On Friday the White Sox dropped the bomb that they were hiring, much to the chagrin of literally every person I know who is a White Sox fan, a secretly seething White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, Chicago sports media, and whoever else was within earshot of me yelling loudly in my own apartment, Tony La Russa.
The rumors had started just days earlier, it was a choice between him and former Astro’s manager AJ Hinch, who had been banned from baseball for a year due to his roll in the Astros cheating scandal that involved banging on barrels just the year prior. But seemingly by Friday, the fix was in. A.J. Hinch hadn’t even been interviewed, let alone been given a ceremonial bang on the barrel. It was La Russa’s position to lose.
To understand the hire, you have to go back. La Russa managed the White Sox from 1979 to 1986. It was his first start as a baseball manager. When La Russa was fired in 1986, the White Sox had been off to a horrific start, going 26-38. He was fired by none other than noted White Sox homer Hawk Harrelson (you gotta be bleeping me). Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of both the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox, would go on to reveal later that he regretted letting La Russa be fired, despite the screaming dumpster fire record that lay before him at the time.
To me, the Tony La Russa hiring is a perfect, text book example of cronyism. La Russa hadn’t managed a ball club since 2011, since retiring from the Cardinals after winning a World Series. He hadn’t been in serious contention for any managerial position in 9 years. Suddenly, without warning, without the expressed written consent of his own general manager (snickers incessently), the man who should have been making the hire – Jerry Reinsdorf leaned over the steering wheel and yanked out the keys, leaving Rick Hahn grasping the power steering as the car tumbled down the hill. The mere fact that Rick Hahn’s head didn’t explode Scanners style at the press conference was astonishing. Reinsdorf was here to say essentially, “Hey, big whoops about the firing back in 1986, want a job?”
The press conference itself was a shit show. Hahn glazed over the announcement with as much enthusiasm as a hostage victim in a Saw movie. He did as much as robotically was required in five minutes from a general manager, and then quickly abandoned ship to give La Russa the mantle. La Russa then quickly asserted himself over the role of manager.
Look, is La Russa qualified to coach a team? Certainly. He has the experience. He’s coached teams to the World Series. He’s in the Hall of Fame. He can coach a team. But is a man who has espoused views for players kneeling four years ago right for an exciting, young, and boisterous team? La Russa has since gone on the record to say his views have evolved.
As long as it’s peacefully protested and sincere – and what I’m learning more and more with like the Players’ Alliance and especially the White Sox, when your protests actually have action-oriented results, the way you’re going to impact to make things better, I’m all for it.”Tony La Russa
But the telling part of his bullshit is the glimmer it is sheathed in. Using words like “peacefully protested and sincere”and “action-oriented results.” It’s the same assholes who start pointing at riots and then blaming the entirety of Black Lives Matter. Let’s revisit his statement from 2016.
“I would tell [a player protesting the anthem to] sit inside the clubhouse,” La Russa told “The Dan LeBatard Show.” “You’re not going to be out there representing our team and our organization by disrespecting the flag. No, sir, I would not allow it. … If you want to make your statement you make it in the clubhouse, but not out there, you’re not going to show it that way publicly and disrespectfully.”Tony La Russa
He said that about Colin Kaepernick, who was ceremoniously ousted from the NFL for kneeling and protesting. Now is it to say that yes, sure he may have evolved a little bit, but it’s the ticks and glimmers in speeches like his that tell us he’s still not all the way there.
Tony La Russa is the kind of manager that once he gets his hands on a team, it becomes HIS team. It’s his way or the highway. And if you get in his way, you best get out of the way. I know these types of people. My father is one of those types of people. And those people fall the hardest.
If a player is trying to be sincere, how, with La Russa as the arbiter suddenly gets to decide what is and what isn’t sincere, to be trusted? What about La Russa’s past statements gives you the window to say that he’s evolved? Why was he singling out players in the press conference?
“I’m going to look for action, and not just verbage”
Words backed by actions are of course great, but words today are powerful. They just are. And to say otherwise is ignorant as fuck.
It’s very possible that La Russa lets everything go by and doesn’t start any fights. I sincerely* hope he does. I hope he doesn’t restrict this team in any way. I hope he lets the team BE the team that they are. Because they’re fun. They’re exciting. Some of them are wacky and goofy. And it’s hard not to be concerned about an iron hand coming down between all of that and saying otherwise.
If they had at least interviewed A.J. Hinch maybe I’d be less upset, or if they had at least interviewed a FEW candidates before settling on La Russa I’d be in a ‘whatever’ phase. I suspect that this is going to eat me for the entirety of his tenure, even if he manages to take this club far.
I was listening to the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 SCR from Chicago about all this, and his Thursday and Friday shows were pretty much everything I had in my own brain. This feels like a step backwards for a bright team. It’s not the right move. There’s nothing about this team that screams Tony La Russa. Laurence put it pretty succinctly, after going into great detail about La Russa’s past, his comments, and the hiring process for all of this, “This sucks…”.
It doesn’t just suck, it’s nuclear grade bullshit.
You can find Coleman generalizing about sports on Twitter.