Everything about the White Sox’ hiring of Tony La Russa as their manager two weeks ago was patronizing toward their fan base. Few fans wanted him. Most thought the addition of a 76-year-old man who hadn’t managed in nine years was the definition of insanity. The Sox knew fans were going to be outraged, yet they hired him anyway.
In doing so, they sent two letters of the alphabet to their loyal followers: F (faith) and U (unity). I think that’s what those letters stand for.
If you understand all of that, then you’ll understand how the team hired La Russa despite knowing about his February drunk-driving arrest and how it has stood by him despite a police report that shames both him and the organization.
There, there, the Sox’ actions say to their fans. We know what’s best for you. A pat on the head before they send you away. Maybe a reflexive plundering of your wallet while they’re at it.
When I say Sox, I of course mean team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who is on a one-man crusade to prove something or other, whatever it is. One person in the world cares that the franchise canned La Russa 34 years ago. One person in the world thinks amends have to be made for that. One person in the world thinks La Russa is the perfect fit for a young, exciting team.
That person is Reinsdorf, who, through his actions and through his silence, is reminding you that only one person matters. Everybody else can go play in traffic on the Dan Ryan.
Sox fans are not taking it well. Wednesday was Veterans Day, and the team did what lots of professional sports franchises do, tweeting a salute “to all who have served our country.” The responses that followed had nothing to do with veterans and everything to do with war.
Today we salute all who have served our country. Thank you, Veterans! pic.twitter.com/Mae68rzcA6— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) November 11, 2020
First Twitter reaction:
“I’m f&^%$#@ embarrassed to be a fan of this team. #FireLaRussa to make this right. Or I and many others will no longer support this team financially. That should get Jerry’s attention.”
What came next was some combination of #StepDownTony and #ChangeTheShame.
I once heard an interview with a physician who said that the toughest patients he had to deal with in his long career were celebrities. They didn’t follow orders because they had spent so much time giving orders to others. People were afraid to disagree with them. Nobody said “no.”
That’s what it feels like with Reinsdorf. The outside world was telling him well in advance of the Oct. 29 hiring of La Russa that it was a terrible idea. The outside world doesn’t matter to Reinsdorf. Did the other Sox decision-makers speak up against the hire?
It didn’t matter. Jerry knew best. People would thank him later, just like they always have.
In Reinsdorf’s mind, nobody knows what the team needs more than he does. So the quaint idea that he’s going to give in to public pressure and fire La Russa because of a DUI arrest is based more on the noble idea of what should be done than the reality of what will be done. Doing the right thing would require a self-awareness that Jerry doesn’t appear to possess. The people might have spoken, but the maximum leader seems to be wearing earplugs.
And the idea of La Russa walking away from the job? Please.
Some people are trying to minimize a DUI arrest (even though La Russa has had two now). Barely over the threshold for being legally drunk. Not exactly first-degree murder. Wrong place, wrong time. Blah, blah, blah. All of it empty and detestable.
But they can’t explain away La Russa’s haughty behavior toward the cop who had noticed the smell of alcohol on him that February day in Arizona.
“Do you see my ring?” La Russa said, according to the police report: “I’m a Hall of Famer baseball person. … I’m legit. I’m a Hall of Famer, brother. You’re trying to embarrass me.”
This is the man you want representing the White Sox? This is the man you want leading all those young players? You want a lounge singer for a manager? I don’t think so, brother.
Nothing feels good about the hire. Even the distant past won’t go away. Since La Russa’s hiring, there has been lots of discussion about his connection to the movable steroids feast that was the Oakland A’s under his leadership.
One of the biggest questions these days is whether a 76-year-old can relate to players who are as much as 50 years his junior. With that in mind, you’d think that reaching out to shortstop Tim Anderson, one of the stars of the team, would have been a huge priority for La Russa after being hired. But, no. Days after the announcement, Anderson said he had yet to speak with the new manager.
And now the DUI arrest.
Likability isn’t a must in order to be a manager, but deplorability should be a deal killer. How don’t the Sox see this?
But there’s Jerry Reinsdorf, dug in. Him against the world, against all reason.