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The White Sox should distance themselves from Tony La Russa after his new DUI

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Their knowledge of his arrest before he was hired complicates things.

Tony La Russa at the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings
Daniel Clark-USA TODAY Sports

It was revealed Monday that newly-hired White Sox manager Tony La Russa was arrested for DUI in the Phoenix area last February.

La Russa has a previous DUI conviction, dating back to 2007.

Tuesday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic wrote that White Sox management and ownership was aware of this incident before they hired him, but Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf went ahead with the hire anyway:

Reinsdorf, hellbent on making up for his mistake of firing La Russa in 1986, went ahead anyway, turning the La Russa Express into a runaway train. White Sox officials told rival executives they stood by helplessly as the train blew past, unable to stop their owner from bringing his longtime friend back into the organization.

That was the outside perception of this hire even before the DUI was known — that Reinsdorf overruled other team executives, including general manager Rick Hahn, and hired La Russa himself. Rosenthal raises this cogent point:

How do the White Sox, who declined further comment, citing the active nature of the case, defend keeping La Russa if he is found guilty of DUI a second time? How does Major League Baseball stand idly by?

The Mets fired Carlos Beltrán for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal before he ever managed a game. La Russa, 76, only has been charged with DUI, not convicted. Like any citizen, he is entitled to due process. Still, the appropriate move for the White Sox would be to place him on administrative leave until the case is resolved, and if La Russa is convicted, move on.

Rosenthal is correct. Yes, there is a legal process that has to play out, but it would make sense for Major League Baseball and the team to do exactly that. La Russa’s DUI guilty plea in Florida in 2007 is beyond the statute of limitations per Arizona law, so if convicted he wouldn’t be regarded as a two-time offender in that state — and you surely recall what happened to former Cub Mark Grace when he was convicted of DUI in Arizona for the second time, back in 2013. Further, there’s this:

Beyond this not being a good look for the White Sox, it has likely cost them signing at least one free agent:

Rosenthal concludes:

Ready to win, they needed a sure thing, and in Reinsdorf’s estimation, La Russa best fit that description. The owner set the runaway train in motion. And unless he finds the emergency brake, he must live with the embarrassment.

Say what you want about Tony La Russa, he was a successful major-league manager whose resume got him into the Hall of Fame. He apparently has an alcohol problem; that can be treated, if the person is willing to do so. Whether or not he does, the White Sox got themselves into an issue that they knew about before the hire and then went ahead and did it anyway. The White Sox don’t seem inclined to do it, per this Tribune article, but in my view, Rosenthal’s idea — putting La Russa on administrative leave pending the outcome of his Arizona DUI — is the least the team ought to do right now.