Back in 2003, Ozzie Guillen allegedly interviewed for the White Sox managerial job severely hung over from the Marlins’ World Series celebration the night before. He got the job despite bieng in such a state that he couldn’t remember anything about it and led the White Sox to a World Series title two years later.
From that point on, the White Sox decided that all future managerial decisions needed to be just as fraught in order to succeed.
Guillen was fired only after his attempt to stage a coup against Kenny Williams fizzled out. After no interviews, the White Sox replaced him by hiring Robin Ventura off a hunch and a personality test that high school counselors might deem insufficient.
The White Sox then replaced Ventura two years past his expiration date, also bypassing the interview process to promote Rick Renteria, the bench coach they’d hired the year before. The White Sox then extended Renteria for an indeterminate amount of time without telling anybody.
FROM NOV. 2018: The White Sox are still weird about their managers
That made the firing of Renteria doubly surprising — partially because they seemed to want to ensconce him from the usual pressures for change, and partially because the White Sox met expectations and ended two embarrassing streaks in the process. It’s how a proactive, merit-based franchise might behave, and it’s so unlike them.
Which is why the Tony La Russa news strikes such fear in the hearts of White Sox fans, because that’s a lot more characteristic of how they’ve behaved when it comes to managers: impulsively, against fans’ wishes, and in a way that can’t be defended.
There’s no reason to think that White Sox fans would learn about their new manager from a Dan Roan tease….
… but given the last 17 years of the White Sox’s decision-making “process” in this realm, this is very much how we would learn that the White Sox were on the verge of hiring a 76-year-old manager who hadn’t been in the game for nine years in order to rectify some four-decade-old regret.
I’d like to think this isn’t going to materialize, if only because Rick Hahn has seemed to savor listing off all the things White Sox fans thought his team would never do — rebuilding, trading with the Cubs, busting the international budget to sign Luis Robert, now firing Renteria and Don Cooper, etc. I can see a non-TLR type getting hired after a lengthier process and Hahn coming out like, “I can’t believe you dummies keep falling for it.”
But the problem with Hahn’s the-haters-said-we’d-never speech is that it’s a tacit admission of how long and how often the White Sox failed to act or behave like a well-oiled, state-of-the-art franchise with the correct priorities. It’s not the fans’ fault that they assumed self-limiting or self-sabotage until proven otherwise.
Another sham of an interview process reverses the flow of Hahn’s narrative, showing it’s no match for the larger story of Jerry Reinsdorf and the White Sox being profoundly weird and disproportionately self-reverential for the scant amount of success they have enjoyed. This was the reason why Hahn had to explicitly state that Guillen would not get a shot to manage the White Sox a second time, and if “La Russa” is Italian for “The Ruse,” now might be a good time to let everybody know.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)