White Sox go boldly, yet still weirdly, in search for new manager

Charting the last White Sox managerial change doesn’t require a team of researchers. It might not even require multiple browser tabs. One whole day lapsed between the end of Robin Ventura’s tenure and the start of Rick Renteria’s back in October 2016. The entire journey is captured with consecutive posts at South Side Sox.

The circumstances surrounding the firing of Renteria reflect higher standards all around. Ventura’s Sox had just wrapped up their fourth consecutive losing season, while Renteria’s Sox had just ended that losing-season streak and postseason drought. Ventura’s presumed replacement was already on the dugout bench, while the presumed favorite to replace Renteria has been in the penalty box all year, with Rick Hahn admitting they’d been too insular in the past and saying, “Recent October experience with a championship organization would be ideal.”

PERTINENT: Rick Renteria raised White Sox’s standards beyond his ability to meet them

It took more than a week after the season to determine Renteria’s fate, and it’ll likely take multiple more weeks for the resolution. This is all very different from how the White Sox usually act, but looking back through those stories, it’s not entirely unlike themselves.

It reminds me of this clip that the MLB Pipeline Twitter account showed of an outfielder in the 2015 Futures Game making a catch along the right siderail at Petco Park after Manny Margot’s dramatic tumble in Game 2.

The right fielder seen making a leaping catch with conviction against a wall is Eloy Jiménez, who hasn’t been or done any of those things since rising to the majors as the White Sox. There’s one similarity that gives him away. While most of his body is ironing out a plan to make the catch, Jiménez’s throwing hand is still halfheartedly trying to flag down the wait staff for his check.

Smash-cut to today, and while the White Sox are taking an unusually direct and proactive route to solve one of the problems that doesn’t require a ton of money by pursuing a better manager, you can see a couple vestigial hallmarks of their awkward style to let you know the same people are still in charge.

A tortured interpretation of “mutual”: I enjoyed the press release saying the White Sox and Renteria “agreed to part ways,” because what would that even look like?

  • Hahn: I’ll make this quick. I wanted to tell you in person that we’d like to proceed with a new manager.
  • Renteria: Oh, I’m so relieved. I thought you were going to offer me an extension.
  • Hahn: What? Oh, no. God, no. We’re firing you.
  • Renteria: That’s great! As much as you want to fire me, I want to be fired twice as much.
  • Hahn: What. A. Relief. I thought this was going to be a brutal discussion.
  • Renteria: No, sir. Sincerely, nothing would please me more than being fired at a time where it’ll be nearly impossible to repair my reputation.
  • Hahn: Well, isn’t it ironic that we’re back on the same page now, of all times? I mean, it’s practically like we’re finishing each other’s …
  • Renteria: … postseason dreams.
  • Hahn: I hate you. Please leave.
  • Renteria: Friend, I’m already gone.

Hahn used “mutual” to describe the dismissals of both Renteria and Don Cooper, but at least with the former, Paul Sullivan said that Renteria chose that framing in order to save a little face.

And wouldn’t you know it? Ventura did the same thing. In his final postgame media conference, Ventura said, “Because it was my decision, it was mutual … it was me that initiated it.” Only that one’s a little easier to believe, because I couldn’t blame him if he hated the work by the end of it.

Reinsdorf weirdness: On Tuesday, Bob Nightengale doubled down on his Monday claim that 76-year-old Tony La Russa is the White Sox’s No. 1 choice.

I mentioned a couple days ago that Nightengale repeatedly staked out an equally strange position during Ventura’s final week. First, he said the White Sox would sign Ventura to a new contract provided he wanted to return. Then, he overwrote the story to knock White Sox fans who hated the idea.

When Ventura’s “choice” was revealed, both he and Hahn dismissed the idea that his future was in question that late in the game. Both presented it as a decision made before the final month, and if you’re wondering how Hahn’s going to work around the La Russa angle if and when it fails to materialize, his response to the conflicting timelines with Ventura offers some clues.

Hahn reiterated that the public may have had the wrong idea over the time frame — that Ventura gave them a month’s notice and told the Sox they should move on from him. “There was no instance where we got to the point of presenting it as, ‘We want you to come back. Do you not want to come back?’ That’s not how it evolved.”

Hahn didn’t dismiss the story as false or incorrect. He started the response to the question with “All I said was…” which makes me think that it might have been a misguided attempt by somebody above him to make Ventura’s exit more dignified, when it actually made it more convoluted.

The White Sox’s history with old favorites is such that La Russa can’t be ruled out, but if it fizzles as expected, it wouldn’t be the first time Jerry Reinsdorf called Nightengale to effectively deliver a singing telegram to one of his friends, even if it drives a million White Sox fans up the wall. For now, it’s a distraction that diminishes confidence and nothing more. Just like watching Jiménez in the outfield then and now, you can overlook what the right hand’s doing as long as the left hand gets the job done.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

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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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GrinnellSteve

Is Jack McKeon available? After tonight, they can talk to Dusty Baker. How ’bout Larry Bowa? No, Bobby Valentine!

joewho112

I’m hearing talks with Connie Mack are heating up

craigws

Has to be John McGraw, for me. He knows how to win.

BuehrleMan

it might go without saying but my choice for next manager is lee elia.

asinwreck

Only if Les Grobstein is his bench coach.

ParisSox

Ditka

Yolmer's gatorade

Billy Martin.

dwjm3

We didn’t get any of these weird rumors when Michael Reinsdorf was conducting the search for the Bulls new front office.

Maybe Jerry can consult his son on how to act like a normal human being during a search. 🙂

HallofFrank

I know I’m playing right into BN’s hands, but…. let’s say the Sox do have La Russa in their sights. I’m genuinely asking: why are Sox fans so against the idea? I ask this in ignorance, as I haven’t followed him (or his teams) closely—especially since he’s left managing.

The resume is obviously elite and my impression of him as a manager is he’s willing to get creative and take data seriously. Has he taken anti-analytics stances that I’ve missed? Or is it just the age/out of date thing?

dansomeone

His post-managerial career overseeing the baseball operations of the Diamondbacks was marked by some pretty bad decisions that were out-of-touch with modern thinking, including hiring his former player Dave Stewart as the GM.

evenyoudorn

Weren’t there also one or more DUIs? I seem to remember over on SSS him gaining something of a bad-person tag.

HallofFrank

That makes sense. That was kind of my guess, I just haven’t heard much from him. It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out. Like you and Josh, I’m not really enamored by any of the options but I’m guessing it’s Hinch. I asked the question originally because I’m trying to talk myself into Tony, but it doesn’t feel like the right fit.

roke1960

“It’s just hard to imagine that profile taking 10 years off, then coming back and being open-minded to how players improve. This decade has featured more change than most.”

That is an excellent point Jim. Tony was a great manager- it’s just hard to believe that he can relate to players after being out of the dugout for 10 years. This is an entirely different game than it was 10 years ago. The Sox need someone who is comfortable with the state of the game. I have a hard time believing that LaRussa is.

Eagle Bones

This is fantastic analysis, thanks Jim! Would it be possible to get your thoughts on each of the stated candidates in a similar fashion? I’m thinking Hinch is the best bet at this point, but I honestly don’t follow other teams close enough to feel like I have more than a cursory handle on how their managers performed.

asinwreck

If the three-batter rule was enough to land Terry Francona in the hospital, it might kill Tony.

As Cirensica

I believe teams are moving towards young managers (closer to the player’s age), that can offer dynamism, connect better with players, flexibility to think outside the box seeking for edges wherever. Dynamic and young aren’t TLR’s attributes.

MarketMaker

My guess is Renteria finds a gig with an even lesser franchise during a rebuild over the next few years. Pretty sure that will be his label going forward. Mariners, Orioles, D’Backs, Rockies all seem like the kind of places he could manage a few years to no one’s recollection.

texag10

I’m really skeptical that there are actually a million white sox fans…

ThisReallySox

Dammit Jim you scared me senseless for about 5 seconds when the first thing I see is Larussa’s face and I panic thinking the Sox have hired him. Please refrain????

Greg Nix

Interestingly, Moncada appears towards the end of that Eloy clip, presumably playing 2B for the World team. Neither of them were in the Sox org at the time.

xubrent

I noted that too. Looks like an episode of ‘Misplaced Sox’ considering they are both playing positions different that where they settle with the Sox.

xubrent

I understand the owner is the one role in the organization that cannot be fired, but I really want to know why Jerry does this to Chi fan base?
Although I feel bad for Renteria, I kindly agreed with the decision and wholeheartedly excited hearing Hahn define his next hire.

And then Jerry has to go and remind us he’s the same old Jerry. And I DEFINITELY DID NOT need to be reminded that Hawk Harrelson was once our GM at a point in history.

Gutteridge70

Yea and you wonder why Hawk was ever hired by Jerry in any capacity after his absurd and fortunately very brief tenure as GM .

asinwreck

The longer Nightengale does this, the more I suspect it’s a smokescreen while discussions progress with Hinch:

The Los Angeles #Angels say they have granted official permission to the Chicago #WhiteSox to interview Hall of Famer Tony La Russa for their managerial opening. La Russa is currently a special assistant in the #Angels organization. https://t.co/yL9D8Uv2Vo via ⁦@USATODAY

— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 14, 2020

dwjm3

I’m not so sure about that. If they actually interview him I’m concerned they might be dumb enough to hire.

joewho112

I assumed that LaRussa wasn’t interested in managing anymore. The fact that he is willing to interview is concerning. I had considered his disinterest to be an important safety feature in preventing this from happening

ParisSox

I think it goes like this, “Hahn: Ok fine, you each get to put forward one candidate for an interview.” Jerry “Yes, my man LaRussa!”; KW: “hmm, is Cito Gaston still available? Let me call him.” Hahn thinks to himself, “that should keep those knuckleheads busy while I get down to business.”

denny

James Fegan lists Joe Espada and Matt Quatraro as desirable candidates, though they are not mentioned anywhere else. These two and probably a handful of others should or could be considered. It’s extremely short-sided by the Sox Fanposts and Score670, and others to limit the candidates to Hinch-Cora-Alomar-LaRussa. W Sox have a prime opportunity to land the “right” guy and should not hogtie themselves by limiting the candidates. I’d like to see some out-of-the-box candidates discussed.

HallofFrank

I’d be shocked if the Sox went that route given what Hahn said they are looking for. They clearly want a manager with considerable experience, especially playoff experience. I don’t expect they’ll take any chances on anyone unproven.

Joist

This isn’t directed at you specifically, but your comment about “not taking any chances” doesn’t make sense to me. As if there’s zero risk in hiring a retread like La Russa? It reminds me of football announcers saying that a team going for it on 4th down is taking a “gamble”, as if nothing bad could possibly happen by punting it to the other team.

HallofFrank

Notice I didn’t say “not taking any chances” but that I didn’t expect them to “take any chances on anyone unproven.” Hahn’s comments seem to indicate they are looking for more experience than Renteria, not less. Still, as your football example perhaps unintentionally conveys, not all gambles are created equal.

For what its’ worth, I’m not saying I agree. In fact, I’d love to see them seriously interview some fresh faces like Espada or Quatraro. I just don’t expect it based on what Hahn said.

Eagle Bones

I thought the same thing about the Nats a couple years back, then they went and hired Dave Martinez.

denny

Hahn said ‘ideally’ on the recent playoff experience, but he didn’t rule out other options. Listen to his whole press conference, he hedged it a bit. Just sayin’.

Eagle Bones

I’m not overly familiar with either of these names, but being attached to the Rays as he is makes me think Quatraro could be interesting.

denny

Agree E-B, Fagen seems to be as tuned in to W Sox news as much as anyone and these two made sense. My point is that there has to be a number of mgrs, bench coaches, 3rd base coaches for recent winners that fall into Hahn’s criteria. I think it would be wise to interview them. Big thumbs down to LaRussa, Hinch, & Cora.

Eagle Bones

I don’t really have a problem with Cora or Hinch from a managerial strategy perspective (at least as far as what I understand about them), it’s more the cheating stuff (which I probably also don’t have the best handle on). But yeah LaRussa? Hell no.

GoGoSoxFan

I think I’ll wait for King Wetbutt XXIV to weigh in.

mikeyb

What about Sandy Alomar Jr.? I really don’t know what the fan reaction was to him in Cleveland this year, but I’ve always been a fan of Terry Francona; maybe some of his managerial ideas rubbed off on Alomar.

As Cirensica

John Gibbons

gibby32

I am not a fan of the “rubbed off” qualification.

GoGoSoxFan

Let’s get all conspiratorial. Maybe Jerry’s really ready to clean house and this is a smokescreen to get LaRussa in line for Hahn’s job.

craigws

(Re-)Hiring LaRussa would be the boomer-est move in all of baseball ever, I think. And that’d be coming from a team that had David Wells.

asinwreck

Except Tony and Jerry pre-date boomers.

Fun fact: Every Sox manager before Tony, with the sole exception of player-manager Don Kessinger, is deceased.

ParisSox

Fun? 😉

asinwreck

A supposedly fun thing I’d like to not do for a long time.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I rather enjoy cruises.

GoGoSoxFan

Underrated.

asinwreck

It works especially well this year.

Gutteridge70

Tony if, as I hope , you read Sox Machine, I am a fellow geezer just a little younger than you. I remember listening you give a talk to handful of young lawyers ( as you are also a lawyer ) at the Union League Club and being very impressed .While with the Sox I thought the Carey & Piersal’s criticisms of you where unjustified and Hawk’s firing was absurd. You have shown all your critics with two WC in each league and membership in the Hall of Fame. Enjoy escaping the practice of Law and achieving baseball success as a manger that all envy. Enjoy your accolades and your grandkids and decline the manager position if offered you.

markott225

Been a Sox fan for 50 years, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Make a stupid move like hiring La Russa and I’m gone. Spend the time you would be reminiscing with LaRussa about the old days, looking for a right fielder. I’m not big on cheaters, but if the Stros ex can bring along George Springer, I’d take it.

As Cirensica

The USA will still be battling Covid-19 next year. Hiring a 76 year old manager is just asinine. And a little bit cruel. The White Sox won’t hire LaRussa.

MrStealYoBase

Interviewing LaRussa, even if it’s just for the sake of flattering an old friend, makes the Sox look like clowns and should be interpreted as a red flag by every other serious managerial candidate.

I don’t know if they are trying to make it seem like they settled on Hinch, so it doesn’t seem like ‘the cheater” was at the top of the list but making it seem like the guy you end up hiring isn’t a first choice is a bizzarly stupid way of going about it.

metasox

This is the organization that signs relatives of free agents it actually wants to sign

asinwreck

My offseason plan may have just gotten more expensive in the first inning of the LA-Atlanta game.

HouseOfTheRisingSox

The more news outlets that report the LaRussa connection, the more nervous I get. For the first time in decades we could be classified as a “destination” for managers……why not take advantage of it and let that play out. The nostalgia for LaRussa is just so bizarre and unfortunately so White Sox that I wouldn’t be surprised we ended up hiring back Renteria.

metasox

Is it possible all this is leading up to the Sox hiring La Russa for some other role?

lastof12

sabergenarian metrics. I jest, but seriously, why do the Sox always have to wax nostalgic?

asinwreck

It’s what happens when the owner’s favorite team is the Brooklyn Dodgers.

PopeDonnPall

You know that’s the play Eloy think of every time he’s sprinting toward a wall. “Here I go, It’s gonna be amazing. It’s gonna beWALL!”

He also looks about 25 lbs lighter in that clip.

Jason.Wade17

No offense to Nightengale, but no other big reporter has said anything on this, makes me doubt any validity. You telling me Passan and Rosenthal just have no interest in confirming or commenting?

dwjm3

He did report that the Angels gave permission to speak to LaRussa.

If the White Sox didn’t ask permission to speak to him wouldn’t an Angels source tell Bob that?

This went a little beyond the Reinsdorf feeding Nightengle when the Angels were contacted in my view

Jason.Wade17

Not saying it’s Reinsdorf feeding misinformation, I’m saying that Nightengale’s comment that “LaRussa is White Sox’s No. 1 candidate” would be bigger news if true.

White Sox could have reached out to him for a number of reasons other than being manager. And it wouldn’t be the Angels job to dispel rumors that Nightengale presents.

Jason.Wade17

Also, as I say this, just read that Athletic confirmed the Sox are looking to interview LaRussa, so I got the 2nd source that I was looking for. Ignore me.

peanutsNcrackerjack

Is Dave Duncan still alive?

Right Size Wrong Shape

Yes, and I think he’s still employed by the Sox.

bill lane

I’ll say it again – AJ Pierzynski