CHICAGO — The last time Tony La Russa managed was in 2011.
Bat flips have become more in style since then, with Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson among those adding that flare to the game.
La Russa, named the Sox manager Thursday, saw similarities to his old closer, Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, in the way players are expressing themselves during a game.
“Eck, all those years when he had that very expressive fist pump when he got the third out, that’s a lot like what you see today,” La Russa said during his introductory conference call. “I always reasoned if it was sincere, I didn’t have a problem with it. With players that are being more exuberant.
“Take Tim Anderson as an example. Now it’s people showing that, ‘Hey I’m coming through.’ In fact Major League Baseball is encouraging them to. If I see it’s sincere and it’s directed toward the game and that’s displaying the kind of emotion you want, as a coach you want to get players passionately involved with the competition. If you do that, that is how you get exciting games, you’re entertaining.
“The fact that now that we’re encouraging players to be more expressive, I’m going to treat — like Tim, for example — part of the family. The only thing I say and even people I talk to, if your team celebrates and their team celebrates, then neither team can be upset if you see celebrations as long as everyone is doing it sincerely.”
La Russa, 76, was also asked how he would react if one his players wanted to take a knee during the national anthem. La Russa’s 2016 criticism of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the anthem to raise awareness of police brutality and racial injustice, became a topic of criticism recently. Sox players Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Jose Abreu, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez and Edwin Encarnacion, along with coaches Joe McEwing and Daryl Boston, took a knee during the anthem before the July 24 season opener.
“A lot has gone on in a very healthy way since 2016, and not only do I respect but I applaud the awareness that has come into not just society but especially in sports,” La Russa said. “If you talk about baseball specifically, I applaud and support the fact they are now addressing, identifying the injustices, especially on the racial side. As long as it’s peacefully protested and sincere and what I’m learning more and more, like with the Players Alliance and especially with the White Sox, when your protests actually have action-oriented results, the way you are going to impact, make things better, I’m all for it.
“I do believe if you check White Sox, A’s and the Cardinals, I can name at least Chet Lemon or Junior Moore, Harold Baines, and you go to the A’s with Dave Henderson, Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart, Dave Parker, you go to St. Louis with Reggie Sanders, Ray Lankford, Brian Jordan. I mean, I’ll take my chances if you talk to any of those people, there is not a racist bone in my body. I do not like injustice and I would support exactly what I mentioned. Anything peacefully done and sincerely thought of and especially with an action at the end of it will not be a problem.”
A reporter later asked what gave him the privilege to decide what is sincere and what’s not.
“I evaluate players’ commitment to our team,” La Russa said. “And based on watching them closely, you can detect the sincerity of when they say ‘I’m all in for helping the team’ and then you look around and see that they are not all in. So I think you look at actions.
“Words are words. I would look at actions and what I’m seeing, one of the reasons I’m so encouraged by what I’ve seen the last bunch of years, how players are backing up their words with actions. They are not just speaking the speak.”
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