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The White Sox have given Tony La Russa the first of their parting gifts for managers whom Jerry Reinsdorf forced to overstay their welcome: a Bob Nightengale story that careens between an overly defensive stance and a rote accounting of the facts that undermines his position.
Nightengale alternated breaking news and breaking brains in his Sunday column. He said La Russa is expected to announce his retirement at a press conference in Chicago on Monday, when the White Sox hadn’t even announced the press conference to the, y’know, press.
Much like 2017, when Nightengale revised his story about Reinsdorf’s passive-aggressive arrangement for Robin Ventura’s final week to chastise White Sox fans who demanded better, he takes creative liberties with the events to cast La Russa as the protagonist of a hero’s journey that turned out to be impossible.
The whole story is worth reading multiple times, if only because every Nightwashing includes preposterous assertions that distract from milder sentences that are also wrong.
For instance, I spent my first read recovering from the whiplash these paragraphs gave me:
La Russa’s two-year stint will be widely considered a failure, but really, that’s unfair. He led the White Sox to a 93-69 record in his first year back 2021, losing to the Houston Astros in the first round.
It led to surreal expectations this season. Anything less than a World Series title would be considered a failure.
It was a disaster.
The White Sox, drowning in mediocrity all season, were unable to put together any semblance of success until interim manager Miguel Cairo took over, going 13-6. It proved to be nothing more than a mirage. They needed to sweep the Cleveland Guardians in their last home stand. They instead lost eight consecutive games, putting a merciful end to their season.
Nightengale goes from saying “failure” would be unfair, but “disaster” is appropriate. How does he square this up? By treating the White Sox’s record as predetermined:
The White Sox will now be looking for their fourth manager in eight seasons. White Sox GM Rick Hahn originally wanted to hire A.J. Hinch instead of La Russa, but it would have made no difference.
The more you spend time looking at this story, the more you see. The fans are the ones who had “surreal expectations,” not the general manager who proclaimed that his only unit of measurement for success was the parade. Said general manager wanted A.J. Hinch, but who cares, because even Earl Weaver couldn’t have bailed out his crap-assed roster.
And then there are the first two paragraphs:
It was one of baseball’s greatest feel-good stories,with a Hall of Fame manager coming out of retirement to lead his old team to a World Series title.
Only, it didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to.
It was the feel-good story nobody felt good about — especially after the DUI charge that Nightengale downplayed on La Russa’s behalf — and it turned out exactly how it was supposed to.
Anyway, Nightengale says the White Sox will “begin formulating a list of managerial candidates,” but based on the White Sox’s behavior this millennium, there’s no reason to believe they actually care enough to go through all the trouble of an actual process. He suggests Carlos Beltran, Bruce Bochy, Mike Shildt, Joe Espada and George Lombard. My sources, which are History and Precedent, say the White Sox are likely to limit their search to people Reinsdorf already knows, so Nightengale himself might be at the top of their list.