Tony La Russa announced on Monday afternoon that he would return to retirement, walking away from the remaining years of his contract as the manager of the Chicago White Sox due to health concerns.
“It has become obvious that the length of the treatment and recovery process for this second health
issue makes it impossible for me to be the White Sox manager in 2023. The timing of this announcement now enables the front office to include filling the manager position with their other off-season priorities.”
Here is the full statement from Tony La Russa:
The White Sox opted not to allow local television or radio outlets to broadcast the press conference. Why? I don’t have an exact answer. But the optics of having La Russa’s retirement announcement held without it being broadcast, much like his entrance, aren’t great. This decision sums up the Tony La Russa era (this most recent one) in Chicago, a head-scratcher from the start.
One thing here is for certain, regardless of the off the field optics, Tony La Russa did not succeed on the field, and he admitted as much in his statement today.
“Our team’s record this season is the final reality. It is an unacceptable disappointment. There were some pluses but too many minuses. In the Major Leagues, you either do, or you don’t. Explanations come across as excuses. Respect and trust demand accountability, and during my managerial career, I understood that the ultimate responsibility for each minus belongs to the manager. I was hired to provide positive, difference-making leadership and support. Our record is proof. I did not do my job.”
So, where does that leave the White Sox?
“We are extremely excited about the future of this team,” general manager Rick Hahn said in October 2020 when Tony La Russa was introduced as the next manager of the Chicago White Sox. “As we showed in 2020, this is a young, talented club that we expect to only grow better and better in the coming years. Adding in a Hall of Fame manager who is recognized as being one of the best in the history of the game, we are a step closer to our goal of bringing White Sox fans another championship.”
Those were the words of White Sox GM Rick Hahn when the White Sox hired Tony La Russa as their manager following the 2020 season.
When the White Sox dropped their best-of-three against the Oakland Athletics, their first taste of the Postseason since 2008, it was clear that Rick Renteria wasn’t “the guy” to lead the White Sox. Part of the sentiment that Rick Hahn expressed two years ago was accurate: the White Sox were a talented club on the cusp of competing for a World Series.
For that reason, they had their pick of the litter when it came to their next skipper, who would see that process through. The White Sox could have hired A.J. Hinch if they wanted experience. They could have gone with a first-time manager like Matt Quatraro (Tampa Bay) or Joe Espada (Houston). Instead, in a move that seemed to overrule Rich Hahn’s desires, the roster architect, Jerry Reinsdorf, righted an old wrong by hiring his old friend, the then 76-year-old Tony La Russa.
I knew it was the wrong choice. Rick Hahn knew it was the wrong choice. Everyone but Jerry Reinsdorf knew it was the wrong choice, but he’s the boss, and he got his way.
The White Sox won the American League Central last season, and I’m sure much to the delight of Reinsdorf, it seemed like the roster could win in spite of the manager and his often downright baffling tactical decisions.
Well, 2022 showed Jerry that he got it wrong with La Russa again, this time by hiring instead of firing. Some things should just be left where they belong, in the past.
Tony La Russa and his outdated baseball philosophies were prevalent as the roster underperformed, battled injuries, and fought to overcome obvious flaws in the roster construction itself. The White Sox floundered all summer in a mediocre AL Central, and when they finally decided to turn it on, only after La Russa stepped away due to health concerns, it was too little, too late.
Now, the White Sox will watch October from their couches like the rest of us, and it’s squarely on the shoulders of the chief decision makers in that front office, ones who will seemingly get another crack at hiring a manager.
Will they right their wrongs more successfully than their boss could? Only time will tell, but deciding who will oversee the talented core Rick Hahn and company built will be the most significant decision in White Sox baseball in my entire life.
If they get it right, they have a chance to return to their path to potential World Series contention. If they get it wrong … then they’ll have squandered what was supposed to be the golden era of White Sox baseball.