Tony La Russa: Gone for Good


Daniel Radner

Guaranteed Rate Field on June 7

Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa recently announced his retirement due to medical concerns, ending his disastrous second tenure with the team. Despite La Russa’s Hall of Fame accolades, throughout the past season the 78-year-old manager received harsh criticism from fans, including those in the Latin community.
On October 3, La Russa issued a statement about his future with the team and the events that led up to his retirement. La Russa was informed about an issue concerning his pacemaker on August 30. His doctors ordered him not to manage that night’s game and to undergo further medical testing. White Sox bench coach Miguel Cairo became acting manager and led the team for the remainder of the year, as La Russa did not return. During La Russa’s leave, his doctors also examined an additional undisclosed medical issue.
“At no time this season did either issue negatively affect my responsibilities as White Sox manager,” La Russa said. “However, 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. … I was hired to provide positive, difference-making leadership and support. Our record is proof. I did not do my job.”

Fans will remember La Russa’s tenure as a failure. He was hired to take a talented playoff team to the World Series. Instead, he won a single playoff game in his two seasons coaching the White Sox. Many members of the Latin community are frustrated with La Russa’s lack of success. “Although I don’t blame everything on him, I think it was a poor hire in the first place,” senior Finn Kelly said. “So, honestly, I’m not really surprised that La Russa’s time at the White Sox went the way it did.” He added, “Last year they just had really good talent! La Russa wasn’t helping them be that good. And then this year they had injuries, but also, you could see that La Russa didn’t really know what he was doing for a lot of games.”

From the beginning, the managerial hire outraged fans. Though one of the best managers in history, La Russa was 76 years old and had not managed in 10 years (2011). Many believed that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf hired La Russa because he felt bad about firing him in 1986. To add to the situation, 11 days after the hiring, an ESPN report revealed that La Russa was arrested for driving under the influence the previous February and was formally charged one day before the White Sox introduced him as manager. Furthermore, according to USA TODAY MLB insider Bob Nightengale, nobody in the organization but Reinsdorf was aware of the incident. These factors along with some others caused displeasure among White Sox fans.

Latin College Counselor Jennifer Taylor said, “I was initially pretty surprised that La Russa was the managerial choice for the White Sox. The hire seemed illogical for an organization with a young, diverse team looking to capitalize on a multi-year rebuilding initiative.”

One of La Russa’s wildest moments came when he decided to intentionally walk a batter when he had one ball and two strikes. The strange decision befuddled fans, analysts, and players who could not believe La Russa’s inability to properly manage. By defending the call, La Russa gave way to even more critics.

Junior Dillon Romano, a player on Latin’s baseball team said, “I think La Russa might have been sleeping or not paying attention, because when you’re ahead of the count, that is the last thing you should be doing.”

Looking to the future, many questions remain for the Chicago White Sox, with the biggest being the vacant manager position. The White Sox are expected to hire Pedro Grifol, the former bench coach of the Kansas City Royals. White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz is also expected to return. During the hiring process, the team reportedly reached out to Ron Washington, Joe Espada, and former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén. Other candidates included Kevin Long, Carlos Mendoza, Mike Shildt, Miguel Cairo, Joe Girardi, and former Cubs manager Joe Maddon. However, some, including Ms. Taylor, believe a managerial change will not solve this year’s problems.

“Do we need a new manager who is perhaps better versed at the 2023 version of Major League baseball? Yes,” Ms. Taylor said. “But ultimately a team needs players who want to win, good chemistry, and good leadership, in order to be successful. This past season’s failures are primarily on the players. They never seemed to gel, and they didn’t seem hungry. I think the organization will benefit from trades of marquee players.”

Another hot topic for the White Sox this offseason is José Abreu. Abreu is a former MVP award winner and has been a star since joining the team in 2014. However, due to the current roster construction, Abreu may have played his final game in a White Sox uniform. Bob Nightengale indicated that the White Sox plan to part ways with Abreu after nine seasons. He may even join the Cubs!

Senior Leo Romano said, “Since he has been a Chicago sports icon, José Abreu’s possible absence would hurt the city’s vibe and especially hinder the team’s mojo. His strengths and energy have been vital in improving the team’s record.”

Although La Russa faced a lot of criticism, there has been some success during the past two White Sox seasons. Under La Russa in 2021, the White Sox won the American League Central Division, a feat they have not accomplished since 2008. However, overall, his tenure disappointed many fans who had high expectations.

Sophomore Michael Gray said, “La Russa has been in the game for a very long time, and I think it’s time for someone younger to help let the young energy of the Sox thrive.” He continued, “Although he cares for the fans and has made some great decisions as well as some questionable ones, I’m happy that this chapter is over.”