The search is on for the next Chicago White Sox manager after Tony La Russa announced he won’t return for the 2023 season.
“It has become obvious that the length of the treatment and recovery process for this second health issue makes it impossible for me to be the White Sox manager in 2023,” La Russa said in a statement Monday. “The timing of this announcement now enables the front office to include filling the manager position with their other offseason priorities.
“I was hired to provide positive, difference-making leadership and support. Our record is proof. I did not do my job.”
La Russa read the statement, adding more thoughts throughout, before taking questions as Sox players watched from the back of the conference center at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I’m upset that I let them down this year,” La Russa said of the players.
The Hall of Fame manager, who turns 78 on Tuesday, won World Series titles with the Oakland Athletics (1989) and St. Louis Cardinals (2006 and 2011). He is second all time among major-league managers with 2,900 victories.
La Russa — who previously managed on the South Side from 1979-86 — returned to the Sox after the 2020 season, hoping for more postseason success with a team filled with talent. They won the American League Central in 2021 but lost to the Houston Astros in four games in an AL Division Series.
The Sox began this season with World Series aspirations. They wound up perhaps the most disappointing team in baseball, missing the playoffs. They enter the final two games of the season at .500 after Monday’s series-opening 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins.
“None of us are happy with this being the end result,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “Tony was brought in with the absolute best intentions and pure motivation to get us to that last level of winning a championship, to finish off this rebuild with championships.
“We fell short and that’s disappointing across the board, and it ending this way is unfortunate because you never want to see someone’s health interfere with their career aspirational goals. But that’s the way it played out.”
Speaking generally about what they’re looking for in the next manager, Hahn said: “The right candidate is someone who has recent experience in the dugout with an organization that has contended for championships. Ideally it’s someone who is an excellent communicator, who understands the way the game has grown and evolved in the last decade or so, but at the same time respect for old-school sensibilities is going to be important as well.
“One thing that perhaps breaks from the mold of at least the last few hires, having a history with the White Sox, having some sort of connection to White Sox DNA, is by no means a requirement.”
Hahn did mention one name specifically: acting manager Miguel Cairo.
“Based on how he has performed as acting manager, (Cairo) absolutely is deserving of an interview and will receive one,” Hahn said. “However, outside of Miguel, having that history with the White Sox is not necessarily a characteristic that we’re looking for this time.”
La Russa last managed Aug. 28. He met with reporters at about 4 p.m. before the Aug. 30 game against the Kansas City Royals for his typical interview session, but less than hour before the first pitch, the team announced he would not manage that evening at the direction of his doctors.
La Russa never received clearance from his doctors to return, and the team announced Sept. 24 he wouldn’t be back for the rest of this season.
La Russa said he had a pacemaker installed in February and was cleared by his doctors to begin spring training as scheduled. He had a second health issue analyzed while inactive with the pacemaker.
“The result is that a corrective plan has been developed by my medical team and implementation has begun,” La Russa said. “My overall prognosis is good, and I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me with well wishes related to my health.”
As far as managing again, La Russa said: “Right now my 100% focus is doing what (the doctors) tell me to do and get through it. There’s some length to the process. It’s not like the pacemaker, you put it in and I walk out later that day.
“All I know is the love of the game will never die. It’s the only thing I really know how to do, except I think I can run a bookstore.”
The Sox showed signs of playing to their potential early during Cairo’s run as acting manager, winning 13 of 19 games. But a 10-7 loss to the Cleveland Guardians in 11 innings on Sept. 20 started an eight-game losing streak.
“You never want a new manager,” Sox pitcher Lance Lynn said Sunday in San Diego. “That means most likely that you didn’t do your job as a player. In this instance, (La Russa’s) health and 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. It doesn’t matter who is managing if you don’t win games and play good baseball. You never know what a new voice will bring in, but all in all as players we’ve got to do a better job of playing quality baseball throughout the whole season instead of just stretches here and there.”
Instead of preparing for the playoffs, the Sox are mapping out the franchise’s next direction.
“There’s no one associated with this organization, at least on the baseball side — including the guys in uniform, scouts, player development — who doesn’t find this past year unacceptable,” Hahn said. “And extraordinarily frustrating and disappointing. A lot of hours, time, effort, support from fans, dollars were poured in to try to create a successful expanded window for this team to contend.
“Even though things looked like we were going to continue that six months ago, it didn’t happen. The squandering of this year is something that I know individually I will carry with me for a while. And I think anyone else in our group on the baseball side or in uniform would echo those sentiments for themselves.”