White Sox’ Tony La Russa on hot seat? Odds say it’s so, but probably no
The Sox turned down the pressure a bit as Jose Abreu homered twice and Lance Lynn made his first start in the victory against the Tigers.
DETROIT — Once thought to be an impossibility because of White Sox manager Tony La Russa’s relationship with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and the circumstances surrounding his rehiring in 2020, the latest oddsmakers’ postings list La Russa as the most likely manager to be fired next. One even has it as even money.
And the more the Sox lose and lose in unsightly ways, the more a window for that possibility seems to open — even if it’s just a crack.
But if you’re going to place a bet during these turbulent economic times, proceed with caution on that one. Reinsdorf’s primary reason for giving La Russa the keys to run his team again was his belief that La Russa was the best manager available. Their friendship was secondary.
That the Sox, who are three games below .500 after their 9-5 victory Monday against the Tigers, are submerged in noise, distress, angst and even anger from the outside — much of it coming from a disgruntled fan base — is nothing new to Reinsdorf and La Russa. Both have weathered storms before. A Hall of Famer with more victories than anyone besides Connie Mack, La Russa remains supremely confident in his ability to manage.
Fans yelling “Fire Tony” at Guaranteed Rate Field don’t agree. They waited through years of a rebuild for a window of contention and see their team, albeit while dealing with a plethora of injuries, often playing badly.
There was yelling, too, in the Sox’ dugout Monday between right-hander Lance Lynn and third-base coach Joe McEwing after the second inning, possibly about defensive alignments and shifts. Lynn allowed three runs and 10 hits, eight of them singles, in 4„ innings in his season debut coming off knee surgery.
Say this for the 2022 Sox: They might be underperforming, but they’re not dull.
‘‘He was trying to get me going,’’ Lynn deadpanned. ‘‘He kept telling me that filet is better than ribeye. I’m more of a ribeye-and-potatoes guy. He’s a filet and, like, Caesar salad. I just told him he was wrong, and then he went back to coaching third.’’
Perhaps Lynn’s passion on the mound and humor in the dugout can spark something the Sox need.
What they really need, though, is simply to play better. Their two-run loss Sunday to the Rangers ended with an inexcusable baserunning gaffe by Luis Robert. On Monday, Andrew Vaughn was thrown out at second while trying to stretch a single into a double in the first. Thankfully for the Sox, after Robert popped out, Jose Abreu hit a two-run home run against Rony Garcia. Abreu belted another homer in the ninth.
‘‘If I was a fan, I’d be upset, too,’’ catcher Yasmani Grandal said. ‘‘There’s a lot of things that happen throughout a game. You’re watching from the stands [and] saying, ‘How can that possibly be?’ ’’
Those things reflect poorly on the manager and his staff, no matter the extent of their responsibility for players’ mistakes.
It’s moments like those — or when La Russa called for an intentional walk on a 1-2 count last week against the Dodgers — that roils observers on couches, in ballpark seats, on national-TV sports desks and in local talk-radio studios.
Reinsdorf fired La Russa in 1986, calling it his greatest regret, and rehired him after the 2020 season. It was a decision that did not go over well. But it was less about cronyism and more about wanting to win.
‘‘When Jerry hired Tony La Russa, it was because he believed in his heart of hearts that he was the man to bring him a World Series championship,’’ broadcaster Steve Stone said.
La Russa knew the backlash might be like this when he took the job. But after his most turbulent week of the season, he was in a good mood, joking with reporters before the game. It was not the look of a manager on the hot seat.
Grandal said the players aren’t panicking, either.
‘‘At some point, we’re going to click,’’ he said. ‘‘Once that happens ... I think everybody knows what we’re able to do.’’