Following the announcement on Monday that Tony La Russa was stepping down as manager of the Chicago White Sox due to health concerns, general manager Rick Hahn began searching for a new skipper. Khan’s criteria for the next manager included recent experience as a coach or manager in the winning organization, good communication skills, and an understanding of how the game has evolved over the last decade. He also added this twist:
“One thing that is perhaps beyond at least the last few hires, having a history with the White Sox, having some connection to the White Sox DNA is by no means a requirement,” Khan said.
The description would almost immediately rule out several names that were speculated to be possible, including former catcher A.J. Pierzinski and former manager Ozzy Guillen. But that leaves a few intriguing candidates as the White Sox search for a fresh voice. Here are some of the best choices for this role.
Michael Cairo — Khan indicated that Cairo would be the only exception to an idea he could look for outside of the organization. As the current acting manager, he seems to have given a boost of energy as the team played well under him for a while. But that all stopped when the Sox lost to the Guardians at home in a critical September series. The White Sox lost eight in a row near Cairo, despite his attempts to instill some responsibility in the club.
outside the organization
Davey Martinez… The current Washington Nationals manager has one year left on his contract, but he could be a leading candidate for the White Sox job – provided he can be lured to Chicago.
Martinez, 58, played for the White Sox from 1995 to 1997 and was an alternate coach on the other side of Chicago in 2016 when the Cubs won the World Series. He also won the ring in 2019 as in charge of national championships. Despite having worked on the team in the 1990s, he met the criteria for stepping outside the organization’s comfort zone.
Washington is at the beginning of a rebuild in the extremely difficult Eastern Northern Hemisphere, while the team is also up for sale. Maybe it’s time for Martinez to go back to Chicago.
Sandy Alomar Jr. Alomar made a big impression on the organization during three separate spells for the White Sox as a player back in the early 2000s. Even though he hasn’t been on the team for over a decade – again fulfilling the criteria for leaving the organization – he is still familiar with the market and the team.
Current Cleveland Guardians first base coach Alomar also has some recent managerial experience. While manager Terry Francona struggled with health issues midway through the shortened 2020 season, Alomar led the Guardians to a 28–18 finish and a playoff berth.
Joe Espada… He has been a hot candidate in the last few seasons, having been the bench coach on the Astros’ current tour. It remains to be seen if he will be in line for the Houston job when Dusty Baker retires, but Espada has already been interviewed for several recent positions, including with the Cubs and Rangers. It’s only a matter of time before Espada takes on a high-profile position, and he will certainly understand how the game has evolved while working for an organization at the forefront of innovation.
Will Venable — Venable’s name is gaining momentum in the industry as he is well known as the bench coach for the Boston Red Sox. Now that he’s been back in shape for about five seasons, the former major league outfielder should start getting more managerial attention. His experience in the franchise’s recent success fits one of Khan’s criteria.
Peter Greefol… Grifol has apparently done the rest as a coach or coordinator, having played eight seasons as a junior, and it may be his time to manage at last, whether in Chicago or elsewhere. As the current bench coach in the Royals’ division, he would have been familiar with the White Sox staff. One fan called him “a complete package” and noted that his experience with Latino players could make him a suitable candidate for the Chicago clubhouse.
Don Mattingly… The former Marlins & Dodgers manager is ticking off many of the items Khan is looking for after just announcing he won’t be returning to the Miami dugout.
Joe Maddon – OK is a short-sighted candidate, but this won’t be the first time the White Sox have hired a former Cubs manager. Ricky Renteria managed the Cubs in 2014 and then the White Sox from 2017 to 2020. Maddon brings experience with him, but his best managerial years came during a period of growing culture with younger teams, and the White Sox need to get past that stage.