As an outside observer to the process, I thought the White Sox hiring of Tony La Russa was absurd. Yes, he has the track record and gravitas and he was undoubtedly good at his job when he had it, but ten years removed from the dugout is a meaningful thing in the current era. Throw in the fact that the White Sox had put together such a young and exciting roster with a blend of talents, the fact that the hiring process seemed to amount to the owner saying “hire my friend and that’s that,” and you have a recipe for – at best – a challenging adjustment process.
And challenging it has been.
The White Sox have dealt with injuries, to be sure, but a number of early-season losses are being chalked up to playing time, lineup, and pitching decisions that White Sox observers find to be reducing the total production of this talented group. (I’m just watching this from the outside, and I see a 15-12 record and I’m like, couldn’t it be a lot worse?)
That all is apparently already causing issues in the clubhouse. From Jeff Passan today (emphasis added):
One can forgive Tony La Russa for a difficult transition back into the dugout. He was away for 10 years. And yet at some point, that excuse gets tired, and with some of La Russa’s maneuvering, one can understand why the patience in some parts of the White Sox’s clubhouse is growing thin.
The latest came last week, when, trailing by three, with runners on first and second and one out in the eighth, La Russa allowed Billy Hamilton and Leury Garcia to hit, even though Robert was available on the bench. La Russa’s explanation after the game was that he was “looking for a single there.”
It wasn’t the only mistake he made that game. After an awful start in which La Russa let his best pitcher, Lucas Giolito, languish for seven runs in one-plus innings, Giolito had bounced back with a solid six innings. La Russa sent him back out for the seventh. Giolito wasn’t going to ask out of the game. That responsibility fell on La Russa, who after the game said he didn’t realize Giolito was gassed.
He’d made the same error three weeks earlier with reliever Matt Foster and admitted “that’s lousy managing.”
And it goes on from there.
Right now, I think the loudest frustrations are limited to hardcore White Sox fans who weren’t into the La Russa hiring in the first place (understandably), and some in the local media. But if the White Sox start to underperform from here – even if it’s partly because of the losses of Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert (hip flexor strain) – the microscope is going to descend more frequently from sources like Passan, which is going to bring more and more attention to a situation that the White Sox created with the hiring.
I don’t *specifically* wish the White Sox ill, but in this particular situation, I’m certainly chewing on some popcorn to see how it turns out.