Somebody asked me the other day if I wanted Tony La Russa to be fired. Interesting question. Not, “Should the White Sox’ manager be fired?” Not, “Does he deserve to be fired?”
Do I want La Russa to be fired?
Selfishly? As a columnist who loves when column ideas are regularly delivered on a silver platter? As someone who makes his living looking for topics that spark discussion, raise temperatures and turn brother against brother, husband against wife and dog against chew toy? Asking me if I want La Russa to be fired is like asking an ant colony if it would like the dessert cart to move on.
No. I don’t want La Russa and his endless disruptions going anywhere.
My self-centeredness is likely to anger some Sox fans, who will let me know in no uncertain terms what they think of my work, my life, my apparently friendless existence, the shape of my head, the obvious effects of delayed potty training, etc.
I wish people would stop getting in the way of my love for humanity.
Many of us agree that the stumbling Sox would be better off without La Russa. When the club pulled him down from the attic, dusted him off and unveiled him as its manager in October 2020, many of us agreed that it was a monumentally bad idea. La Russa’s supporters will rightly point out that there’s little a manager can do when seemingly half his players are on the injury report at any given moment. But this team is still talented, and it hasn’t responded to La Russa the way a talented team should.
The best argument for sending him on his way is that the clock is ticking for the Sox. The season hasn’t slipped away yet, but it has taken a step toward having one foot out the door. They should be better than this. Because they’re not, because they’ve underachieved, replacing La Russa makes all kinds of sense.
But if we’re talking about entertainment value, and I am, are you kidding? You don’t throw away gold.
The amount of negative energy he has engendered could power a fleet of electric cars. People are offended by his in-game decisions, his in-car decisions (a DUI arrest before he was hired, his second) and his indestructible bond with Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who seems certain that La Russa invented baseball. That makes two of them.
Some people don’t like his age (77), his hair color (nut brown?) or his views on the national anthem (stand, don’t kneel).
There are so many things about La Russa that rile the fan base that it’s hard to keep count. He’s an adherent of the unwritten rules of baseball, which drives “modern’’ fans insane, and the dynamic is very, very entertaining. His use of the bullpen has brought endless criticism, as have his daily lineup changes. Last year, a sportswriter had to inform him of a new MLB rule that might have helped him win a game he had just lost. It brought on mass eye-rolling.
His recent decision to intentionally walk a Dodgers hitter with two strikes was terrible and stunning and awesome, all at once. The public outrage devoted to it! The column inches it provided!
It brought to mind former Bears coach Marc Trestman’s decision to have Robbie Gould attempt a 47-yard field goal on second-and-seven in overtime during a 2013 game in Minnesota. Trestman: also a columnist’s best friend.
La Russa’s decision backfired when, after the intentional walk to Trea Turner, Max Muncy hit a three-run homer and the Sox ended up losing. Afterward, La Russa acted as if he were shocked by the very idea of anyone questioning his decision. That was worth approximately 100 columns.
Trestman’s decision backfired when Gould missed, and the Vikings went on to win. Afterward, like La Russa, Trestman stuck to his guns, saying he ordered a kick on second down because he feared a penalty or a fumble, which only sounded defeatist because it was. He did take accountability, whatever that means anymore.
I got another season out of Trestman, who lost his job after the 2014 season because of back-to-back blowout losses to the Patriots and Packers, because his offensive coordinator publicly said quarterback Jay Cutler “absolutely killed’’ the Bears with poor play management and because team owner Virginia McCaskey was “pissed off,’’ according to her son.
I’d love to get the rest of this season out of La Russa. You can’t make this guy up, but I’m glad somebody did.
Will he be fired? No, he won’t.
The decision to hire him was a bad idea in 2020, and it’s still a bad idea. But no one expects Reinsdorf to listen now because he never listens to any voices except the one in his head. Thankfully.