Many pundits tipped the Chicago White Sox not only for a repeat of their American League Central title, but also for a crack at the World Series this year.
Neither of those happened and their manager Tony La Russa retired, so what next for the White Sox?
Tony La Russa stepped down as manager of the Chicago White Sox for health reasons having seen a spell on the sidelines in the closing weeks which ironically saw the White Sox improve their results after suffering a poor losing streak which ultimately cost them retaining their Divisional title.
The White Sox finished 11 games behind the Cleveland Guardians. It was a Division they were supposed to win to back up what they had done in 2021.
It didn’t happen and now team owner Jerry Reinsdorf is looking for his third manager in three years. La Russa opted out of his third year, which is unsurprising considering his health issues and given he is 78 years old, it was time.
So who is next to become manager of the White Sox? It was a toss-up last time out between the veteran La Russa and AJ Hinch, the former Houston Astro manager, who led the team to the 2017 World Series championship.
After Reinsdorf selected La Russa, Hinch opted to go to the Detroit Tigers instead, and while things haven't progressed well for Detroit at the moment, they have time and a committed manager to making changes.
This time around the White Sox need someone to take a clearly talented roster, who incidentally finished with 81 wins last season, playing .500 baseball, to take them to the next step. The Southsider’s last World Series win was in 2005 and they have only reached the playoffs three times since, not good enough for an impatient Chicago fanbase, which has seen their city rivals the Cubs win a World Series in 2016.
According to MLB.com, Astros bench coach Joe Espada was set to be interviewed for the Chicago White Sox job, while also being interviewed in Miami for the Marlins team manager position.
Espada became bench coach at the Astros after Alex Cora left to become the manager at the Boston Red Sox in 2017. The 47-year-old is a man always close to getting the top job and has interviewed over the past few seasons for the clubs such as the Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, Cubs, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants.
Houston manager Dusty Baker has nothing but praise for Espada, telling the official Astros website recently: “Joe’s a very astute baseball man, very good worker.
“He does his homework. He’s prepared, so you don’t know if you’re ready till you get there. But whatever happens, I mean you have to have your first (managerial position) at some point in time.”
General manager Rick Hahn has come in for some criticism recently but will he be the one to make the ultimate decision on who to hire for the coming season and beyond?
Speaking to the Athletic recently, Hahn commented on who will be making the managerial decision process, saying: “Similar to probably just about every major decision since I’ve been around here for over the last 20-odd years, in the end, it’s a collaborative process and ideally, Kenny (Williams), Jerry (Reinsdorf) and I come up with a consensus.
“There will be a number of people being part of these conversations. Obviously, Jerry, Kenny Chris Getz, Jeremy Haber, we may have some former players involved as well. It’s really a matter of getting the best opinion of someone and in the end, making a recommendation, and all being on the same page.”
Whoever it will be, they will inherit a talented roster. They have an upside in their players, including Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert who all look All-Stars, the problem has been keeping them all healthy and away from the injury list.
If the White Sox rotation overall was disappointing, it was only because it wasn’t capable of carrying an offense that was worse than everyone expected.
The White Sox appear to need a leader that barks instructions and gets everyone singing from the same song sheet. A bit of a disciplinarian, but will always back his players, something which La Russa was guilty of mis-reading the room at times.
Sometimes the talented roster went missing when it required it the most. First and foremost, the White Sox fans needed their stars on the field and all playing to win the Division from the off. Could be an interesting season on the Southside, and depending on which manager they pick, a winning one.