All that excitement. All that feel-good. All that goodwill.
All of it, gone.
The White Sox were the up-and-comers of baseball. They had ‘‘next,’’ as the expression goes. They were poised to rip headlines — positive ones — from the crosstown Cubs and were, for many people, Reason No. 1 to look forward to sports on the other side of this awful pandemic.
A lot of that still might be in play. But at the moment? Now that revelations of old/new Sox manager Tony La Russa’s second arrest for driving under the influence have brought the sports news cycle to a roiling boil? Now that La Russa and his BFF, Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, are barreling toward the edge of a cliff like a far less charming and sympathetic Thelma and Louise?
Jeez, the Sox are laughingstocks.
The Sox knew La Russa had been arrested on suspicion of DUI in February in Arizona. They knew he was charged the day before they announced him as manager last month. They knew, but they didn’t care. More specifically, Reinsdorf knew and didn’t care. Perhaps in an effort to get ahead of the news, he rammed La Russa down the throats of fans and his own front-office executives with the expeditiousness and cunning of a thief in the night.
Check your pockets, Rick Hahn. On second thought, don’t bother. They’re as empty as your title of general manager turned out to be on this one.
Who wanted La Russa? Reinsdorf and perhaps no one else. How bizarre.
Hahn, the architect of an impressive rebuild, certainly deserved better. So did everyone else. La Russa is entitled to due process — don’t blow past those words because they matter — but that process should’ve played out before Reinsdorf lashed the Sox’ future to a man who, at 76, would be the third-oldest manager in major-league history and already engendered numerous criticisms and concerns that had nothing to do with his age.
Should a DUI preclude a person from such an opportunity as managing in the big leagues? Not necessarily. It’s complicated. Even if social media doesn’t allow much space for discussion, for nuance, for non-binary thinking — for ‘‘complicated’’ — decisions made in real life have layers to them.
But this isn’t La Russa’s first DUI charge, let alone his first strike. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DUI in Jupiter, Florida, in 2007 while managing the Cardinals. More recently, he brought criticism on his own head by publicly doubting the ‘‘sincerity’’ of player protests against racial injustice. He hasn’t exactly been open to fun and self-expression when it comes to players behaving on the field in ways that don’t narrowly fit within the old-fashioned strictures of the game. And his hiring in October was just plain unpopular among fans.
At best, La Russa has a couple of strikes on him. It might be more accurate to say he’s one false move from disaster. Did we mention he hasn’t even put on a Sox uniform yet, nor even called some of his key players to say, ‘‘How ya doin’?’’
According to ESPN, La Russa tried to play the Hall of Famer card with the arresting officer in Arizona, asking, ‘‘Do you know who I am?’’ What an embarrassing look. More egg on his, Reinsdorf’s and the Sox’ faces.
To La Russa’s credit, he is a Hall of Famer. The third-winningest manager in major-league history. A three-time World Series winner. A four-time Manager of the Year. A 12-time division-title winner. And so on.
Tell that to Marcus Stroman. The free-agent right-hander, one of the top starting pitchers on the market — who would have made sense as a Sox target — tweeted Tuesday that the hiring of La Russa was ‘‘baffling’’ and that ‘‘no amount of money’’ would be enough to play for him. We’re going to need some more eggs.
No amount of money honestly. Peace of mind is always priority.— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) November 10, 2020
The Sox were planning to make Luis Robert, the runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year, available to the media Tuesday on a video conference call. That got scrapped in a hurry. Meanwhile, the AL Manager of the Year winner was identified later in the day on MLB Network. The finalists for that award included Rick Renteria, whom the Sox fired, it seems, so Reinsdorf could yank Hahn from behind the wheel and take off on a wild, last-ditch ride with his bestie. (Renteria finished a distant second to the Rays’ Kevin Cash.)
What a story. What a house-of-cards situation.
La Russa uses the word ‘‘sincerity’’ a lot. He still applies it to player protests. He still applies it to bat-flipping and the like. As long as these acts are sincere, he says, he’ll try to get behind them. Sincere, according to whom? According to La Russa, who must consider himself gifted when it comes to discerning others’ intent.
Guess who’s going to have to be mighty sincere when he finally speaks to his players? To the media? To fans? When he’s presented with little choice but to explain himself or bury himself? It’ll take a hell of a lot of owning up for La Russa to manage all that, assuming he even gets the chance.
Last month, La Russa was asked about building new relationships.
‘‘Every year,’’ he said, ‘‘you start with the respect and trust at zero, and you have to work every day to earn it.’’
He hasn’t even turned over the first stone.