Jerry Reinsdorf’s grand vision for the Chicago White Sox ends in disappointment and frustration — not with a victory parade – The Denver Post


Jerry Reinsdorf sat in the back of the room Monday afternoon as Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa announced he won’t return in 2023 and general manager Rick Hahn gave an autopsy on the 2022 season.

The Sox chairman arrived later than the media and left before Hahn was finished speaking, sneaking away in an inconspicuous manner as though he were merely an interested observer.

Of course Reinsdorf was more than an observer.

He was the one who bypassed Hahn and made La Russa the manager in the first place after the 2020 season, bringing back an old friend to make up for the firing by Ken “Hawk” Harrelson in 1986 that Reinsdorf later called his biggest regret in baseball.

This was not the way it was supposed to end. Reinsdorf and La Russa no doubt envisioned the two of them on stage at a victory rally in Grant Park, celebrating a championship that seemed inevitable with the young talent Hahn had collected during the long but necessary rebuild.

La Russa pointed out Monday that most managers get jobs because the team was struggling the previous year.

“The difference was I walked into a club that was ready to win, which is really a break,” he said.

Actually it was not so much a “break” as it was knowing the right guy in the time-honored Chicago Way. But a health issue forced La Russa to leave the job a year and a month before the end of his contract. And instead of walking away with his fourth championship, he was standing before the media taking the blame for one of the most disappointing and underachieving seasons in Sox history.

“Respect and trust demand accountability,” La Russa said, adding the Sox record is proof that “I did not do my job.”

Better late than never. La Russa was surely part of the problem, as most everyone knew. The only thing debatable is what percentage of the blame he deserves.

The qualities that made him a Hall of Fame manager were absent in 2022 as he bent over backward to make excuses for his players not hustling or living up to expectations.

Closer Liam Hendriks, who spoke later, skewered the team for “an overabundance of confidence that turned into arrogance” and for not having “faith in each other.” Asked what kind of manager this team needs, Hendriks said: “As a unit we need an authoritarian, someone who is a little harsher on some things, not let things slide.”

That sounds a lot like the La Russa who managed in Oakland and St. Louis. La Russa 2.0 was too eager to be pals with his players and to tell the media he thought they were wrong, creating an “us against them” mentality that went out of style decades ago.

La Russa continued in that vein Monday, talking about his love for the players who showed up for the retirement speech instead of giving the “stone-faced, unemotional (BS) I have to live with with you people.”

He meant the media when he said “you people.” At least he was honest about being fake around us.

La Russa’s mea culpa was where the accountability ended Monday. Reinsdorf should’ve taken the podium and explained why he hired an old friend for the job instead of letting his GM do the job he was paid to do.

But Reinsdorf doesn’t answer questions, so we can only take Hahn’s word for it when he said that he, Reinsdorf and executive vice president Ken Williams discussed the nightmarish season Monday and all said it was the “most disappointing season of each of our careers.”

“Jerry made reference to ‘84, going from 99 wins to (74) that year as being shocking,” Hahn said. “We’ve had other years we haven’t quite met expectations, and we might be too close to the trees in the forest given where we sit this season (and) the frustration that it created.

“But, look, this is going to have an effect. This is going to impact people. This is not a feeling that any of us want to experience again.”

Whether it impacts their job status is another question. Hahn sounded like he will be back, which means the season hasn’t impacted Reinsdorf’s faith in him.

“I’m not looking to stand up here with a blindfold and a cigarette just for fun,” Hahn said. “We have to believe that we’re capable of getting ourselves to the level we need and be able to critically look at the things that we didn’t do well this past season and find a way to get better and have faith in ourselves that we’re the right people.”

Hahn’s first task is probably to stop a groundswell of support for TV analyst Ozzie Guillén, who would be a good fit for the managerial job and seems to want to be asked, telling his viewers Sunday that no one knows this Sox team more than him. Hahn didn’t rule out Guillén but said one criterion he’s looking for is someone with recent dugout experience, which would seem to exclude Guillén and A.J. Pierzynski.

Before the day began, I wrote that anyone would want to manage a team with as much young talent as the Sox. But after listening to Hendriks, I’m not so sure why anyone would take it unless there are changes galore.

“Everyone was trying to do everything themselves or they didn’t have faith in each other,” Hendriks said. “And that’s something that we exuded from the get-go last year. It eluded us at all times this year.”

I found it hard to believe the players didn’t have faith in each other when they kept asking Sox fans to keep the faith in them. That’s an indictment of the players and, if true, a reason to blow up this clubhouse.

Hendriks clarified it was simply players taking on more responsibility than needed to make up for the rest, thinking, “I need to do this,” instead of, “We need to do these things.”

But a team full of players who don’t believe in each other is not one that any sensible fan will rush out to buy tickets for in 2023, no matter who is managing the team.

The sooner Reinsdorf, Williams and Hahn realize that, the easier it will be to recover from this debacle.



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