October 29th, 2020. A day that Chicago White Sox fans will know as the day their future was killed. In a disappointing move to 95 percent of Sox fans, the team has just announced the hiring of former manager and 3 time World Series winner and Hall of Famer Tony La Russa. La Russa, now 76 years old managed the White Sox from 1979-1986. He then went on to win the World Series in Oakland and twice in St. Louis. La Russa parted ways with the Cardinals in 2011 and hasn’t managed since. However, in his stead from managing he was enshrined into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
So the question is, with all of these accomplishments, why are so many people upset with this hire?
The answer is easy. Tony La Russa has outdated baseball philosophies and does not belong in the clubhouse in 2020. In this new age of information and technology analytics are everything. The White Sox front office, specifically General Manager Rick Hahn has preached advanced analytics and looking at the complete picture. Advanced stats such as batting average on balls in play (BABIP) or expected fielding independent pitching (XFIP) are essential in today’s league. Every team is trying to hire an advanced analytics guy to partner with their manager. It’s how you get an edge in today’s game. In fact, the best way to get ahead is to hire a manager who believes in analytics (AJ Hinch) and while I personally don’t believe numbers are the end all be all and that you still need to manage on feel (Kevin Cash take notes) they are important. Being able to use those numbers to manage your bullpen or when to steal bases puts you in a better situation to win. It’s not rocket science.
In fact, former manager Rick Renteria was relieved of his duties as White Sox manager because he was not willing to let the numbers factor into his managing decisions.
So why Tony La Russa?
Another easy answer. Jerry Reinsdorf stepped on Rick Hahn and brought back his guy. Reinsdorf’s biggest regret in his tenure as White Sox owner was letting Tony go in 1986 and here he is 34 years later making up for that. And while it was a mistake to get rid of him n 1986 it was an even bigger mistake to hire him in 2020.
This is why I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Rick Hahn does not support this hiring. Make no mistakes about it, he will publicly support this decision. He will back La Russa but this was not his decision and La Russa was not his first choice.
Hahn started the White Sox latest rebuild in 2016. Sox fans were excited. This seemingly was the right way to go. Break the whole thing down and start over. Trade your MLB talent for loads of prospects. It worked with the Royals, it worked with the Astros, and it worked with the Cubs. So as a Sox fan I was ready for this rebuild. And what a quick turn around it was. Rick Hahn seemingly couldn’t make a bad move. He traded Chris Sale to Boston for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. He traded Adam Eaton for Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning, and Reynaldo Lopez. He traded Jose Quintana for Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease. He signed Cuban sensation Luis Robert. He brought in Dallas Kuechel, Yasmani Grandal, and James McCann. He drafted Nick Madrigal. He locked up batting leader Tim Anderson to a long-term deal and most importantly when the pressure was there to trade Jose Abreu he chose not to and kept the star first baseman.
Those moves that Hahn made have turned the Sox into a perennial playoff team. The core of this team is young and the roster is diverse. Anderson, Robert, Moncada, Jimenez, Abreu, Grandal, and the list goes on. Everything Hahn has done has turned to gold. This is how I know that Rick wasn’t behind this hiring.
So again, why bring in a guy who hasn’t coached in years? Who doesn’t believe in analytics? And worst of all has made it known that he has an issue with the social issues of 2020?
We already looked at why La Russa was brought in even though he hasn’t coached in 10 years. JERRY REINSDORF!
As far as the analytics are concerned, according to The Cardinal Nation La Russa did acknowledge that analytics, like scouting reports and observations, have a role in preparation, but that is the extent of it. Once the game begins, they have no place.
“But once the analytics intrude into the competition — by that I mean if your manager or your head coach somehow has his hands tied because the organization believes that strikeouts don’t matter, the manufacturing game, hit-and-run, sacrifice, you don’t want to lose outs — those thoughts, you want to handle the bullpen according to some organized printout, then you actually — I wish all teams were like that, they’d be easier to beat,” “What’s happening now is that the analytics, it’s really getting a lot of attention and I never begrudge the analytical guys because they love the game and they want to be a part of it,” La Russa said.
As I stated earlier I think it is important to manage with your gut and have a feel for the game or you do end up robotic-like Kevin Cash. But hey, he just lost in game 6 of the World Series so clearly, he is doing something right. With that being said it is vital that managers partner with their analytical guys in the front office rather than look down on them as La Russa seemed to do in that statement.
The last issue with La Russa is that he just doesn’t fit in in today’s society. We talked about the diversity in the clubhouse and the youth on this team. Bringing in a guy who has publicly spoken out against racial justice is mind-boggling. According to Jeff Passan in an article from 2016, when Adam Jones was asked why nobody in the MLB has taken a stance on racial injustice, Jones said it’s because baseball is a “white man’s sport.” In retort to those comments by Jones, La Russa said,
“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.”
This thinking is an outdated way of thinking and won’t fit in this clubhouse.
The Sox have a young, fun, diverse locker room. The energy is high. The sense of team is there. Which is why this hiring is so bothersome.
As a Sox fan, I am going to stay positive. I believe the team is a couple of bullpen arms away from getting to the World Series. I have all the faith in the world that Rick Hahn will bring in said bullpen guys. Let’s hope that Tony La Russa doesn’t get in the way.
Sox fans sound off. What are your feelings on the White Sox hiring Tony La Russa?
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