Why Hinch, Cora fit description of Sox ideal manager originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
"Recent October experience with a championship organization would be ideal."
Rick Hahn wouldn't get into many specifics when discussing who could succeed Rick Renteria as the White Sox next manager. But it sure sounded like he was describing a certain couple of guys.
The White Sox seemed to pull a Cubs on Monday, jettisoning Renteria from the managerial post with an opportunity to hire a proven winner. Hahn didn't get into too many specifics — and refused to mention any negatives — about Renteria's performance as manager, perhaps indicating that, much as it was on the North Side six years ago, the decision to move on from Renteria had far less to do with Renteria than it did with who could replace him.
In the Cubs' case, it was Joe Maddon. And that move resulted in a World Series championship in 2016.
In this case, it's potentially A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora, the men who skippered two of the last three World Series winners, both on the managerial free-agent market at the same time.
Of course, both carry the significant baseball baggage of why they happen to be available. Hinch and Cora were fired by the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox, respectively, after Major League Baseball's investigation into the Astros' sign-stealing scandal that was found to have taken place during the Astros' run to a championship in 2017. Hinch was the manager of that team. Cora was his bench coach who went on to manage the world-champion Red Sox a year later, a team also found to have been involved in a sign-stealing scandal, though one of much less severity. They were both suspended for the 2020 campaign by the commissioner.
Now they're the top two names out there, bringing their championship resumes, however tainted the individual baseball fan might find them, into any interviews they might get.
And that includes on the South Side, where Renteria did exactly what he was supposed to do for the White Sox. He shepherded a rebuilding effort through its darkest days and into the light, at one point during an ascendant 2020 season owning the American League's top record and having a chance to win the AL Central crown on the final day of the regular season. Folks can grouse about the final two weeks of the season all they'd like — the White Sox lost eight of their final 10 regular-season games and were eliminated in the best-of-three AL Wild Card Series — but Renteria took the White Sox to where he was supposed to.
Again, though, the lure of a proven winner inheriting a roster this talented might have been too much to resist.
"This is an opportunity for us as an organization," Hahn said Monday. "Ultimately, I think the best candidate or the ideal candidate is going to be someone who has experience with a championship organization in recent years. Recent October experience with a championship organization would be ideal. But we're going to keep an open mind.
"This is a team that should reasonably have championship aspirations. And I think, quite frankly, that we should be viewed as a very desirable landing spot for potential managers. ... We're a team that's poised to potentially go on an extended run here. So we're looking for that right fit that's going to be able to take us to that next step."
Despite the fact that Hahn spent much of the last four years arguing that Renteria was the person to do just that, there was a pretty big unknown there because he'd never done it before, and he still hasn't gotten the opportunity to show it. The proven commodities? The guys who have done it? They're out there ready for the hiring.
The truth is that the White Sox have championship expectations. Nothing less. Hahn said it himself Monday: "I think it's perfectly reasonable to believe that we've opened our window." And so they're looking to put themselves in the best position to win a World Series. Now.
And that means, ideally, someone who's been there, done that, and done it recently.
Sound like anyone?