series championship. If we fall short of that, it will be a disappointment.”
Nope, forget it, final word comes from Tim Anderson, colorful as ever: “We need that dog in us. We need some, ‘Let’s go out here and whoop these m-----f-----s.’”