Tony La Russa stepping down as Chicago White Sox manager because of health concerns

CHICAGO — Tony La Russa is stepping down as manager of the Chicago White Sox over health concerns that have kept him away from the dugout for the final five weeks of the season, he announced in a statement released Monday.

La Russa, who turns 78 on Tuesday, has not made a game since he abruptly exited the guaranteed rate field on August 30 after doctors told him he would have to undergo further tests linked to a heart problem.

According to La Russa on Monday, there was a problem with the pacemaker he had implanted in February, which forced him to retire from the team. A second problem was diagnosed during his absence, forcing him to take indefinite leave.

He was under contract until the 2023 season.

“At no point this season has either issue negatively impacted my responsibilities as manager of the White Sox,” La Russa said in the statement. “However, it has become apparent that the length of the treatment and recovery process for this second health condition makes it impossible for me to be a White Sox manager in 2023. The timing of this announcement now allows the front office to fill the manager position with their other off-season priorities.”

La Russa also noted that his “overall prognosis is good and I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me with well wishes regarding my health.”

In La Russa’s absence, the underperforming White Sox got an initial boost from acting manager Miguel Cairo, but that was short-lived as the team was swept home by the Cleveland Guardians in a crucial September series. The White Sox lost eight straight seasons and are now hoping to go by at least .500 or more for the third straight season.

“Our team’s record this season is the ultimate reality,” La Russa said in the statement. “It’s an unacceptable disappointment. There were some pluses, but too many minuses. In the major leagues, you either do it or you don’t. Explanations work like excuses. Respect and trust demand accountability, and throughout my managerial career I’ve come to understand that the ultimate responsibility for any minus lies with the manager.

“I was hired to provide positive, differentiating leadership and support. Our record is proof of that. I didn’t do my job.”

La Russa’s second stint with the team after managing the White Sox in the early 1980s made headlines for his unorthodox moves, but the team won the AL Central in his 13-game debut season.

This year has been anything but smooth. The White Sox have hovered around the 500 mark all year despite being preseason favorites to win the division again. La Russa intentionally walked two batters who had two strikes, which garnered further headlines and controversy.

At a news conference Monday in front of reporters and some White Sox players, La Russa said he might not have returned to manage even if he were healthy and understood the intensity of the fan backlash with him at the helm.

“For the first time there is enough negativity in my management, I was worried about being a distraction to the ball club and the organization,” La Russa said. “The fans could have decided that for me personally.”

General Manager Rick Hahn was asked if the team plans to bring La Russa back if not because of his health concerns.

“And that’s hypothetical,” he said. “I mean, the thing evolved the way it evolved.”

Hahn indicated that an extensive search for a new manager will begin immediately, with the organization looking outside of the White Sox family.

“One thing that’s perhaps breaking the mold of at least the last few hires: Having a history with the White Sox, having some sort of connection to White Sox DNA is by no means a requirement,” Hahn said.

That idea could bar former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and ex-catcher AJ Pierzynski from returning. Hahn pointed out one exception to this rule – Cairo will get an interview.

“Other than Miguel, that White Sox history isn’t necessarily a trait that we’re looking for at this point,” Hahn said. “Ideally … the right candidate is someone who has recent dugout experience with an organization that has competed for championships. Ideally it’s someone who’s an excellent communicator, someone who understands how the game has grown and evolved over the past decade or so, but at the same time has a respect for the old-school sensibilities.”

Closer Liam Hendriks was asked what qualities he would prefer in the next manager.

“I think we need an authoritarian as a unit,” Hendriks said.

The White Sox have been plagued by poor defense and fundamentals while suffering a multitude of injuries to key players. They also lacked offensive power compared to previous seasons.

“It was a disappointing year,” said Hahn. “We all have to get better in several facets. There must be…obviously managerial/staff turnover and personnel turnover. My only point is, and it’s easy to say at the end of a disappointing season, you need to burn the bottom. I don’t think we’re there yet as an organization.”

Cairo, who played for La Russa before becoming his bench coach at Chicago, said the team will miss the veteran manager.

“He’s my mentor. I learned so much from him,” Cairo said after Monday’s win against the Twins. “And of course I will keep calling to keep studying. But we will definitely miss him.”

La Russa expressed disappointment at not being able to pull things off with the White Sox, but noted that “the future remains bright for this team.”

“I still cherish the chance to return home to the White Sox and leave them today with a lot more good memories than disappointments,” he said. “As I have said many times throughout my career, no manager has ever been luckier than me.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Tony La Russa stepping down as Chicago White Sox manager because of health concerns

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