Free agent James McCann isn’t sure where he’ll be playing next season, but to him, one thing is certain:
Tony La Russa is the right man to manage the White Sox.
“I think Tony La Russa is a good hire,” McCann said on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “I’ve seen people maybe think it was an interesting hire based on Rick Hahn’s comments based on what they're looking for, but I truly believe that Tony is going to be a phenomenal fit for that team.”
A good portion of the White Sox fan base was stunned by the team's decision to hire La Russa, especially after Hahn described the ideal candidate being someone who has “recent October experience with a championship organization.”
La Russa winning the 2011 World Series as the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals might not be considered "recent," but McCann says his managerial resume of three championships, six pennants and the third most wins in baseball history will carry a lot of weight inside the White Sox clubhouse.
“The one thing I can say that every player is going to have is respect," McCann said. "There is something in the game of baseball about guys who have been there, done that. There’s just something different about them, and La Russa is one of those guys. His success just speaks for itself. Whether you like or dislike the hire, no matter how you feel about it, there’s still going to be that sense of respect. Just him walking into a room, he demands that respect because of who he is and what he’s done.”
McCann’s praise for La Russa might sound like an indictment of Rick Renteria, who was let go despite leading the White Sox to their first postseason berth since 2008. That’s not the case.
“That caught me off guard,” McCann said of Renteria's firing. “I think that there hadn’t been any signs to anything like that. Then he’s named a finalist for AL Manager of the Year, so definitely interesting.
"But at the same time, I think (La Russa) is the right fit from the standpoint of, he’s one of the most winning managers in the history of the game. I don’t care how long he’s been out of the game. I don’t care how old he is. He’s been around enough players in his day where he’s going to be able to relate to each and every player. So from the standpoint of being out of the game and not understanding how this generation of players are, I don’t agree with that at all.”
When it comes to analytics, McCann and La Russa seem to be cut from the same cloth. They both value information, but once the game begins, McCann thinks that using your eyes and your brain is just as important, if not more important, than a computer.
“When I’m game planning for a game or for a series, I look at all that knowledge. I’ve studied it. I know it. But once that first pitch is thrown, I trust what my eyes are telling me,” McCann said. “Perfect example would be, whoever we’re facing may hit changeups extremely well. That doesn’t mean that I can’t call (Lucas) Giolito’s changeup. That’s his best pitch. How do I not call it?
"You have to know the numbers. You have to know the strengths and weaknesses. But you also have to use your brain and what your eyes are telling you. Analytics need to give you a foundation, and then you go with what your eyes are telling you.”
Being a free agent and seeing Yasmani Grandal locked up for the next three years in front of him on the depth chart, McCann’s eyes are focused right now at opportunities outside of Chicago. As much as he’d like to play for a Hall-of-Fame manager like La Russa, the All-Star catcher wants a starting job, which won’t happen with the White Sox.
“It’s something that I feel like I’ve earned in my career,” McCann said. “I definitely think that there is a lot that goes into that, being the guy and being able to run the staff. I do feel like that’s something I’ve earned.
"But I’m not burning any bridges. We’ll see what the next few months hold.”