ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tony La Russa recounted Sunday how being in baseball but out of uniform before White Sox Jerry Reinsdorf brought him back into one drove him crazy.
“I don’t know how general managers do it,” La Russa said Sunday.
In his second season of his second go-around managing the Sox, La Russa found himself at the helm of a preseason World Series contender that was in third place in its division during the first week of June.
“We’ll see if I still know how to do it or not,” La Russa said.
The Sox have been slammed by injuries, but they have not played good baseball with the healthy players they have. When that happens, the manager will be scrutinized, Hall of Fame resume or not.
La Russa was asked if he self evaluates.
“Sure. That’s part of the bottom line, isn’t it?” he said. “That’s what you show the people you work for and the fans. And that’s why I mentioned there has never been a day where I dodge accountability. Never. What the record is, we pitch, we hit, whatever decisions. You take the heat and if that bothers you, you do something else for a living.
“But I know if you’re going to accept accountability then you hold yourself accountable and them [players] accountable. And then you get the best by what you got. That hasn’t changed.”
La Russa has maintained the Sox are good enough to win with what they have. But there’s no getting around the reality of dealing with season-long injury issues that, at present, include Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly on the IL.
“I’ve always felt and I’ve seen this, sometimes ownership, front office [is] not realistic with expectations for the guys downstairs, right?” La Russa said. “But you have to be realistic. Pressure’s got to be fair. If you’re missing some key pieces then you have to expect it to be a struggle. If you don’t give in to it, come out of it, you have to survive and all of a sudden then you still have a shot, right?
“It’s not fun but it’s the challenge of all this. Keep pushing. Because you always have a shot.”
The Sox are in the midst of a nine-game stretch against the Blue Jays, Rays and Dodgers, all likely playoff teams. They got swept by the Jays and split the first two games against the Rays on the first five games of a road trip. They gave Lucas Giolito a six-run lead in the second inning, raising hopes for a series victory before heading home to play the Dodgers starting Tuesday.
It’s apparent watching La Russa every day that he still hates to lose and loves to win at age 77.
“It’s exciting to have that shot to compete,” he said. “If that excitement’s not there then I would never cheat anybody. I’m as nervous [as ever].”
La Russa mentioned Jake Burger’s go ahead pinch homer Saturday that helped the Sox snap a four-game losing streak on a tough trip. It was exhilarating.
“It’s exactly how I felt for years,” he said. “I don’t look down at the [World Series] ring and say ‘what’s the big deal?’ No, that’s when I know I’m excited to be there.”