Fortunately, for Tony La Russa, the chants for his firing won’t follow him everywhere around Chicago. Even if the Chicago Bulls were playing in the NBA Finals right now, there likely wouldn’t be enough White Sox fans at the game for the chant to ring out enough for a viral moment. Also, La Russa’s kids aren’t young enough to play high school football in the Chicagoland area, so no group of rowdy and immature teens who think they’re funnier than they are can start an insensitive chant in front of him.
Matt Nagy had it much worse when the chants came for him as coach of Chicago’s most popular team, the Bears. He was public enemy No. 1 for everyone from Kenosha, Wisc., to Munster, Ind. Sure he came off defiant, and a lot of times unlikeable, in those post game press conferences, but the fans and the media were taking turns adding coals and lighter fluid to the grill they sat him on.
La Russa was on the receiving end of those chants on Saturday, during an 11-9 extra inning loss at home to the Texas Rangers. The White Sox are far from out of the playoff hunt with just over a third of the season completed, but a team that was supposed to improve after a 93-win 2021, has been a disappointment in 2022. At this point last season, the White Sox were half a game back from the best overall record in the American League. They were 15 games over .500 and had a plus-80 run differential. Today, they are six games back in their division, three games under .500, and have a minus-54 run differential.
They certainly miss Lance Lynn, Eloy Jiménez, and recently Tim Anderson. Lynn’s absence can account for some massive run totals put up against them, but last season the White Sox were without both Jiménez and Luis Robert, and still were one of the best teams in the league. This season the White Sox have the fourth worst team OPS+ in the MLB. They failed to make some necessary upgrades in the outfield, at second base, and to the starting rotation, but La Russa is not helping.
He went viral for his baffling decision last week against the Los Angeles to intentionally walk Trea Turner when Turner was down 1-2 in count and was rewarded with a Max Muncy three-run home run and a loss. However, that wasn’t the only baffling move he made in that series. The game before that he put Leury García in the lineup as the leadoff man. He is currently batting .199 with a whopping 35 OPS+. The White Sox are in a bad spot with Anderson on IL, but his replacement — Danny Mendrick .292 average, 118 OPS+ — at least put up a fight in his two games in the series as a leadoff man. He recorded a hit in each game, scored a run and drove in one.
Even during the White Sox playoff loss to the Houston Astros last year, La Russa made some baffling decisions. He didn’t go to Michael Kopech out of the bullpen until Game 3, and left struggling starting pitchers in the game way too long in a best-of-five series.
With the Los Angeles Angels firing Joe Maddon after a 12-game losing streak, questions have been raised about whether La Russa will be next, and if it will happen this season. Jerry Reinsdorf brought La Russa back 10 years after he had last managed an MLB team, and 35 years after Reinsdorf fired him when the White Sox finished under .500 two out of three seasons after winning the AL West in 1983. La Russa would go on to win three World Series as a manager with the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals, and have four 100-plus win seasons.
The fact that Reinsdorf has a feeling that deep, and that the White Sox still have a shot at the playoffs with Lynn due back Tuesday, Anderson beginning his rehab assignment, and Jiménez due back at some point even after suffering a recent setback, it’s highly unlikely that La Russa is out before the end of the season.
Even Nagy made it to the end of the season for the Bears. And he had virtually the entire third largest metropolitan area in the United States yelling at him, not just one side of town.