Following up: The next great AL Central manager debate

The last time the Detroit Tigers hired a manager, their decision overlapped with the White Sox’s interests. They hired Ron Gardenhire, whose reputation among White Sox fans hadn’t diminished as much as it should have following four 90-loss seasons to close out his days with Minnesota.

Sure enough, Gardenhire ran his 90-loss season streak to six, and probably would’ve made it a seventh had the pandemic not interfered, and/or if Gardenhire were healthy enough to last all the way. Unlike his time in Minnesota, Detroit’s problems were independent of Gardenhire’s efforts. He just didn’t make much of a detectable impact either way.

This round of hiring should be a lot different. After all, a lot of people presumed that the White Sox cleared Rick Renteria out of the way to hire A.J. Hinch. Before the White Sox zagged by luring Tony La Russa out of retirement, Steve Stone laid track for Hinch’s arrival.

After the White Sox finalized La Russa, Stone’s predicting now resembles imploring. Alas, the White Sox did not fire Renteria in order to prevent the Tigers from hiring Hinch, and the Tigers are ready to rub the rivals’ noses in it.

Hinch’s hiring is possible in part because the White Sox, a power rising well ahead of the Tigers in the American League’s Central division, hired 76-year-old Tony La Russa on Thursday, a moved that shocked much of the baseball world. Hinch, per reports, did not interview for the White Sox job, one thought to be more favorable than that of the Tigers, who are likely a few more years away from true contention.

“The White Sox did us a big favor,” one Tigers official told The Athletic on Thursday.

The Tigers toned down the smugness after Hinch became official, because the back half of his apology tour starts now. We’ll see just how long the Astros stink sticks to him, and whether any of Detroit’s ascendancy gets tagged with his baggage. The baseball world has a tendency to forgive or forget. While I had some concern that Hinch’s arrival might complicate what had been a pretty straightforward success story with the White Sox, my bigger issue was wondering whether Hinch was actually a good manager, given that he spectacularly flopped the biggest leadership test he faced.

The hope is that the White Sox didn’t coax another Robin Ventura into action while enabling a divisional rival to hire another Terry Francona. La Russa at least knows his way around a clubhouse, but it’s hard to separate La Russa’s track record from the White Sox’s issues with making things way harder than they have to be.

* * * * * * * * *

As for Tony La Russa, the White Sox and baseball worlds have had a little time to gather themselves after mostly pillorying Jerry Reinsdorf for stomping on Rick Hahn and the Selig Rule to atone for a four-decade-old mistake. There’s now a little bit of time to regain perspective, and while sentiment still sides on the Jeff Passan side of the spectrum

Maybe George Floyd changed things for La Russa. Maybe it was something else. Or maybe it’s fair to wonder whether someone who just got hired for a job that needs him to be a politician and a public-relations specialist was just saying what he had to say and not necessarily being sincere. What a shame that would be.

… James Fegan spent the aftermath contacting the African-American players La Russa name-dropped during his media conference. A skeptic could have taken that as the I-have-Black-friends defense, but Fegan found some substance from guys like Bruce Maxwell and Reggie Sanders.

“Tony has softened his approach,” Sanders said. “I think he’s softened his approach to development, to making sure that every voice is being heard, making sure that he listens and making sure that everybody is on the same page. So I think we will see a side of Tony that is — his pedigree is just, all of what he’s done, in baseball, that speaks for itself. But now we’re talking about the man, we are talking about his character, his integrity, and his resolve. And so all those things that we’re talking about now, he has developed, he’s grown and he’s willing, he’s ready to tackle this all.”

There’s still plenty of need for La Russa to show his work while leading a clubhouse. He used the “sincerity” crutch like a pogo stick during his media conference, and it wasn’t long ago that he admonished Fernando Tatis Jr. for hitting a grand slam on a 3-0 count with a large lead. Fegan’s reporting at least shows that La Russa isn’t overselling his strides by an outrageous margin.

I mentioned this on the podcast, but it seems like the first month or two will determine the way this relationship could play out. Winning early could foster mutual respect between the unconvinced, allowing the on-field talent and coaching talent to come to the fore the rest of the way. Losing early is only going to fortify and accelerate the very legit reasons to think this whole thing was a mistake from conception.

* * * * * * * * *

For the time being, the White Sox have to endure a little more awkwardness of their own making. On Monday night, it was the announcement that Renteria is one of three finalists for American League Manager of the Year. Although unemployed, he’ll be vying for the honor with Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash and Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo.

The White Sox probably had to issue a formal acknowledgment of it, but there’s no good way to do it. Here’s their attempt:

You’ll probably see them hype up the candidacies of José Abreu (MVP) and Luis Robert (Rookie of the Year), but I think a Renteria triumph would be the most fun to watch unfold. Cash seems like he should be the guy, as the Rays had a firm grip on the AL East the whole season.

Next up for awards season, the Gold Glove winners will be announced tonight, when absolutely nothing else is going on. The White Sox have a chance to take home four awards among a field of five players, none of whom is eligible for the presidency.

(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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What a bizarre way to frame it. For one, “supposed to be outraged” isn’t the right language. It’s less “outrage” and more “frustrated” by the lack or process and/or hiring a manager who poses unnecessary risks.

For another, La Russa and Hinch are an odd comparison. The reasons to be critical of each hire are about as different as they could be.


Yes, because I’m not a Tigers fan.


“Just look at the White Sox. Their fanbase is livid that they had the audacity of hiring a 76-year-old manager who’s in the Hall of Fame, winning the third-most games in history, instead of hiring a manager who cheated his way to a World Series title. ”

He intentionally mischaracterizes the position of the white sox fanbase to help Jerry. We saw fans who were opining for Sandy Alomar as well as the Ray’s bench coach. Of course you yourself wrote a piece expressing concerns about Hinch’s leadership ability.

Bob is nothing more than Jerry’s poodle at this point.


Detroit did what many Sox fans said they should do – go through a complex evaluation and interview process. But in the end, Detroit just grabbed Hinch. Maybe they got something out of those dozen or so interviews, but it didn’t change the outcome. If the Sox had simply hired Hinch without showing their work, they would have received some of the same criticism they did in the LaRussa process. No decision the Sox make will ever really be satisfying just because of how they go about their business.


Based on the nominees seems like Abreu is more or less a lock; there’s a very good case for Bieber as MVP but he isn’t one of the finalists. Luis Robert should be interesting but I think he just wasn’t hot at the right times to get the vote, will have to content ourselves with a likely GG instead.


I disagree. Pito’s second straight RBI crown, paired with the wonderful narrative of him demanding to be resigned and then leading the team to a winning record, will be enough to carry the day. I don’t think it will be particularly close. We’ll see. I still haven’t gotten over Carlos May losing the ROY to Lou Piniella.

Right Size Wrong Shape

As much as I want Abreu to get it, I’m not so sure sure that Ramirez isn’t the correct choice.

Eagle Bones

Unrelated question, but figured I’d ask. Does anyone know if Steamer’s 2021 projections are out yet? I see “2021 Pre-Season Projections” referenced on FanGraphs under the “Projections” tab. However, when you click on Steamer, the title in the browser tab references 2020 (so not sure if these are actually 2021 or just the old 2020 projections).