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South Side Sticks Faces In Pans Of Hot Oil

You'd have thought Blago had just announced he's running for governor again. Or maybe Paul Anka is getting a primetime special. The White Sox need a DH. Why not Harold Baines?

The White Sox rehiring Tony LaRussa on Thursday received a reaction along the lines of those three hypotheticals. Our current president, although he has no chance in Illinois, would love this one. COVID has temporarily been placed on the back burner. At least for devotees of the South Side franchise.

The Twitter world lit up. Hashtag White Sox took front and center, and about 90 percent of the tweets were - here we go - unhappy, acerbic, critical, shocked, pissed off, insulted, incredulous, angry, and all of the above.

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A routine press conference followed the announcement, featuring General Manager Rick Hahn and the newly-installed La Russa. The media asked the pertinent questions about Jerry Reinsdorf's influence on the hiring - "It's about consensus," said Hahn. "We come to a conclusion together" - and La Russa's absence from the dugout for nine years, and, as an old person, his ability to relate to the players.

Inquiries about the political climate today as opposed to four years ago when La Russa ripped Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem were fielded reasonably adeptly by the new-old manager.

"I do not like injustice," La Russa said. "A lot has been going on in a very healthy way since 2016. I applaud and support [that] especially on the racial side."

The one squirmy moment came when La Russa mentioned all the African-American players on his past teams who would vouch for his fairness and lack of prejudice. But his "I don't have a racist bone in my body" has been uttered far too many times when maybe the speaker's pinky fingers were unbiased while the rest of his or her bones were infused with racism.

The viewpoint of this column a couple of weeks ago was that Sandy Alomar Jr., who took over for the ailing Terry Francona with the Indians this season, would be the best man for the job. I doubt Alomar was even interviewed. At least no one reported that he was. That's a shame because Alomar has been in the game as a player and coach for 33 years. He adroitly guided Cleveland last season even after frontline pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac were sat down after breaking pandemic protocols here in Chicago.

Clevinger wound up being traded to San Diego while Plesac basically was suspended by the team for three weeks, which was a big chunk of the season. That, people, is what you call principle, and it didn't stop Alomar from leading the team to a 28-18 record.

Apparently the White Sox never interviewed A.J. Hinch or Alex Cora, two central figures in the Astros' cheating scandal in 2017. Had they hired either of them, even I might have entered the Twitter fray.

If you believe that social media tends to attract the malcontents, then support for La Russa's return to the South Side does exist. Last time Tony was in charge of the Sox dugout, he was here for almost eight full seasons. If history repeats itself - let's see - he'll be 84 when he either retires or get fired.

Those lofty numbers of age are the major beef fans have given for opposing Hahn's maneuver. A close second would be his interaction with the players. Can someone so far apart in age communicate with young players like Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Lucas Giolito and Luis Robert? Ask kids about their relationship with their grandparents. It works both ways.

There also is the slant that La Russa can't employ analytics as astutely as some of the younger guys. You saw how well that worked out for Kevin Cash a few nights ago in the World Series finale. La Russa is a pioneer when it comes to strategy, pitching match-ups, and lineup changes. He used to hit the pitcher eighth in St. Louis, not because the guy was a better hitter than, say, the shortstop, but because his analytics dictated it.

At the same time, in Thursday's presser, La Russa more than once pointed out that game observation played a crucial role in managing a ballclub. Apparently in Cash's situation against the Dodgers, his powers of observation didn't tell him that Blake Snell had thrown just 73 pitches of which 48 were strikes, given up two singles, and fanned half of the 18 hitters he faced. La Russa, while praising Cash, hinted that he might have played the hand a bit differently.

La Russa didn't physically look all that great facing the media. He wasn't as articulate as I remembered him. However, he wasn't at all defensive about the questions involving some of his social and political comments. He fielded almost every inquiry with candor and logic. But he did look all of his 76 years.

Which is reasonable. Why hide from it, liver spots and all? What he did say is that sitting in the stands for the past nine years didn't dampen his thirst for being in the dugout, and now he'll get another chance.

While some folks are tangibly offended by this development, those of us in the Old Geezers Club say, "Bring it on!"

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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