The Tony La Russa story isn’t going away anytime soon. Since being forced to leave the team due to a health scare, fans and players alike have wondered if and when he will come back. He has begun watching White Sox games inside the stadium and is itching to return. His doctors are the only thing holding him back at this point.
Meanwhile, his interim manager, Miguel Cairo, is left to juggle whether he will be in charge on a game-to-game basis. Neither Cairo nor general manager Rick Hahn knows when La Russa will return.
Despite the unusual circumstances, Cairo has handled his duties like a true professional.
“I’m mentally prepared every day,” Cairo told MLB.com. “Today, I’m the manager. Tomorrow, I don’t know. But that’s in the my job right now, and I’m glad he’s around because I always ask him questions about what I could have done better or different or stuff like that.”
Some may say it’s a coincidence, but the White Sox are playing better with Cairo at the helm. Cairo has seemingly lit a fire under them. National MLB reporter Bob Nightengale is tapped in on everything White Sox-related. During his weekly column, he discussed how the players responded to Cairo.
During his first day as manager, he addressed the clubhouse and gave a passionate speech.
“He told us pretty much, ‘If you don’t want to be here, then get the fuck out,”‘ Liam Hendriks told Nightengale. “It was eye-opening to some guys who really have never been told no.”
Josh Harrison offered a similar sentiment.
“Let’s put it this way, you can tell your kids something, and they don’t listen. Someone tells them the same thing, and they get the message. It’s put up or shut up time.”
He then added, “Miggy has done a great job bringing energy to the team.”
Ten days before Nightengale’s article, White Sox beat reporter Scott Merkin asked Yasmani Grandal if the clubhouse had a different vibe in the four games since Cairo took over.
“I don’t know. What do you think?” the veteran catcher responded.
You don’t need to take the player’s word for it. The results speak for themselves.
The White Sox had themselves a weekend in Oakland. They took three of four games, including a 12-run victory and a thrilling ninth-inning comeback that saw them flip a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 win and a 20-hit performance.
To Cairo’s credit, he had nothing but nice things to say about La Russa. While Cairo was leading the team to victory, La Russa was in the press box, watching intently and vigorously jotting down notes.
“He’s still so intense and takes these games so hard, maybe too hard,” the interim manager said. “He hates to lose. Just hates it.”
La Russa would be wise to take the rest of the season off if this is the case. The ball club is winning at a high clip. The ballclub has won nine of Cairo’s first twelve games since being handed the reins.
Of course, La Russa is itching to get back into the dugout. According to Nightengale, people that saw him in Oakland for Dave Stewart’s jersey retirement ceremony said he looked healthy, relaxed, and energized.
This is great news. Health issues should not be the reason La Russa loses his job as the White Sox manager. But results are still a valid reason. The Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays immediately responded once a new manager was put in place, and the White Sox are no different.
Nothing against Tony La Russa, but sometimes you need a new voice in the clubhouse with a fresh perspective.