The epitaph for this Chicago White Sox season was delivered Wednesday night by starter Lance Lynn.
“Nothing surprises me, especially when you play like (bleep) all year,” Lynn said after a loss to the Cleveland Guardians in one of their worst performances all year.
The Guardians’ three-game sweep put the Sox on the brink of elimination, and soon we’ll find out what they’ll do to ensure next year is not a repeat.
As everyone knows by now, the Sox don’t operate like most teams. Sometimes who you know is as important as anything else in getting — and keeping — a job in this organization. So who will stay and who will go is anyone’s guess.
General manager Rick Hahn is on the hottest of hot seats despite a rebuild that seemed to be on target until the regression this season under a manager he didn’t choose.
With the end of the season at hand, here’s a look at some of the key personnel who presumably will be evaluated by executive vice president Ken Williams and, if he stays, Hahn.
Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf hand-picked Tony La Russa as manager in 2020, relieving Hahn of the responsibility in order to hire his friend. Reinsdorf, in a statement announcing the hiring, denied that scenario.
“His hiring is not based on friendship or on what happened years ago, but on the fact that we have the opportunity to have one of the greatest managers in the game’s history in our dugout at a time when we believe our team is poised for great accomplishments,” Reinsdorf said.
No one bought it, and La Russa has been a controversial figure from Day One, getting the lion’s share of the blame for the lackluster 2022 season.
La Russa left the team Aug. 30 for a heart-related issue with one month left in his second season and remains in limbo. He reportedly is signed through 2023, but that also remains in doubt. If they want, the Sox could use the health issue as a reason to move on from the second La Russa era, which by most standards was a bust.
Reinsdorf will have the final say, however.
Hahn was allowed to hire pitching coach Ethan Katz after the 2020 season to replace Don Cooper, whose sell-by date had been extended for years by Hahn and Williams. Cooper managed to outlast managers Terry Bevington, Jerry Manuel, Ozzie Guillen and Robin Ventura and was let go the same day as manager Rick Renteria after the 2020 playoff loss to the Oakland A’s.
Katz oversaw a staff that finished second in the American League in 2021 but ranked seventh entering Friday with a 3.88 ERA. He would appear to be safe under any change in managers and even could be considered as a candidate to replace La Russa.
Miguel Cairo, who played under La Russa in St. Louis and was a special assistant in Cincinnati to La Russa’s former boss and friend Walt Jocketty, was hired as bench coach two years ago. It was a surprising move considering Cairo had never managed at any level and was only an interim bench coach with the Reds for a part of the 2013 season.
The Sox seemed to respond when Cairo replaced La Russa as acting manager.
“Since Aug. 31, they decide to play, they decide to battle,” Cairo said after Thursday’s loss.
But the Sox failed to show up in the biggest series of the season and are back to two games over .500. Cairo remains a managerial candidate if La Russa is out, but a poor finish could override his hot start.
Hitting coach Frank Menechino replaced Todd Steverson after the 2019 season and remained on La Russa’s staff. Steverson was later rehired in 2021 as a special assistant to Williams. The Sox are second in the majors in hitting (.260 average) as of Friday but 22nd in home runs (140) and 29th in walks (367). If the Sox need a scapegoat for this mess, Menechino would be a likely candidate.
First base coach Daryl Boston, a Williams hire in his 10th season on the staff, appears safe. Joe McEwing, who had a tough season coaching at third, could be replaced for some poor decisions, notably the horrible send on Yasmani Grandal that resulted in a left knee injury.
Shelley Duncan, the son of La Russa’s friend and longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan, was hired as analytics coordinator in 2020. Ironically, La Russa once said in Arizona the use of analytics was “an important preparation tool, (but) if you let it interfere with the decision-making of your manager and coaches, you’re going to be easier to beat.” The overuse of Leury Garcia suggested La Russa didn’t prioritize analytics.
Assistant GM/player development Chris Getz could move up if Hahn is forced out or moved to another position. Ken Williams Jr., the son of the VP, was promoted to assistant director of minor-league player development under Getz in 2020 and could replace Getz if he moves up.
The bottom line is that no one should feel safe after a season like this.
But Reinsdorf is known for his loyalty, so speculate at your own risk.