OAKLAND, Calif. — Tony La Russa walked through the visitors clubhouse in Oakland, shaking hands with players. It was the first time around them since he was abruptly told by doctors not to manage the White Sox in a game Aug. 30 against the Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I had [a heart] issue in spring training, so when they had some information they needed to address, and make it serious enough to where [they said] ‘get out of uniform, you can’t watch the game,’ ” La Russa said Sunday. “So I watched the game at home.”
Since then, the Sox have enjoyed their best stretch of the season, losing that night after bench coach Miguel Cairo took over managerial duties but winning nine of the next 11. La Russa, who reportedly had a pacemaker inserted for his heart, was cleared by doctors to attend Dave Stewart’s uniform retirement ceremony in Oakland and fly to Chicago with the team Sunday night, but not to resume managing.
“Health is nothing to mess with,” said La Russa, who turns 78 in October.
“They fixed it, now it’s a question of regaining strength. So don’t mess with health.
“I’ve had my issue fixed, I’m mending.”
If and when La Russa returns to managing “will depend on the experts,” he said.
“Reading the situation, they ask me how I feel because I do a little more and how do you respond to a little more affects it, so, I think it’s uncertain,” he said. “In the meantime the club will be fun to watch and stay in contention.”
La Russa said “don’t mess with health” but he often says “don’t mess with the baseball gods,” and if the Sox lose Sunday after winning four in a row, he said he wouldn’t go on the plane with the team after seeing them play in person and being in the clubhouse briefly.
La Russa seemed to be kidding but he is serious about trends and jinxes.
“Didn’t I just tell you if we lose I won’t be on the plane?” he said. “You think I’m kidding? I have a car rented, I’m going to drive back slowly.”
While fans have overwhelmingly pushed for the Sox to carry on with Cairo at the helm, La Russa wants to get back in uniform. But “it all depends,” he said.
“I’m here today, fly back with them and off [day] tomorrow. I don’t plan to be in uniform until they say it’s time to be in uniform,” he said. “I don’t know if they [doctors] want me at the park or not. The most important thing for me is you don’t want to be a distraction. I don’t want to be a distraction. That’s why it’s best to let it run its course, and in the meantime they’re concentrating on the game they’re playing.
“If I think I’m being a distraction upstairs like today watching them then I won’t watch them. It’s so simple, it’s ridiculous. It’s not complicated.”
La Russa has watched every game and says he calls Cairo at least twice a day and stays in contact with pitching coach Ethan Katz.
“They’re united, they pick each other up. But exciting games, those two comeback games [Wednesday in Seattle and Saturday in Oakland]. They key is they’re having the fun of contending, so it’s from here to the end now. It’s been fun to watch.”