White Sox ready to pay high cost of winning

You could call him ‘‘Chicago’s placeholder’’ because that’s pretty much what Rick Renteria has been.

Let go by the White Sox on Monday after four seasons as their manager, Renteria will give way to some higher-profile skipper, somebody who is more of a big shot, more — well, more important.

Let’s say that person is former Astros manager AJ Hinch. Indeed, all rumors and sources point to Hinch as the man the Sox covet most to lead them to better times.

The only problem here — after you forget about good soldier Renteria being summarily trash-canned — is the moral baggage Hinch would bring with him, something that might disturb certain folks in certain quarters. Such as those who think cheating in sports is wrong, for example.

Hinch, of course, is the man who was in charge of the Astros when they semi-cheated their way to the 2017 World Series championship. I say ‘‘semi’’ because that team was good and did a lot of things right most of the time.

But, you know, if you allow stolen pitch signals to be sent to your batters using a mix of modern (video cameras) and old-school (beating on a garbage can) technology, you’ve kind of lost your claim to the high road.

As my daddy used to say: ‘‘Son, you can’t be just a little bit of a thief.’’

Sox general manager Rick Hahn said the search for Renteria’s replacement would be wide-ranging.

‘‘We’re going to keep an open mind,’’ he said.

But if Hinch is the choice, as he appears to be, that didn’t take a lot of snooping around. Hinch, along with accused fellow cheater and managerial candidate Alex Cora, is serving a one-year suspension from Major League Baseball and can’t be talked to, at any rate, until after the World Series ends.

Hinch has apologized for his lax oversight in the Astros’ scandal, and maybe that’s enough for a lot of folks. After all, being punished and doing penance for one’s sins are supposed to wash one clean.

But we’re talking about sports here, not a man’s soul. And if the Sox are all about diversity — Jerry Reinsdorf, remember, was the first chairman of MLB’s Equal Opportunity Committee — they didn’t shake a lot of trees if Hinch was the only apple that fell.

Other names are popping up, of course. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale even claims Reinsdorf has contacted 76-year-old Tony La Russa, who was fired by then-Sox GM Ken ‘‘Hawk’’ Harrelson way back in 1986, to see whether he wants a return engagement.

But the buzz seems to have it that Hinch is the guy the Sox want. And even though the manager-less Red Sox and Tigers also might want him (the Tigers definitely do), he could do worse than come to an emerging team with a couple of very good pitchers, plus young offensive gems such as Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada.

Would hiring Hinch court controversy? Yes. But two situations from the past come to mind here.

One is when the Bulls fired coach Doug Collins in 1989, even though he had just led them deeper into the playoffs than they had gone in 15 years. Renteria, remember, guided the 2020 Sox to their first postseason appearance in 12 years.

But both men were sacrificed so their teams hopefully could get from Point A to Point B. Or from Point B to Point C. Or to Point Z.

It sure worked for the Bulls because Collins’ replacement, Phil Jackson, led them to six NBA titles. Maybe it’ll work for the Sox.

The other thought that springs up is one about morality in general. You’ll recall the Cubs traded for fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman with two months left in the 2016 regular season and watched him essentially propel them to their first World Series crown in 108 years.

Did you hear a lot of Cubs fans protesting or boycotting games because Chapman was tainted by a domestic-violence incident? No, you did not.

Why? Because he could throw 105 mph, that’s why.

The Sox don’t want to waste this moment with a team that might be in the mix for a title. Hinch has the ‘‘championship experience’’ Hahn wants.

Renteria might have been lousy at handling the pitching staff, and maybe he had to go. So be it.

The Sox are in the hunt for the trophy. And, as we know, the hunt can get dirty.

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