White Sox must be sluggish for Jerry Reinsdorf’s mistake

White Sox must be sluggish for Jerry Reinsdorf's mistake

One of the harshest realities of fandom is that someone else owns something that you love. In October 2020, White Sox fans were slapped in the face with that reality when chairman Jerry Reinsdorf hired Tony La Russa.

The disdain for La Russa’s second tenure as Sox manager will be dismissed as hindsight or Monday morning quarterbacking, but that’s false. The immediate and overwhelming response to the hire was anger. Even the people who were willing to give it a chance had questions: Why him? Why now? The cronyism of the hire was easy to identify for most Chicagoans, and it left an awful taste.

Reinsdorf’s unilateral decision strained the credibility for his front office, whose power he had effectively usurped. It was a breach of the public trust with the fan base. Sox fans have every right to exact their revenge by keeping their money in their pocket for a while. The Sox are now on a “prove it” deal with the South Side.

It makes what happened Monday at 35th and Shields particularly interesting. Beyond La Russa’s retirement news conference, Sox brass had what it deemed as “end-of-the-season media availability.” The only problem was the season hadn’t ended. It offered a convenient out for general manager Rick Hahn to not be pressed on specific players. It’s an out that he took several times throughout the question-and-answer session.

While discussing the upcoming managerial search, Hahn explained that the right candidate would have recent experience in the dugout on a championship level. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost exactly what he said in 2020 after the team fired Rick Renteria:

“Ultimately, I think the best candidate or the ideal candidate is going to be someone who has experience with a championship organization in recent years,” Hahn said. “Recent October experience with a championship organization would be ideal. But we’re going to keep an open mind.”

I can’t figure out if Sox fans are being gaslit or if Hahn is trying to retcon the franchise. It feels like he wants you to believe that the “new Aunt Viv” is the same as the “old Aunt Viv.” That felt harsh … Daphne Maxwell Reid did a great job as “new Aunt Viv,” but you get what I’m saying.

Sox vice president Ken Williams and Hahn seemed ready to hire current Tigers manager AJ Hinch. There were even renderings of a press release that had Hinch’s signature on a La Russa picture. Some of those renderings leaked into the public square and allowed for speculation that this was some sort of internal rebellion on an owner gone mad.

The problem continues to be trust — trust that the process isn’t going to be hijacked by Reinsdorf again. Who knows? Maybe Reinsdorf has more friends to whom he feels he owes a debt. Maybe he feels guilty about Ribbie and Roobarb. Don’t get too comfortable, Southpaw!

For the most part, I think Williams and Hahn have good intentions, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The last two years happened and are filled with consequences. Bloated salaries, positional redundancies and unfulfilled expectations will leave the Sox’ brain trust backed up against a Reinsdorf-imposed budget. It’s an excuse Sox fans have heard before. Hahn and Williams will have to get creative if they want to succeed, but, to be honest, their creativity has left a lot to be desired lately.

Hahn spent a good amount of time Monday laying out a sensible approach to this next managerial hire, but until we know that Reinsdorf’s thumb is off the scale, none of the words matters. Fans are tired of it. Sox fans were loyal during a rebuild with promises of brighter days.

Reinsdorf owes Sox fans. His handpicked manager failed. Pull out Agent K’s “neuralyzer” if you want, but they won’t soon forget these two squandered years of a championship window. Nor should they. Trust goes both ways, and Reinsdorf is not due.

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