In 2001, Drew Bledsoe was the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. He went down the second game of the season and his backup, a sixth-round draft pick from Michigan, came in. The Patriots lost that game, but the backup became the starter and, due to some luck and a lot of great play, went on to win the Super Bowl against a favored St. Louis Rams. At some point, Bledsoe was fit enough to resume his starter’s role, but coach Bill Belichick stuck with the kid. Worked out pretty well.
Miguel Cairo might not be destined for greatness like Tom Brady, but it is becoming more and more apparent that he is the right man at a crucial time for the White Sox. In addition to the local airwaves and newspapers singing his praises, national columnists are calling for the switch from La Russa to Cairo. Bob Nightengale, who broke the initial story about La Russa having health issues, got the scoop on Cairo’s first night as manager. The message was more or less “get with it or get out,” and a number of veteran players, notably Liam Hendriks and Josh Harrison, found it refreshing.
The White Sox have been on a tear since La Russa’s sidelining, going 9-3 to open space between them and the Twins while also gaining a little ground on the Guardians. They have 10 games against those two opponents in the last 20 games. If the White Sox are going to make a remarkable comeback and win the division — their only path to the playoffs — this is time. The players have said and shown that they are responding to Cairo, making it seem like a bad time for La Russa to come back.
Which is exactly the point of Phil Rosenthal’s Open Letter to Tony La Russa (behind a paywall, sorry.) Rosenthal pointedly states that La Russa should step down immediately for the good of the team. The biggest stumbling block is La Russa himself, as it doesn’t seem likely he will be that magnanimous. A person who argues the soundness of an intentional walk with two strikes isn’t the kind of person who walks away. What’s worse is that GM Rick Hahn doesn’t have the authority to force what should be an obvious decision. Jerry Reinsdorf has shown that he will stand by his decisions to a fault, even when everyone in the room can see the mistake.
In the end, this all could be sound and fury signifying nothing since making up three games over the course of 20 isn’t the easiest task. The Cairo Bounce might not make it to October and this stretch of games could be nothing more than a pleasant period where White Sox baseball was actually watchable for a little while. La Russa will come back for the final year of his contract, Cairo will be looked at by teams in search of a new manager, and another year of a supposed championship window will be wasted because two stubborn old men would rather save face than win baseball games.