CHICAGO (CBS) – Tony La Russa officially announced his retirement as Chicago White Sox manager on Monday, citing multiple health issues over the past year, including a problem with the pacemaker he installed last February.
La Russy’s announcement comes ahead of the team’s last three games against the Minnesota Twins to end a very disappointing season.
Despite starting the season among the favorites of the World Series, the White Sox will have to win the rest of their games to finish with a winning record. They were eliminated from play-offs last week after a series of eight losses.
La Russa, who turns 78 on Tuesday, left the team in late August on the advice of his doctors and underwent pacemaker repair. He said in a statement that periodic inspection of the device identified the problem and was notified during batting training on August 30.
He added that the second health problem was diagnosed during the annual survey earlier this year. La Russa did not specify what the problem was, said it had decided to “delay the confrontation” until the off-season. While he was inactive on the pacemaker, La Russa said the second problem was analyzed and his medical team began implementing a “recovery plan”.
While La Russa said his “overall prognosis is good,” he added, “it has become evident that the length of the treatment and recovery process for the latter health issue prevents me from becoming a White Sox manager in 2023.”
How USA todayreports Bob Nightengale, subsequent concerns about La Russa’s heart health prompted his doctors to advise him to move away from stressful managerial responsibilities permanently. La Russa was contracted with the White Sox throughout the 2023 season.
La Russa’s second tenure at the White Sox would end in disappointment. After their first play-off appearance in 12 years in 2020, White Sox parted ways with then-manager Rick Renteria after losing in the first round to Oakland Athletics.
La Russa called the band’s performance in 2022 “an unacceptable disappointment.”
“There were a few pluses, but too many minuses,” he said in a statement. “In the major leagues, you either do it or you don’t. The explanations are an excuse. Respect and trust require responsibility, and during my managerial career, I realized that the ultimate responsibility for every minus lies with the manager. I was hired to provide positive, changing leadership and support. Our results are proof. I haven’t done my job. “
While CEO Rick Hahn appeared ready to hire AJ Hinch to replace Renteria, Jerry Reinsdorf dictated hiring La Russ to all account holders, even though the Hall of Fame manager had not been on the top league bench since 2011. La Russa initially ran the White Sox under Reinsdorf from 1979 to the mid-1986 season. During that first term in office, La Russa led them to a 99-season win and a division title in 1983, and Reinsdorf said one of his greatest regrets was that he allowed then-general manager Ken “Hawk” Harrelson to fire La Russ three years later in 1986.
La Russa’s second appearance with the White Sox brought the American League Central title and their first ever play-off appearance in 2021. However, the team’s win percentage actually fell compared to the last year of Renteria in 2020, and the Sox also, like in 2020, rebounded again in the first round from the post-season.
Even so, La Russa said the 2020 and 2021 seasons were “important positive steps for this organization.”
“I saw not only the talent, but the personalities, the way they came together, and that’s why I’m nervous,” he said. “It will work next year. I have worked hard to earn [the players’] respect and trust, but I’m also upset that I have let them down this year. “
The situation worsened in 2022. Despite playing in the weakest league in baseball and starting the season among the favorites for the World Series, the White Sox under La Russa were unable to overcome a series of injuries. They spent just eight days in first place and none after April 20. The team initially recorded better results under La Russa’s interim replacement Miguel Cairo, but were unable to catch up with the Cleveland Guardians, who soared downhill.
“Finally, I am sincerely disappointed that I am leaving without being able to finish what I have been brought down to,” La Russa said. “I still appreciate the chance to go home to the White Sox and walk away today with many better memories than disappointments.”
In a statement to the media on Monday, Hahn said that “this is not exactly how we wanted to end Tony’s term”. Hahn added that the search for a new manager will begin “in earnest” in the coming days.
While Hahn said the team will avoid any details about who is being assessed to fulfill this role, he said the organization was looking for candidates with certain “general parameters”.
“After all, the right candidate is someone who has recent experience on the pitch with an organization that fought for the championship,” said Hahn. “Ideally, it’s someone who is an excellent communicator, someone who understands how the game has grown and evolved over the past decade. But at the same time, of course, respect for the sensitivity of the old school will also be important.
Hahn said having a story with the White Sox “is by no means a requirement,” but added that Cairo “absolutely” deserved and would receive an interview based on the team’s performance under his interim leadership.
He also admitted disappointment with the team’s performance this season, especially on the offensive side. While Hahn said changes will have to be made on many levels, the organization is not looking for a complete change, citing talent already on the list.
“At the end of a disappointing season, it’s easy to say that it has to be burned to the ground,” said Hahn. “I don’t think this is where we are as an organization.”
La Russa, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, won two World Series titles with St. Louis Cardinals and one from Oakland A’s. He has won the Manager of the Year award four times in his league and is second on the all-time list, second only to Connie Mack. La Russa’s second stay with the White Sox will be remembered as an interesting and largely unsuccessful addition to a brilliant career in the dugout.
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