White Sox Host

Ozzie on La Russa hire: 'The best thing that ever happened'

White Sox Host

Plenty of fans remain baffled and outraged by the White Sox decision to bring Tony La Russa back to manage the team as its championship window has swung open.

But leave it to the man who was passed over for the job before the search even began to try to knock some sense into the fan base.

"The best free agent the White Sox have (signed) in a while. And the best coach and the best person off the field that they’ve hired in 30 years is Tony La Russa, including myself," Ozzie Guillén said on the most recent edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast. "That’s my opinion. If people don’t like it, they don’t put food on my table.

"But to me, the best thing that ever happened was bringing that man (back) here."

RELATED: Why 'continuity' could be king on Tony La Russa's coaching staff

In terms of a managerial resume, you can’t beat La Russa: three World Series titles, six pennants and 2,728 wins, the third most in major league history.

But go on social media or listen to sports talk radio, and you’d think the White Sox brought back Terry Bevington, one of the most unpopular managers in franchise history.

"White Sox fans, maybe 59 percent love me and the rest maybe hate me. But they respect me," Guillén said. "I think they’re not happy about anything. They follow too much tweeting, too much social media, too much opinions."

 

For many fans, they can’t get past the red flags. Such as:

— La Russa is 76 years old.

— He hasn’t managed since 2011.

— He’s not A.J. Hinch.

— He’s not Ozzie Guillén.

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"White Sox fans, relax," Guillén said. "I thank everyone who wants me to be the manager. I appreciate it. But to be honest with you, if it wasn’t Tony La Russa or Bruce Bochy, Mike Scioscia, I would be sad. Now we have one of the best managers in the history of the game, and White Sox fans are mad.

"And thank you to all the White Sox fans who say they’d rather see me on the field than Tony. Thank you so much. ... But if Tony was in (the White Sox) minds from the beginning, I didn’t deserve to get a call."

Before the White Sox announced the firing of Rick Renteria, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf called Guillén personally to let him know that the team was making a change and explained why he wouldn’t be a candidate for the job.

"My conversation with Jerry was very quick. Deep inside I was dying," Guillén said. "My feelings were hurt for a couple of days."

Many fans and media members expected the White Sox to hire Hinch, who won a World Series with the Houston Astros in 2017 but was suspended for the 2020 season for his involvement in the Astros' cheating scandal that year. In his press conference announcing the Renteria decision on Oct. 12, general manager Rick Hahn seemed to be describing Hinch, or a manager like him, when he said that a candidate with "recent October experience with a championship organization would be ideal."

How would Guillén have felt if the White Sox hired Hinch over him?

"Sad. Like, 'Oh my god, this guy means more to them than Ozzie or is better than me?' Guillén said. "I put (in) my entire soul for them as a player or coach. Then I would have been sad. Maybe 10 years ago, I would have ripped them to death. I would have been very sad if they hired a guy like (Hinch) and you didn’t give me an opportunity to express myself, then I would have been sad.

"But when they said Tony was going to be the manager, I went and played golf. I was like, 'OK!'

"I don’t know who made the decision, but it was the right decision."

So, why is La Russa the right man for the job?

"Right now, (White Sox players) are very tight and now they have a guy (in La Russa) who can carry the torch and say, 'We are here to win. We are here to put the trophy on our heads.'"

 

And if that happens in 2021, Guillén thinks La Russa’s first season with the White Sox will be his last.

“If Tony does it next year, wins a trophy, he’s leaving. I’m telling you," Guillén said. "He’ll say, 'I’m done. Jerry, here’s your World Series trophy. I’m done. I’m out of here. Enjoyed what I did.' Because that’s the type of mentality he has."

You might question La Russa’s age, his managing style and whether he will be able to connect with players young enough to be his grandchildren. But as someone who played for La Russa, managed against him and has watched the White Sox closely on the field as a pre- and postgame analyst for NBC Sports Chicago, Guillén believes that the Hall-of-Fame manager is exactly what this White Sox team needs.

"White Sox players now will never have a better manager than Tony La Russa, even if he gets fired next year and I come back with the team," Guillén said. "They might not like it, they might love it, they might hate it. But they’re not going to have a better manager than Tony La Russa their entire career. And I don’t see people excited about bringing (back) Tony La Russa? Really?

"If this ballclub plays the way they should play, the way that Tony wants them to play, I’ll put my money on them to win."

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