With very few exceptions, winning cures everything. That is important to remember as White Sox fans wring their hands and gnash their teeth regarding the hiring of 76-year-old Tony La Russa as the next manager of the team. Concerns about aptitude and fit are plentiful and, while it might not be consensus, the majority of pundits and fans think it is a terrible move.
And it might well be. The knocks against La Russa are pretty well-known after a couple of weeks of speculation: His approach won’t translate to younger players; his previous stance on protests will be a problem; and the game has passed him by over the last decade. Jerry Reinsdorf was clearly the force behind this decision and may have alienated Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams, the architects of the organization, in the process. What’s more, a fanbase that was eager to support the team has turned off.
Of course, the vows of quitting the team only last until pitchers and catchers report.
All of these concerns are valid and the introductory press conference didn’t do too much to alleviate them. La Russa provided some deft answers, but he is a lawyer after all. He’s also been doing these pressers for a long time so he knows how to play nice. We’ll see if he can keep it up after a losing streak in June. One of the few glimmers of hope is that La Russa is smart and no one really questions his in-game management. He has also shown an ability to manage the team in front of him.
His “Winning Ugly” teams were different from the swaggering A’s teams that were different from his buttoned down Cardinals teams. This White Sox group has the potential to be the youngest team he’s ever managed, depending on who is called up and who is brought in via free agency. Let’s hope La Russa lets this free-spirited bunch be themselves, since that would be fun even for the baseball community outside of Chicago.
That said, this hire was a horrible reading of the room by Reinsdorf, who might be the only person in the organization who still regrets firing La Russa in 1985. Maybe in some dark corner there is a bit of nostalgia for that era of White Sox baseball, but there will be no honeymoon period because he will be under the microscope from the first game.
If the White Sox come out slow in April, or whenever the new season starts, calls of “I told you so!” will only get louder. And if things get really bad, forcing them to scrap this whole thing and go with another, younger, former White Sox manager is still out there. I’m of course speaking of Gene Lamont, who will be 74 in December.