SAN DIEGO — The writing has been on the wall for some time. But the White Sox will make it official Monday at a 4 p.m. press conference announcing the end of manager Tony La Russa’s tenure on the South Side.
Heart problems have sidelined La Russa, who turns 78 on Tuesday, and he hasn’t managed since Aug. 29. His doctors are recommending he doesn’t fulfill the third year of his contract next season.
It’s probably the best thing for both the Hall of Fame manager and the organization, which dragged itself through one of hits most disappointing seasons in memory after La Russa managed the Sox to a 93-win season and AL Central Division championship in his first season.
“My thoughts are making sure he’s doing what is the best possible for his health,” closer Liam Hendriks said before the Sox played the Padres in their final road game of the season Sunday at Petco Park. “We play a game for a living. Certain things are bigger than the game and health is one of those things.”
With four games to play, the Sox are 78-80, arguably the biggest disappointment in baseball.
“Obviously health is No. 1,” relief pitcher Joe Kelly said. “As much as he probably wants to be here day in and day out, the stress and the edge and the anxiety that this team probably gave him probably wasn’t good for health.”
La Russa was set in his ways as you’d expect one his age and with his resume to be, and coexisting with the front office and his staff did not always go without hitches and glitches. What’s more, he made decisions and lineups that drew criticism, became a lightning rod for disappointing fans and was booed at home games. “Fire Tony” chants became a thing.
Shortly before the Sox played the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field on Aug. 29, La Russa was instructed by his doctors to go home and go for testing the next day. The next day he underwent a procedure to repair his pacemaker.
La Russa was hoping to return as manager and was in Oakland on Sept. 10 to attend Dave Stewart’s jersey retirement ceremony. He looked healthier and relaxed and visited players in the clubhouse and watched the next two games at home from a suite.
“So, he’s going to have a good retirement,” Kelly said. “It would be different if he was 50. He’s not in the beginning part of his career. He’s had a great career, Hall of Famer. Ultimately we fell short as players and we didn’t perform as well as we should have.”
Acting manager Miguel Cairo, who guided the Sox to a 13-6 run that kept their postseason hopes flickering before an eight-game losing streak dashed them, would like to be considered and deserves consideration, although it seems more likely the Sox will look outside the organization this time.
In any event, more accountability from all corners of the organization will be a must, Cairo said.
“Whoever is going to manage or whoever they’re going to hire or whoever is going to be there, I know they’re going to be expecting something a little different,” Cairo said. “It’s going to be more people accountable for doing their job. I think it’s going to change. It’s going to be a little different.
“It happened because you go to the playoffs two years in a row and all of a sudden you felt like you didn’t make it this year, you can see what went wrong. It’s going to be some people accountable for the job that they’re going to do. I hope there is.”