White Sox manager Tony La Russa is expected to announce his retirement tomorrow, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. La Russa, who turns 78 years old on Tuesday, has been absent from the team since late August due to a medical issue.
La Russa had previously retired from managing in 2011 after having spent more than 30 years as a skipper for the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals, beginning in 1979. Then after a decade out of the manager’s chair, the White Sox made the stunning decision to bring him back for the 2021 season.
His first season out of retirement went very well, with the Sox going 93-69 last year and capturing the AL Central division title. However, it’s been a sharp downward turn here in 2022, with the club currently sporting a record of 78-80 and well out of playoff contention. La Russa faced some sharp criticism earlier this year with some bizarre managerial decisions, perhaps the most infamous example being his decision to issue an intentional walk to Trea Turner despite Turner behind in the count 1-2. In the left-on-left matchup La Russa desired, Max Muncy hit a three-run home run off Bennett Sousa, enhancing the frustration of fans and the scrutiny on La Russa’s decision making.
It was reported in June that La Russa was given a three-year contract when hired, meaning his deal runs through 2023. However, it seems that his health issues will prevent him from honoring the final season. He stepped away from the team after missing their August 30 game due to an undisclosed medical issue, related to his heart. Nightengale’s report from today says that La Russa had his pacemaker repaired at that time and has now been advised to not return to a managerial position. The report says La Russa is likely to stick with the organization in some kind of special assistant role that presumably won’t involve as much work on a day-to-day basis.
For the White Sox, they will now have to add a managerial search to their offseason to-do list. One option would be to simply retain Miguel Cairo, who took over on an interim basis when La Russa departed just over a month ago. As noted by Nightengale, the club went 13-6 over his first few weeks at the helm but slumped badly since. They followed up that stretch with an eight-game losing streak, helping them go 2-9 over their last 11 and 15-15 overall since Cairo took over.
However, if they decide to look outside the organization, they would be the sixth out of the 30 MLB clubs looking to fill a vacancy. Don Mattingly and the Marlins recently announced that they would be mutually parting ways after this season, while the Blue Jays, Phillies, Angels and Rangers all fired their managers midseason. It’s possible some of those clubs might forgo a lengthy search in favour of retaining their interim manager, with the Blue Jays reportedly leaning that way with John Schneider.