SAN DIEGO -- Tony La Russa’s managerial retirement was announced on Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field, ending the Hall of Famer’s second tenure in charge of the White Sox.
La Russa will depart after two seasons back in Chicago and with one year left on his contract. The White Sox, as an organization, have not confirmed nor commented on the news, although some players discussed their soon-to-be former manager on Sunday before and after claiming a 2-1 victory from the National League Wild Card-clinching Padres at Petco Park to close their road ledger at 44-37.
“He’s going to have a good retirement. It would be different if he was 50,” White Sox reliever Joe Kelly said. “He’s not in the beginning part of his career. He’s had a great career, Hall of Famer. Ultimately, we fell short as players and we didn’t perform as well as we should have. … Wish we would have played a little bit better for him as a unit, for sure.”
Said White Sox outfielder Andrew Vaughn: “He needs to take care of his health, that’s first and foremost. It was a privilege to learn what he knows. Picking his brain has been helpful. People would say he’s probably forgotten more about baseball than I’ve learned so far.”
La Russa, who will turn 78 on Tuesday, guided the team to 93 wins and an American League Central title during the 2021 season, but he also presided over one of the more disappointing campaigns in recent memory during 2022. La Russa left his post on Aug. 30, following a three-game home sweep at the hands of Arizona, due to concerns regarding his health.
There have been medical procedures done since to address those concerns, specifically involving his pacemaker, and La Russa’s departure for the remainder of the ’22 campaign was announced by the organization on Sept. 24.
La Russa’s hiring prior to the ’21 season was a surprise following the dismissal of Rick Renteria, considering he had not been in the dugout since leading the Cardinals over the Rangers in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series for his third championship.
It was a move that seemingly was not universally backed by the front office, which had a list of candidates to guide a team possessing dynamic talent and a readiness to win. And while La Russa and his staff navigated significant injuries to success during that initial season, Houston rolled past the White Sox in four games during the ’21 AL Division Series.
In ’22, there were plenty of reasons why the White Sox fell short of a division title -- and might finish below .500. Those reasons include a plethora of injuries and underperformance of key players, but the manager and those above always are open to scrutiny when a strong group underachieves.
Shelley Duncan, the White Sox analytics coordinator, has known La Russa for years, with his father, Dave, serving as his longtime pitching coach. Duncan said this season has been tough, knowing La Russa’s highly competitive nature.
“It’s been extremely tough,” Duncan said. “I feel he’s had his hands tied behind his back in some sense. A lot of guys have gone down. I don’t feel like he’s been able to manage aggressively as he’s used to, like he did last year. He’s taking care of guys. He’s trying to make sure we just survive the year. It was a tough roster to manage this season.
“We hung in there. There’s a business side that’s always going to be there, but there’s always the family ties when you know somebody your whole life growing up. The hardest part is right now -- his health. That’s what hurts the most, the family side comes into play. You just hope everything is good.”
White Sox bench coach Miguel Cairo took over as acting manager Aug. 30. Cairo’s entrance was met with a 13-6 run by the White Sox, but the team dropped precipitously through an eight-game losing streak that started with a three-game sweep in Chicago by the AL Central-champion Guardians from Sept. 20-22.
Cairo figures to be one of the candidates for the White Sox managerial opening. That list also could include Willie Harris, Joe Espada, Bruce Bochy, Matt Quatraro, A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Thome and possibly even Carlos Beltrán, to name a few.
“Right now, what I can control is what I’m doing right now with the kids, the players,” Cairo said. “We’ve got four more games, and that’s up to the guys in charge. Would love to be a manager somewhere – I hope here.”
White Sox starting pitcher Lance Lynn allowed one run over seven innings Sunday in dropping his final ERA to 3.99. He ended 2022 with an 8-7 record and has never finished with a losing mark in 11 MLB seasons.
"You never want a new manager. That means most likely that you didn't do your job as a player,” Lynn said. “In this instance, we didn't play up to our caliber as players. We've got a lot that we need to do individually to make sure that the next guy doesn't come in and we don't lay an egg again. That's the truth of the matter.”