Tony La Russa is feeling better, removed from heart and cancer issues, and well enough to have good friend Jerry Reinsdorf’s ear.
Reinsdorf, the Sox chairman, fired Ken Williams and general manager Rick Hahn Tuesday in a move that on the stunning scale rivaled his hiring of La Russa to manage the team for a second time before the 2021 season. La Russa stepped down late last season due to health issues, known at the time to be heart related, but also because of cancer.
“Right now I’m cancer free,” La Russa said recently, sharing the good news on a podcast.
Only La Russa’s wife and children — and Reinsdorf — knew what type of cancer he had, La Russa said. Therein lies the bond between La Russa and Reinsdorf, who had regretted firing La Russa in 1986 before La Russa went on to a Hall of Fame career.
Reinsdorf was chastised by fans and media for bringing his friend, 76 at the time, back at his advanced age. But La Russa wasn’t able to perform at his best, Reinsdorf said.
“I don’t think Tony was himself [during the 2022 season],” Reinsdorf said at the winter meetings.
The Sox finished a disappointing 81-81 in 2022 after winning 93 games and the AL Central in 2021, La Russa’s first season in his second tour on the South Side. The decline continued in rapid, unsightly fashion under Grifol, who is meeting with Reinsdorf and La Russa on Wednesday night, per USA Today.
A Sox spokesperson told the Sun-Times Wednesday La Russa is not working for the Sox in an official capacity, however. As much as some would advocate a leadership overhaul from top to bottom, Reinsdorf’s respect for La Russa, and vice versa, will feed a lifeline to his influence on baseball operations.
Grifol’s status for next season is not known — he’s under contract for two more seasons — but it’s reasonable to see a scenario in which assistant general manager Chris Getz is promoted and former Royals general manager Dayton Moore leaves his post as a senior advisor of baseball operations with the Texas Rangers to join Getz in a front-office pairing, with Moore or Getz taking the role as the singular top voice Reinsdorf wants.
“Yes, you hear Dayton’s name out there, but I’m sure you’re going to hear a ton of names that want to be a part of this organization,” Getz said. “This is a really good organization with a great owner that, all he wants to do is win.”
As for a meeting with Reinsdorf and La Russa, who was seen at Guaranteed Rate Field Wednesday, Grifol declined to comment.
“I’m not going to get into that” said before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Mariners at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I’m not going to comment on my meetings or what’s going on in that regard.”
Moore, Getz and Grifol have all worked together with the Royals, who won the World Series in 2015 with Moore as GM. La Russa once called Moore “one of my favorite people in the game.”
While Getz and fellow assistant GM Jeremy Haber were said to be temporarily in charge under Reinsdorf with Williams and Hahn gone, Grifol referred to Getz as the one leading the way.
“I’ve known Chris for a while,” Grifol said. “He’s extremely articulate, he’s smart, he’s been around. He’s got experience. Player development really prepares people to do this type of stuff. He’s got experience in the clubhouse as a player, and as an executive. He’s well-equipped to do what he’s being asked to do.”
The Sox will have the front office in place by the end of the season.