A White Sox team on the brink gave into their worst tendencies by hiring Tony La Russa.
Jerry Reinsdorf tried to hire one of his good ole’ boys to lead a young, rising team primed for the game’s modern era once before. The Chicago Bulls were looking for a new head coach months after cashing in a 1.7 percent chance to win the 2008 NBA draft lottery for the pick that would become Derrick Rose. After balking at Mike D’Antoni’s salary demands, Reinsdorf appeared to settle on a man who had held the same position for the franchise decades earlier: Doug Collins.
Just when it appeared Collins and his glacial offensive philosophies would welcome the organization’s new supercharged point guard to the league, Reinsdorf had a change of heart. It’s not that he doubted Collins was the right man for the job; instead, Reinsdorf couldn’t bear the thought of one day having to fire his friend.
“I love Doug Collins,” Reinsdorf told the Chicago Tribune at the time. “It’s not a great thing for friends to jeopardize a relationship for business. And relationships with coaches always end at some point.”
Reinsdorf’s ability to restrain himself from falling back into the comfort of his worst tendencies was perhaps the best hope for the other pro sports team he owns when rumors began circling that the White Sox were interested in 76-year-old Tony La Russa as their next manager. The similarities with Collins were undeniable: both were in charge of Reinsdorf’s teams during the 1980s, both left their franchises in ways that haunted the owner ever since, and both maintained a close friendship with Reinsdorf through the years.
This time, the nightmare scenario of the fanbase Reinsdorf feels so disconnected from actually played out. La Russa is the next manager of the White Sox after agreeing to a multi-year deal on Thursday. He immediately becomes the game’s oldest manager, and takes on his first managerial job since leading the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series in 2011.
There was a time when bringing back La Russa would have been a cause for celebration for White Sox…
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