The White Sox 2020 appetizer of a Hot Stove League got off to a roaring start when the team shocked the entire world (except Bob Nightengale) by signing Tony LaRussa to be their manager. Now, I don’t want to write another word about Tony’s character, Tony’s prior actions or the inevitable veto power that an owner has over an organization. All of those points are beat to a pulp for me. I think Paulie Walnuts can best summarize my thoughts on Tony, so I can move on with this blog.
Now that we have that out of the way, the most prescient rumors of the moment have to do with what the White Sox will do in the 9th inning spot. An interesting caveat of handicapping the 2020 Winter Season for the White Sox is that by adding a veteran manager into the fold, one with a substantial trophy case and direct line to ownership, is that their preferences for running the 26 man roster day-to-day will likely be taken into account. It will probably be a data point. That has not been the case here with the White Sox since 2011 when Ozzie Guillen left in a Blaze of Glory (Bon Jovi sucks).
The White Sox closer situation is so HOT, HOT, HOT!!! That not only is Buster Poindexter singing about it, but we have every Delicious Chicago Food twitter account poppin’ off about it.
Look, as much as I have devoted faith in our delicious food here in Chicago, a wise man once told me to believe, but verify, so I decided to do some high level work of what HAS HAPPENED in the last ~25 years or so of TLR’s managing career to see what conclusions I could draw. Below is a chart that denotes some data for the TOP SAVESMEN each season of Tony’s career after he started going with the 1 inning reliever, we’ll call this the Eckersley Line. Back in 1987, the A’s and by extension LaRussa converted Dennis Eckersley into the modern closer. Up to that point, the Eck only had 3 Career Saves (all 3 coming before the age of 22, he was 32 when the A’s decided to make this move).
A few observations from this exercise…….
The 2021 White Sox closer most definitely does NOT need to be a proven commodity
As much as my brain wants to think, old man manager needs established closer otherwise the CPU won’t function, that doesn’t seem to have been the case throughout the years. Sure he became very friendly with Dennis Eckersley after converting him to the role, but not this friendly. Other than that, Jason Isringhausen is really the only high profile free agent closer signing of his entire career. Now, that situation ran a long time as well as the Eck situation, so it’s very likely that high profile stability is a preference, but maybe not a foregone conclusion.
Roughly 25 fucking years of data and all of those closers in the table who were the primary save-getters were all right handed pitchers. It’s wild! I would say that leads us to believe that the skipper wants a righty back there and that other than in a pinch, we won’t see either of our two scrumtrulescent lefties trotting out for the 9th.
Whoever “WINS” this job, is going to get a long ride…
It’s obvious that if the White Sox go out and spend a big pile of BitCoin on Liam Hendricks that he’ll close until we are throwing fucking tomatoes at him from 108, but I think this might also be true for an incumbent like Codi (you fill in the blank). When digging around even the goofy 2011 season for LaRussa’s Cardinals, I noticed he tried to give Jason Motte a run in there as well. I am very interested in what an internal closer battle would look like if the White Sox choose to use what’s left of Jerry’s dedicated resources to enhance other parts of the team.
Got some thoughts on LaRussa and the closer situation, holler at me on twitter.