Four random thoughts from one of the more memorable days in recent Chicago White Sox history.
1. Tony La Russa left Monday’s news conference without any goodbyes or handshakes with the media that spent the last two years covering his controversial stint as Sox manager.
It was the perfect ending to a relationship that never got off the ground.
La Russa never pretended he had much use for us, which was fine. He’s not the first manager to believe he was above the media, and as a Hall of Famer, perhaps he felt his credentials made him beyond reproach whenever questioned about lineups or strategy.
He still was treated fairly and given a chance to defend his methods after every questionable decision.
“The most ridiculous thing in this season has been the (conversation about the) 1-2 (intentional) walk,” La Russa said in August, referring to questioning of the intentional walk he ordered to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Trea Turner in June.
It didn’t work and La Russa was widely criticized for it, but you knew he had to try it again to prove he was right. The second time he did it, the Sox pitcher got out of the inning, and La Russa used that moment to inform us we were all wrong.
He said we should “talk to 100 baseball guys” to see if they agreed with him on the Turner move.
I haven’t spoken to 100 baseball guys, but I have asked quite a few and have yet to find anyone who agreed with La Russa’s intentional walk decision.
I guess that’s why we’ll miss him, even if he probably won’t miss us.
La Russa’s stubborn refusal to admit when he was wrong was part of the reason he was so much fun to cover. Better to chronicle someone who is at least interesting than one of the modern-day managers who repeatedly says, “We’re grinding.” Readers could not ignore La Russa if they wanted.
At Monday’s news conference, La Russa responded to a question about what the next manager needs to do with a rambling response about his love for his players. He ended with a promise to keep his evaluations secret.
“I actually have an idea of where my priorities should have been, and your chances of hearing it are zero,” La Russa said. “But they will.”
No problem. La Russa doesn’t have to tell us where he went wrong. We watched it all season. Hopefully he writes a book about his stint and sells it in the bookstore he talked about opening.
2. Liam Hendriks’ insistence Sox players were overconfident to the point of ‘arrogance’ reminded me of a similar quote from Jerry Reinsdorf.
“It began at the top and worked its way down to the rest,” the Sox chairman told the Tribune’s Mike Kiley in 1985 about the 1984 collapse. “We all had that attitude, (President) Eddie Einhorn and myself included, and overconfidence ended up hurting the team.”
Hahn said Monday that Reinsdorf pointed to ‘84 as his most “disappointing” season until this year’s team.
After the ‘84 debacle, the Sox let 34-year-old slugger Greg Luzinski go instead of re-signing him to a one-year deal, sending “The Bull” off to an early retirement. The biggest offseason move was dealing onetime ace LaMarr Hoyt to the San Diego Padres for a package of players that included 21-year-old rookie shortstop Ozzie Guillén.
Hoyt told Tribune columnist Bob Verdi afterward the Sox “wanted to pay less” after their ‘83 success.
“Maybe they’re expecting baseball will become like football, with revenue sharing, where it doesn’t matter if you win,” Hoyt said. “I’m just a 30-year-old pitcher, so I can’t tell them how to run their business. But I saw where Reinsdorf said he was never going to make the mistake of paying guys for one good year. Well, I’m making a million bucks. But I didn’t have one good year for them. I had four.”
Sometimes history repeats itself.
3. Changes are on the way for the Sox conditioning program after a season of debilitating injuries.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before.
“We’re still in the process of evaluating what we do from a pre-rehab standpoint, a pre-injury prevention standpoint,” Hahn said. “And I suspect we’re going to have changes in the coming months or additions.”
The Sox let go of longtime strength and conditioning coach Allen Thomas last season, saying they were “re-imagining” the department. But the muscle injuries continued under his replacement, Goldy Simmons.
The most important player to keep healthy might be outfielder Eloy Jiménez, who going into Tuesday had played only 138 games over the last two seasons because of various injuries.
“I don’t blame luck,” Jiménez said. “I need to work harder to play at least 150 games.”
Asked if his legs can stay healthy enough for a return to left field next season, he said: “Yeah, I’ve got to work for that.”
Jiménez called this year “one of the best seasons I’ve had,” in spite of missing so much playing time. With free agent José Abreu likely gone, the Sox offense should be centered around Jiménez in 2023.
4. Hahn said picking a new manager is a ‘collaborative’ effort between him, Reinsdorf and executive vice president Ken Williams.
But Reinsdorf was the one who chose his pal La Russa, though no one has publicly admitted that in the last two years. Hahn insisted he would lead the decision-making for the next manager and already has begun looking at candidates.
We’ll see if that’s the case, but Reinsdorf at least owes Hahn the opportunity to choose whom he wants this time.