With chants of “Fire Tony!” ringing out from the crowd at the last few Chicago White Sox games, you’d be forgiven for wondering whether the demise of Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa is imminent. From intentionally walking Trea Turner on a 1-2 count to leading batting orders with players barely above the Mendoza line, La Russa appears to be intent on throwing the proverbial rulebook out the window this season. If there is a method to his madness, I can’t work it out.
Tony La Russa decided to intentionally walk Trea Turner on a 1-2 count with two outs, and then Max Muncy came up and hit a three run HR pic.twitter.com/uanxPJ1X1T
— MLB Errors (@mlberrors) June 9, 2022
The White Sox are now just 29-31 on the season, with World Series odds now sitting at +2000, and after the team’s offseason hype, fans are not happy.
While La Russa has admittedly been dealing with a seemingly never-ending list of player injuries, the Sox aren’t the only team with an unusually extensive IL after the offseason’s lockout shortened spring training, and the excuse has worn thin. With the recent firings of Joe Girardi from the Phillies and Joe Maddon from the Angels, all eyes are on Chicago to make a move.
Admittedly, it’s unlikely that La Russa will be fired mid-season. While disappointing for a team that should be near the top of the ladder, the White Sox’s record is not quite as horrific as the Angels’ 12-game losing streak that led to Maddon’s abrupt exit, and La Russa seems to have GM Rick Hahn on his side. Regardless, a shakeup is needed soon.
Even if he doesn’t get the boot until the offseason, his replacement needs to be a younger leader from another team — somebody with the grit and go that the South Siders need to get back into serious World Series contention, or at least the top third of the baseball standings.
Pulling yet another old-timer out of retirement like Bruce Bochy or Ozzie Guillén will only result in the team being in the same situation they’re currently in just a few years down the road. The White Sox need new blood, so who are the likely candidates?
If La Russa’s firing goes down during the season, the most likely immediate replacement would be Narron, the current White Sox major league instructor. Narron served as manager of the Rangers during the 2002 season and the Reds from 2005 to 2007.
He also served as bench coach for the Red Sox during their 2003 American League Championship Series run, a position he has also held for the Reds, Brewers, and Diamondbacks. Narron returned to bench coaching for the Red Sox for the shortened 2020 season before joining the White Sox in February 2021.
Considering Narron’s age and crappy win-loss record as a manager (291-341 and no postseason appearances), it is unlikely he will be a permanent replacement to La Russa so much as an interim manager until the team can find someone more suitable. Regardless, I think he’s worth keeping an eye on over the next few months.
Espada’s name seems to crop up as a potential candidate every time there is discussion of a vacant managerial position.
At 46 years old, the current Astros bench coach could inject a younger energy to what has become a rather tired and stuffy dugout in Chicago, and with experience across more roles in the major leagues than almost anybody else in the game, he certainly knows his baseball.
Espada has interviewed for vacant managerial positions with the Rangers, Blue Jays, Twins, Giants, Cubs, Mets, and Athletics but has never had success.
In fact, he has held pretty much every job except manager — bench coach, third base coach, special assistant to the GM, and infield coach, as well as multiple positions at the minor league level — and he is likely to be a top contender for La Russa’s job when the time comes, despite his not having landed his dream job previously.
Currently the third base coach for the Cubs, Harris interviewed for the White Sox manager job back in 2020 when the team parted ways with Rick Renteria, but the higher-ups chose to give another chance to La Russa instead.
Willie Harris is the best third base coach in baseball.
— Cubs Zone ™️ (@CubsZone) March 23, 2021
In his playing days, Harris won the 2005 World Series with the White Sox, scoring the game-winning run on an RBI single by Jermaine Dye in Game 4. He isn’t a stranger to what it takes to win, and at only 42 years old, he brings a youthful attitude and energy that the Sox could use in a comeback.
The only thing holding Harris back is his lack of experience. He has served as manager at the minor league level, spending 2018 and 2019 in the Giants farm system, but has never held the position in the majors.
Despite this, I can see Harris’s name cropping up as a serious contender in the race to be La Russa’s replacement.