Chicago Southside

Managing the Field: Five Candidates for the White Sox Manager Job

With the World Series in the books, we should see the White Sox managerial search heat up. Here are five candidates for the job.

With the Los Angeles Dodgers topping the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2020 World Series on Tuesday night, the 2020 Major League Baseball season is officially in the books. Much like our everyday lives, the 2020 MLB season was an unprecedented one. COVID-19 halted baseball as we knew it back in March and then presented us with a 60-game season with some quirks such as seven-inning doubleheaders, a runner on second base in extra innings, the universal designated hitter, and of course the expanded 16-team playoff field.

For White Sox fans, it brought them their club’s first postseason appearance in 12 years as the Pale Hose announced their presence to the rest of the league. While the White Sox are here, they’re not quite there, yet.

After a tailspin in the waning days of the season that ended in them choking up the American League’s best record and the American League Central crown, the White Sox fell to the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card Series at the Coliseum.

In his season-ending press conference a few weeks ago, Rick Hahn outlined some target areas that the front office will aim to address this offseason with the first being a new manager to lead their talented young core after the team parted ways with Rick Renteria and long-time pitching coach Don Cooper that same morning.

With the World Series concluded, the search for the next White Sox manager will intensify on its way to a conclusion, and today we’re going to take a look at some potential candidates for the job.


Tony La Russa

Photo: Chicago Tribune

The 76-year-old Hall of Famer is on the list because his dear friend Jerry Reinsdorf apparently has some lingering guilt over him allowing former general manager (and long-time announcer Ken Harrelson) to fire La Russa some 34 years ago.

USA TODAY baseball scribe Bob Nightengale broke the news of the interest in La Russa almost immediately after the announcement was made that Renteria was dismissed by the club. According to Nightengale, the club has interviewed La Russa for the job after receiving permission from the Los Angeles Angels.

In my opinion, La Russa might actually be one of the worst candidates for this job. While he was managing he was undoubtedly one of the best to do it, but that was nearly a decade ago. The game has changed immensely in the last decade, and I just can’t see La Russa being able to connect with this team of twenty-something millennials.

Just a few years ago La Russa told Dan LeBatard that he wouldn’t allow his players to express their feelings on social issues, specifically kneeling during the anthem.

“I would tell (a player protesting the anthem to) sit inside the clubhouse,” La Russa told LeBatard. “You’re not going to be out there representing our team and our organization by disrespecting the flag. No, sir, I would not allow it. … If you want to make your statement you make it in the clubhouse, but not out there, you’re not going to show it that way publicly and disrespectfully.”

You’re telling me that in the year 2021 a player like Tim Anderson, who is leading the charge on the South Side when it comes to connecting with minority fans, is going to sit in the clubhouse because his senior citizen manager doesn’t agree with his personal views?

In a February of 2020 interview with Graham Bensinger La Russa doubled-down on his stance on protests against social injustice, calling it “the wrong way to protest.”

La Russa was never a fan of “showboating,” antics on the field though. He didn’t like it when Jose Canseco did it in Oakland, and he started a beanball war between his Cardinals and the Cubs back in 2003.

Oh, and if you’re looking to hire La Russa because you don’t like the idea of hiring a guy like A.J. Hinch simply because of the Astros sign-stealing scandal, then you haven’t been paying attention.

“We had a system in the old Comiskey Park in the late 1980s,” said McDowell, “The Gatorade sign out in center had a light; there was a toggle switch in the manager’s office and [a] camera zoomed in on the catcher. I’m gonna whistle-blow this now because I’m getting tired of this crap. There was that — Tony La Russa is the one who put it in. … He’s still in the game making half a million, you know?”

That’s former White Sox pitcher Jack McDowell highlighting Tony La Russa creating a sign-stealing system of his own when he was managing the White Sox.

So, if we’re keeping score here — La Russa was stealing-signs over three decades ago, doesn’t like players voicing their opinions, favors his gut to analytics, and isn’t keen on “showboating” antics. The winning resume can’t be overlooked, but I just don’t see the fit for this team, in this era of baseball.

A.J. Hinch

Photo: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Hinch is the epitome of the things Rick Hahn mentioned when he outlined what they value in their search for a new manager. Recent October experience, an analytical approach, a candidate from outside of the organization, and familiarity with a winning culture.

After Hinch took over the manager job in Houston at the start of the 2015 season he led the Astros to four postseason appearances, three American League West titles, and a World Series Championship in 2017.

Hinch has a degree in psychology from Stanford, — the same school that White Sox Executive Vice President Kenny Williams attended — has spent time as a manager with the Astros and Diamondbacks, and served as the Vice President of Professional Scouting for the San Diego Padres.

When Hinch took the helm in Houston in 2015 he inherited a core of budding superstars, much like the one that he would inherit if he were to take the job in Chicago with the likes of Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, and others cemented as the future of this club.

The hire of A.J. Hinch just seems like the no-brainer here as long as the White Sox are alright with the baggage that he’ll bring along in the wake of him serving a one-year suspension for his role in the sign-stealing scandal that rocked the baseball world this time last year.

Alex Cora

Photo: USA TODAY

Cora would seem like the next logical candidate to fit firmly into Rick Hahn’s season-ending comments on the qualities they’ll prioritize in their managerial search, but there just doesn’t seem to be the same buzz for Cora as there is for his one-time boss Hinch.

Cora carries the same baggage as Hinch, and maybe even more if you believe the official report released by Major League Baseball on their investigation into the Astros scandal and the fact that Cora’s Red Sox employed a similar system in Boston during his time there. Cora left Houston after serving as Hinch’s bench coach, and in his first season with the Boston Red Sox in 2018, he won a World Series.

Cora has a lesser resume, and there’s a lot of talk about him returning to Boston to assume his old job as their manager now that his suspension is over.

To me, Cora seems like a long-shot for this job but his name will be floated around.

Matt Quatraro

ALLIE GOULDING | Times Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro (33) talks to umpire Bruce Dreckman at the bottom of the fourth inning against Texas Rangers on Sunday, June 30, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

If you’re not interested in the baggage that A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora will bring, and you don’t think that Tony La Russa is a fit for the White Sox, then you’ll likely love Matt Quatraro as a candidate for the job.

The problem is, so will everyone else with a vacancy at that spot. Quatraro is the bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays and will be a top candidate for each team looking for a new manager this winter. We saw the Toronto Blue Jays hire former Rays bench coach Charlie Montoyo two years ago, and even saw Quatraro nearly land the San Francisco Giants job last winter.

Quatraro, 45, was hired by Tampa Bay in 2018 as their third base coach after spending the previous four years as the assistant hitting coach in Cleveland. Before the Indians’ job Quatraro worked in several roles in the Rays minor-league system, as a catching instructor, hitting coach and coordinator, and manager for four seasons.

While Quatraro has no managerial experience at the major league level, he’s been to two World Series’ and spent the last two seasons learning directly from Rays’ manager Kevin Cash.

If the White Sox want a fresh face with October experience and no baggage, Matt Quatraro is probably the top candidate.

Sandy Alomar Jr

Sandy Alomar Jr got his taste of managing this season filling in for Terry Francona who battled health issues for much of the season, but Tito has committed to returning to the Indians in 2021 despite undergoing three procedures in a five-day span and a four-day stint in the Intensive Care Unit of the Cleveland Clinic.

Alomar Jr was the interim manager for 46 games in 2020, leading the Indians to a playoff berth, but he doesn’t quite fit the bill for this job, and he might be the heir apparent to Francona in Cleveland if the 61-year-old continues to deal with blood clotting and other health issues.

I ultimately think that Alomar is comfortable where he’s at with the Indians.

“Right now I have a daughter in high school. I’m not bothered if anybody calls me. I don’t need the job. I’m good and set in my life,” said Alomar Jr. “If somebody’s interested, they can call and we’ll talk, but it’s not like I’m pushing myself or promoting myself to be a manager. No, I’m not. In other words, I don’t have any hidden agenda.”

Alomar Jr interviewed with the White Sox in 2016 for their vacant bench coach position but felt that he was being brought in to eventually replace Robin Ventura, and turned down the job.

Maybe Alomar Jr stays with Cleveland as Tito’s right-hand man, maybe someone blows him away with an offer and he takes it, either way, I don’t see him ending up in Chicago.


Feature Photo: Tampa Bay Rays via Twitter


 

 

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