La Russa resolves DUI case, feels ‘deep remorse and regret’

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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CHICAGO — White Sox manager Tony La Russa says he doesn’t have a drinking problem. He also says he has to prove that with his behavior.

The 76-year-old La Russa pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge to resolve misdemeanor drunken driving charges stemming from his arrest nearly 10 months ago on a freeway in metro Phoenix.

La Russa also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Florida in 2007 after police found him asleep inside his running SUV at a stop light and smelling of alcohol. After the 2007 case was resolved, La Russa accepted responsibility and said it would never happen again.

La Russa’s Arizona arrest occurred Feb. 24, but the charges were filed Oct. 28 — one day before he was hired to manage the Chicago White Sox. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving in Maricopa County Justice Court and was sentenced to one day of home detention, a fine of nearly $1,400 and 20 hours of community service.

“I know I don’t have a drinking problem, just like I know I made a serious mistake in February,” La Russa said on a conference call with reporters, “and where I am right now is to prove that I don’t have a drinking problem and to prove it every day off the field that I’m going to handle it and what’s painfully clear to me is if I have a drink I will not drive. There’s always an alternative.”

Authorities say La Russa, who won a World Series with Oakland and two more with St. Louis, blew out a tire on the grey Lexus he was driving. The Hall of Fame manager smashed into a curb, leaving the vehicle smoking. Tests taken the night of his arrest showed his blood alcohol concentration was .095 — above the legal limit of .08.

La Russa said he feels “deep remorse and regret” about what happened. He underwent 20 hours of alcohol counseling after his arrest, which he described as “very helpful.”

“It’s impossible to explain how daily and deeply this gets at you and has bothered me for a long time,” he said. “Obviously I displayed bad judgment that night in February.”

La Russa, the oldest manager in the majors, was hired by Chicago in a surprise move after Rick Renteria was let go in what the team said was a mutual decision. He is friends with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and started his managing career with the team during the 1979 season.

He is returning to the dugout for the first time since 2011, when he led St. Louis past Texas in the World Series.

La Russa said he let the White Sox know about his arrest when they expressed interest in him for the manager job.

“Before the conversations got serious at all, I made sure that I informed them that there was this mistake situation in February that was now getting close to coming to some kind of conclusion,” he said, “and their decision was that it is a mistake, they know how serious it is, but they decided to support me and I appreciate them for that.”

Coming off their first playoff appearance since 2008, the White Sox are regarded as one of baseball’s up-and-coming clubs heading into next season. But skepticism about the hiring of La Russa was compounded by his arrest, making a dent in the positive picture surrounding the franchise.

The team said Monday in a statement that it understands “the anger and concern expressed by some about hiring Tony under these circumstances.” It also said La Russa knows “there is no safety net below him.”

“Tony has a proud and productive history with the White Sox and Major League Baseball, which is why we are standing by him,” the team said. “He has done his job exceptionally well in the past. He has always shown an ability to inspire his players and to bring his teams to a championship level. We are confident that Tony will improve our team, while improving himself.”

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

astros general manager
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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”