Jerry Narron has seen enough of Miguel Cairo to know this: “He’s going to be a hot commodity.”
As a managerial candidate when jobs become open, that is.
The White Sox are 13-6 since Cairo took over as acting manager, and Narron, who managed five seasons in the majors with Texas and Cincinnati between 2001 and 2007, and now sits close to Cairo on the Sox coaching staff, is impressed by what he’s seen of Cairo in action.
“He’s done a fantastic job from Day 1 when he told everyone what he expected from everybody,” Narron told the Sun-Times. “He has communicated extremely well, he has a lot of energy in the dugout during games and he’s come in with a very, very positive attitude and message. These guys bought into it.”
When Narron made eye contact with La Russa in the visitors dugout in Oakland last Sunday after not seeing him for a couple of weeks, his smile stretched from ear to ear.
“We’re a family and our first concern is health on everybody,” Narron said. “Our main concern is Tony getting well and living a long, productive life. More than winning and losing, as much as we want to win. Everyone here is concerned about his health.”
La Russa turns 78 on the second to last day of the season. Whether he returns before then remains to be seen as he awaits clearance from cardiologists.
“[Managing] is an extremely tough grind. I’m just thankful they caught what was going on [with his pacemaker] early enough that he has a chance to get some things straight, and whatever happens, happens,” Narron said.
The uncertainty of La Russa’s status with 15 games to go heading into a crucial three-game home series with the AL Central leading Guardians doesn’t matter to the coaching staff, Narron said.
“Nobody is concerned about that,” Narron said. “We come out day to day, and until we’re told different, Miggy is the manager. We know we need to win every day and nobody is distracted at all by any of this. They’ve played well.”
The Sox upping their home run output with 31 under Cairo’s watch and new shortstop Elvis Andrus’ performance have helped tremendously, Narron said.
Cairo lets the coaches do their thing but he asks more questions and for more input from coaches than La Russa would during games. He said he “would love” to manage.
“I love the adrenaline, I love the challenge,” Cairo, 48, said.
As coach Shelley Duncan noted, Cairo had no time to prepare for an unexpected assignment but handled it seamlessly.
“It hasn’t been some huge, drastic change,” Duncan said.
“It’s not like he’s a different voice or different face, he’s been here and involved with everyone.
“It’s hard to say we’re playing well because of Miguel when this is a players-centric sport, and these guys understand where we are in the season. These guys decided to come together and really bring it. Miguel created the atmosphere that allows it to happen, he’s not stifling them or getting in their way. That’s been good for everyone.”
Duncan, whose father Dave was La Russa’s pitching coach with three teams including the Sox in the 1980s, has known La Russa longer than anyone.
So what happens if La Russa would come back?
“I don’t know,” Duncan said. “Interesting for everyone. We have a lot of pros in there. Leadership [among players] is stepping up, it’s fun to watch that. I expect them to, no matter what happens, to keep being pro about things and going out and playing with this energy. And as a staff we keep that same enthusiasm.
“Really, it’s a delicate situation because people can look too deep into it and pull out things that maybe don’t exist. But the bottom line is Miguel got thrust into a situation that’s really difficult and he’s doing a great job. It’s hard. It’s really hard, so I respect him tremendously.”