The White Sox made their most decisive move in addressing the Tony La Russa DUI charge debacle, but that’s only because they had previously made no attempt at all. Here’s the statement they put out this morning:
“As Tony La Russa’s attorney said in his statement, Tony deserves all the assumptions and protections granted to everyone in a court of law, especially while this is a pending matter. Once his case reaches resolution in the courts, we will have more to say. The White Sox understand the seriousness of these charges.”
That’s the White Sox’s first official acknowledgment that a DUI charge is indeed serious. It just rings hollow, given they deployed Bob Nightengale to Chuck Garfien’s podcast, and the first thing he said was, “Well, it’s embarrassing, but it’s not serious.”
Despite the cloud hanging over the franchise, the White Sox were able to land a pitching coach, and one a lot closer to Rick Hahn’s vision than what happened with the managerial position. Dave Williams reported that the White Sox have hired Ethan Katz, the assistant pitching coach of the San Francisco Giants, to replace Don Cooper. Other top MLB reporters followed in confirming it.
If you’re familiar with Katz, it might be from the several offseason plans that featured him. He was a semi-popular figure in the Project because Katz is a prominent figure in the story of Lucas Giolito’s turnaround.
Prior to joining the Giants, Katz had been the pitching coach at Giolito’s high school, Harvard-Westlake, where he oversaw a staff that also included Jack Flaherty and Max Fried. Giolito praised him back in 2016 …
“I worked pretty hard in high school, but once Ethan started coaching, that took it to the next level for me,” Giolito said. “I wasn’t much of a strike thrower. I had issues with my command. Ethan took over as pitching coach, and we worked hard on it every day. It got to the point where I was a good amateur prospect and all that.”
… and Giolito went back to him before the 2019 season:
“It was kind of weird,” Giolito said. “I didn’t go into the offseason thinking, ‘My arm action’s too long.’ I basically went to my pitching guru, Ethan Katz — he was my pitching coach in high school and now he’s the [assistant pitching coordinator] for the San Francisco Giants — and I obviously had a rough season last year, so I said, ‘I know you’ve suggested things in the past and I never really bought into it, but whatever you’ve got for me, I’m doing it.’”
Taking Katz’s advice, Giolito began a weighted ball program specifically focused on a few movements, and within two weeks of trying it out, his arm action shortened without any conscious thought.
Katz had worked his way from Harvard-Westlake, getting into pro ball by coaching in Seattle’s system, to joining the Giants as a pitching coordinator, then being promoted to assistant pitching coach for the 2020 season. Here’s a profile the Giants posted of Katz this past season.
I’d wondered about the White Sox’s ability to hire a top pitching coach, especially if they had an interest in attempting to pry one from the collegiate ranks. They were linked to Chris Fetter, who jumped from Michigan to Detroit, and they had reported interest in Arkansas’ Matt Hobbs. But it was hard to imagine a college coach leaving a secure job at a high-profile school for such a tenuous situation with the White Sox.
It’s a little easier for a pro pitching coach to justify an upward move, on the basis that there are only 30 main gigs, and pitching coach jobs tend to beget pitching coach jobs in some form.
Katz will open his White Sox career in his age-37 season, so it’s easy to think Hahn is hoping Katz can be a fixture independent of La Russa. Based on whatever happens with the legal process and the White Sox’s tolerance for public disgust, going independent of La Russa might be the only way to go. This is a welcome, encouraging development, especially under the circumstances.
The major takeaway from this hire is that it seems clear they did not wait around for TLR’s input for the most significant coaching vacancy. This means, by extension, it is not a JR hire, therefore, this is definitely a Rick hire, and feels more like the flavor of what we expected from the managerial search. So now this raises the question: is this foreshadowing of the rest of the offseason? I will cautiously say yes, because it feels like the manager hire was the major bargaining chip that JR played in his conversations with Hahn: “Yes, Rick, I will give you the reins for most of our moves. But if I do that, then we’re going with Tony.”
Jerry doesn’t really need to bargain with anyone, he’s the owner. This hire presumably didn’t cost much money, it just required Jerry to go out to lunch for a few hours. The rest of the offseason is going to cost money if they’re going to do it right. As such, it’s going to need Jerry to sign off on the moves.
James Fegan reported that Katz interviewed with La Russa.
Perfect final paragraph, Jim.
Innocent until proven guilty is fine for cases with nuance. La Russa was found at the scene of the accident with no other people who could have been driving the car. He was over the limit by both a breathalyzer and a blood draw.
This case does not have assumptions. It is cut and dry and TLR will be found guilty based on the very clear evidence.
The fact that the White Sox are tiptoing around this with legalese is bullshit.
Nothing more annoying that people pretending due process requirements constrain the actions of private companies or individuals. LaRussa is entitled to his day in court before the state levies judgement and punishment upon him but the White Sox and the rest of us are entitled to look at the basic facts, draw conclusions and take relevant actions independent of that. It’s not an infringement of his rights to fire his ass based on the facts before the state acts.
The Sox just want someone else to make the decision for them which is cowardly. They should be capable of exercising their own judgment here. But between moving forward with the hire and being blindsided by the entirely deserved and predictable response, their own judgment doesn’t seem to be a core competency.
Is there a timeline for the legal resolution of LaRussa’s case?
I read somewhere that Dec 8 is the potential day…not sure what day is that, but the day after which the White Sox won’t be able to keep dodging this ball.
If the WS keep TLR, can we call it the Immaculate Deception?
Competent counsel could normally delay this type of case into March-May of 2021 if they wanted to, particularly with Covid significantly impacting the speed of jurisprudence in most jurisdictions
As if I didn’t have enough of a midlife crisis, now even the pitching coach is younger than I am!
It’ll pass. Believe me. It’s been years since I am older than all the players, and most coaches. I don’t mind anymore.
I’ll try to keep that in mind! 🙂
At least the manager is older than I am!
hmmm. seeing as we’re not in a court of law i think i’ll just go ahead and make whatever assumptions i want. thanks for nothing, white sox.
Maybe PitchLab is already showing some results after all.
So why do I now feel like I’m just waiting for the inevitable 2 steps back?
Because we are White Sox fans and we were trained and reinforced in this thinking. I’m right there with you brother. And I’m usually an optimist.
Whenever I check here, there’s always a bit of dread that I’ll find a story about them trading Andrew Vaughn for Albert Pujols or something equally dumb.
Because Jerry Reinsdorf is still the owner.
Well, we get Giolito’s coach. How about taking some of the dollars saved from Encarnacion, Gio Gonalez, et al and make a substantial offer to keep his FA catcher McCann ? Every comment I read is that McCann deserves to not be a backup catcher. But on this W Sox team, it seems to me that Grandal and McCann are co-starters, with each getting close to the same number of games played if you include the occasional DH day. I hope McCann and his agent see the benefit of re-signing with this team
I’d love to have McCann back but he deserves to take his best shot now at being The Man somewhere and a bigger contract than the Sox can give him. It’s not in his best interest to re-sign with the Sox.
José Abreu is the 2020 American League Most Valuable Player.
21 1st-place votes,
The MLB Network guys are trying to interview him while he is completely overcome by emotion.
Tim Anderson placed 7th, just behind Nelson Cruz.
Well deserved. Between this and the news regarding the Katz, this is easily the best day of the offseason so far. Not much competition for that distinction though, hopefully that changes as some good acquisitions are announced.