After guiding the White Sox to a 35-25 record and a postseason appearance in his fourth season as manager, Rick Renteria was fired Monday.
It was the second cruel blow in seven seasons for a guy who seemingly has no enemies in the game. Respected and well-liked most by those who know him, players included, Renteria, 58, guided the Sox to their first postseason appearance since 2008 in the abbreviated 60-game season. He was also fired by the Cubs after one season in 2014.
While the move came as a surprise — Renteria had one year left on his contract and is adored by Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf — it demonstrates the organization’s bold resolve to take the next step in the fifth year of the rebuild after bowing out of the postseason with a wild-card series loss to the Athletics.
“This is not how we wanted this to end,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “We wanted it to end with Ricky leading us to championships. That was the intent from the start. Over time, through very candid and, quite frankly, personal conversations about where this organization is, what our time horizon is, what we need to do to win in October and get to that final, ultimate goal, it became evident that it was time to make a change.”
Don Cooper, the Sox’ pitching coach since 2002 and part of the organization since 1988, was also let go. The status of the rest of the coaching staff will be determined after consultation with the team’s next manager, who likely will come from outside the organization, Hahn said.
Hahn said that former Sox manager Ozzie Guillen will not be a candidate. Guillen, who guided the Sox to a World Series title in 2005 and now works on Sox pregame and postgame broadcasts, was informed by Reinsdorf on Monday morning.
The ideal candidate to replace Renteria, Hahn said, will have recent October experience with a championship organization.
While in full rebuild mode, the Sox went 67-95, 62-100 and 72-89 in Renteria’s first three seasons. Renteria was the Sox’ bench coach one year after the Cubs unceremoniously fired him as their manager in 2014 so they could hire Joe Maddon, then was named to succeed Robin Ventura before the 2017 season.
Renteria received high marks for establishing a good clubhouse culture and getting players to play hard for him. This season was his first opportunity to manage a team built to win, and he came under fire for game management, including decisions made managing the bullpen in the last game of the year.
“This isn’t about any of the decision-making in Game 3 of the wild-card series; this isn’t about anything that happened over the last couple of weeks after we clinched our position getting into the playoffs,” Hahn said. “This is based upon where we are as an organization and what we do to take that next step and putting us in the best position to succeed.
“I will say Ricky is obviously a fantastic baseball man and probably a better person than he is a baseball man.”
The Sox built a 32-16 record after a 10-11 start and held the top seed in the expanded eight-team American League playoff field. They faded late, closing with a 3-12 regular-season record and losing home field for the wild-card series by falling to the seventh seed.
The Sox believe they are equipped to do better, with a World Series as the stated goal, and think a new manager and coaches can make them better.
“I feel bad for [Renteria and Cooper], but if it’s time to win now, we need winning people,” one player said via text message.
“I want to thank Ricky & Coop for their amazing work & dedication to the White Sox organization,” right-hander Lucas Giolito tweeted. “They taught me what it means to wear the Sox uniform with pride. My career turnaround would never have been possible without their unrelenting support & faith in my ability. . . . I’ll never forget what they did for me.’’