Tony La Russa’s case is closed, but only to a point

July 31, 2015: Diamondbacks GM Tony La Russa watches batting practice before the Diamondbacks at Astros baseball game at Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas.during the Diamondbacks at Astros baseball game at Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas. Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire

For weeks, the White Sox ducked behind due process in order to avoid commenting on Tony La Russa’s open DUI case. In the end, letting the legal system run its course didn’t change a thing about La Russa’s situation, nor how anybody should have perceived it.

He wasn’t found guilty of driving under the influence because he instead pleaded guilty to reckless driving, and he was allowed to receive a lesser charge because Maricopa County had to treat the proceedings as a first DUI, rather than roping in the 2007 guilty plea for the same offense. Still, La Russa admitted driving when he was in no condition to be behind the wheel.

“I brought this on myself. I know it,” La Russa said. “It’s impossible, actually, to explain how daily and deeply this gets at you and has bothered me for a long time.

“Obviously, I displayed bad judgment that night in February.”

Likewise, while the White Sox didn’t specify drunk driving in the statement they released shortly after La Russa spoke to the media, they subtly roped his guilty plea to reckless driving conviction with his guilty plea to driving under the influence in 2007:

We understand that people make mistakes and exercise poor judgment in life. In this case, Tony is fortunate his decisions that night did not injure himself or anyone else. We also believe people deserve the opportunity, at all points in their lives, to improve. Tony knows there is no safety net below him. There cannot be a third strike.

La Russa is getting a third chance when other managers have a hard time getting a second. He’s doing so because he’s a “Hall of Famer baseball person,” another embarrassing aspect the White Sox didn’t specify, but nevertheless alluded to by citing his accomplishments in the same release.

Tony has a proud and productive history with the White Sox and Major League Baseball, which is why we are standing by him. He has done his job exceptionally well in the past. He has always shown an ability to inspire his players and to bring his teams to a championship level. We are confident that Tony will improve our team, while improving himself.

There’s no real reason to share the White Sox’s confidence, at least as it pertains to the second part. Hell, there’s reason to doubt the word before “confident,” because both Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams attempted to distance themselves from the hiring by using the passive voice. It still has the markings of a Jerry Reinsdorf-only decision, and that won’t change until one of La Russa’s bosses is finally cornered into going on the record.

La Russa expressed contrition, disappointment, and an understanding of his unpopularity during his media session, but he stopped short of wrapping his arms around the root cause. Rather, he chose the much trickier challenge of proving a negative.

“I know I don’t have a drinking problem, just like I know I made a serious mistake in February,” he said. “And where I am right now is to prove that I don’t have a drinking problem and to prove it every day off the field that I’m going to handle it. What’s painfully clear to me is: If I have a drink, I will not drive.

“There’s always an alternative: Have a car service, call Lyft, Uber, have a friend, if I’m with somebody. The options, the alternatives, are going to help me prove that I’m going to take care of this issue the way it should be.”

He’s trying to wall off “problems after drinking” from “a drinking problem,” which is something that’s easier to do after a first drunk driving arrest than a second. He’d already said in 2007 that “this will never occur again,” and since it did reoccur, his vows don’t carry much weight. If La Russa is intent on proving us wrong, he’ll have to do so for the rest of his life, or at least until he’s not driving on our roads.

* * * * * * * * *

Maricopa County could have taken some of the matter out of La Russa’s hands by suspending his license, but that would be far too simple for a matter that will remain thorny for months. The White Sox had their choice of managers to oversee an ascendant roster under a hands-off front office, and they chose the guy who will spread the most misery through their supporters.

The case is closed, but the arguments remain. A slice of the fan base will remain angry because their lives have been profoundly affected by drunk driving, and their team didn’t give it a thought. Other fans just don’t like that they’ve entrusted such a likable team with such an unlikable leader. Another subsection won’t be bothered by La Russa’s transgressions in the slightest, but will get frustrated by the aforementioned fans who can’t let it go.

None of these groups is wrong for holding its particular stance, because people look to their baseball teams for different purposes. It just means they’re going to be in open conflict for months, especially with the White Sox abdicating whatever leadership they could provide out of this morass. Reinsdorf, Williams and Hahn are counting on everybody getting worn down by how much it sucks to think and hear about bad citizenship.

I have some post ideas about La Russa from when he was merely an unpopular choice for baseball reasons. They remain valid in spite of La Russa’s recklessness. The problem is they’re even less fun to consider now. I don’t want to spend 2021 bitching about Tony La Russa because he isn’t worth it. At the same time, ignoring this ugly sequence of events looks nearly identical to overlooking or forgiving it, which is something the White Sox don’t deserve. Especially since their handling of La Russa’s legal issues pairs poorly with the recent uncovering of Omar Vizquel’s sketchy minor-league managerial career.

I’d say there’s nothing any of us can do about it, except many of you proved that wrong. The Sox Machine community helped raise $1,000 for the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists through sales of the “Hall of Famer Baseball Person” t-shirts, which is incredibly cool. It’d just be nice if the White Sox stopped requiring us to find virtue through failings, because that’s the reason they decided to rebuild in the first place.

(Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire)

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Eagle Bones

Ok, so Jim just answered my question from yesterday, they’re not suspending his license. From what I’m reading, it doesn’t sound like they suspended his license last time either? I know our legal system is “the worst in the world except for every other country’s” (as many would say), but someone needs to explain this disparity to me because it makes no sense. As I mentioned previously, some friends and I got in trouble for underage drinking in college (basically sitting around in a dorm room, having a few beers while playing cards).

My friends (not famous, no lawyer): licenses suspended for 6 months (no driving was involved in this offense, had a few beers before they were legally of age to drink)

LaRussa (famous person with a lawyer, and presumably a good one): two DUIs (call them what you want, that’s what they were) and no license suspension (driving VERY MUCH involved in these offenses)

Excuse my French, but fuck that shit. These judges and lawyers are just as culpable as LaRussa if he does this again.

Last edited 2 years ago by Eagle Bones
As Cirensica

It really makes no sense. I hate double standards.


Also the difference between being caught in Florida & Arizona (different states for each offense) and I’m assuming Illinois in the case of your friends(?)

It’s as much about differences in state law as it is legal representation, although that definitely played a role here.

Eagle Bones

Virginia actually

Shingos Cheeseburgers

If over the past 10 (or 30, or 50, or 120) years you’ve started to come to the realization that the Sox are a systemically flawed organization that treats the on field product as not the most importantly facet of the organization all this isn’t that surprising.

It’s one thing to have an organization history of failure on the field (one year out of the last 100 has included a playoff series victory) – all sports are littered with franchises that aren’t realistically competitive. This is wholly different. This points to a broader lack of concern for ethics and potentially morals. It’s far grosser than any bad free agent signing.

Will I be ‘giving up’ on the Sox? No likely not. They’re woven into the fabric of my being more than I’d care to admit. But next year I surely will be cheering the players themselves much much more than the team they represent.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

Also if you want to know if the Sox are aware how terrible this looks for them take note that none of their public statements yesterday were released via social media.


Merkin saying the sox are gonna land Cespedes!


But almost certainly not Colas.

Right Size Wrong Shape

That’s okay, I’d rather have Cespedes.


I would have to agree. But, if the signing period had not been jerked around so much, it would have been possible if not likely, Sox could have signed them both in consecutive windows. With so many prospects graduating to MLB, this would have really helped the farm maintain some depth. But again, yeah, this is a good thing.

Right Size Wrong Shape

That would have been nice. Cespedes and Vera is a pretty good haul, though.


Is there a problem with Colas? Or just not as ready/good as Cespedes?


KenWo is gonna be stoked his Cespedes dream has been realized!!!

Right Size Wrong Shape

I wonder if they’ll sign Yoenis too. Seems like a Sox thing to do.


If not, at least there’s a Céspedes for the rest of us.

(I’ll see myself out.)

Eagle Bones

Cespedes vs. LaRussa in the Feats of Strength please!


Does this help explain, if not excuse, the Eaton signing? If you’re getting the #1 international/#12 overall prospect who projects to be in the majors by 2022 how interested are you in a long-term or oversized investment in the outfield, especially if Vaughn is the presumptive DH meaning Jimenez has to stick in the field?

The Eaton deal turns on the same thing it always has – what else do they do with the money – but this might be an indication of why they felt comfortable investing elsewhere.


Still could go after Bauer if that’s the case.

Eagle Bones



These shouldn’t be connected in any way. If/When Cespedes is ready for a role, Abreu might be close to done, Vaughn the 1B, and Jimenez spending a chunk of time at DH. That also seems to be best case scenario.

Eagle Bones

There appears to be an EXTREME divide in opinions of him. MLB Pipeline has him #1 on their board, whereas BA has him 12th and Longenhagen has him waayyyyyy down his board with a 35+ grade (basically no MLB role). Sounds like there is a lot of uncertainty about where his game is at given all the time away from baseball. But hey, at least they’re taking a shot!

Right Size Wrong Shape

In the mlb story they say he gained a lot of muscle weight and has improved his bat speed since he’s been stateside.

Eagle Bones

Longenhagen his him listed at 4’11” which, despite probably being a typo, would be awesome to watch and probably for his OBP.


4’11” and 205lbs is a comp for my late grandmother, who was built like a mini-refrigerator.

The recent video of Céspedes looking more ripped is encouraging, though I’m not sure whether his swing change will help with his BB/KO rates. I also wonder if he’ll play in the US at all in 2021, or if he’ll be in the Dominican for tax reasons. (Assuming any Sox affiliates play any games this year.)

Eagle Bones

“Built like a mini-fridge” is definitely at the top of the list of things I want to see in a scouting report haha!


Probably more common in reports for competitive powerlifters than baseball players (although if Yermin Mercedes and Willians Astudillo succeed, maybe some of their shorter comps might get signed).

Last edited 2 years ago by asinwreck
As Cirensica

In LATAM we sometimes referred to Frank Thomas as “La Nevera” (The fridge).


Longenhagen admits several times in chats that his report is years old and things may have changed with Cespedes. With that being said, I trust BA’s opinion and ranking more.

Eagle Bones

Yes, I saw that somewhere as well. Sounds like there is a lot of general uncertainty at the moment about that status of his tools, etc. I feel like Badler tends to be pretty in the know on these things, so yeah I’d trust BA’s judgement as well (at least as much as any of these reports can be trusted at the moment).

And just to be clear, my comment about them taking a shot here is sincere (despite how much I’ve shit on the org recently). Even if he flames out spectacularly, this is worth a try on a toolsy guy on a pretty cheap (all things considered) deal. A much better use of pool money than say offloading someone’s 250k buyout.

Last edited 2 years ago by Eagle Bones

I think there are several issues at play here.

  1. Our society is too tolerant of DUI’s–the U.S. rate of drunk driving is unbelievable. We tend to punish the results (i.e. Vehicular Manslaughter) rather than the behavior, which makes no sense and is counterproductive. Many other developed countries have penalties which are much more harsh and are enforced more consistently. Some people in the U.S. lose their license and others do not. I got a DUI (which was an extremely important and fortunate wake-up call) but did not lose my license. My best friend was pulled over for what should have been her 2nd DUI but was let off with a warning. I know people who have gotten their licenses suspended after 3 DUI’s, but who still drove, got into accidents, and saw no jail time. In many other countries these would all be simply unthinkable. Tony’s fame and money may have helped him, but the system is pretty broken.
  2. DUI’s are not the same as being an alcoholic–because of the forgiving nature of point #1, I’d wager that most “responsible” drinkers in the US have driven drunk multiple times. That being said, anyone who drives drunk has an alcohol problem and getting a DUI in your mid-70’s is certainly a big red flag. I can’t comment on the private details of Tony’s life, but I don’t think we need to make a judgment there to have an opinion on the White Sox decision-making.
  3. We should hold public figures to a higher standard–Like it or not, MLB managers are role models. There is absolutely no reason for the White Sox to hire a man with this cloud over his head when the world is full of other potential hires with just as great a chance of success. Hiring Tony was a clear, inexcusable ethical mistake. His example just perpetuates the bad behavior of our entire country.

In short, the White Sox screwed up and driverless cars cannot get here fast enough.