Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why We Put Up With Ozzie Guillen

You would have to be in Chicago and be a long-time member of the fans of the Chicago White Sox to understand the strange cult of personality that is Ozzie Guillen. Certainly this writer has no qualifications to make judgments. There have been no scientific polls conducted on behalf of this post to support or deny its conclusions. So why write it then? Well, two reasons. First, Mr. Guillen has a large tendency to let his mouth get him into the news. And secondly, there is no other manager that has ever been like him and that makes his existence very interesting.

There has never been a long period of quiet when it comes to the managerial stint of Ozzie Guillen. Every year there is some sort of flap hovering around him. In some ways, his tenure as manager of the White Sox reminds an old timer of any of Billy Martin's tenures as manager. There is always a story. There is always some controversy. The latest, of course, is the soap opera that has developed around departed pitcher Bobby Jenks. Jenks has taken potshots at Guillen. Olney Guillen, Ozzie's son, tweeted nasty things about Jenks. Ozzie said his son shouldn't have done that. Kenny Williams wasn't pleased. Jenks later made further unflattering statements and now Ozzie has threatened to rip Jenks' throat out. Just another week at the office for Ozzie.

To an outside observer, Jenks is the punk here and initially acted like a child. But Ozzie is supposed to be the adult between the two and he just couldn't help himself but lower things down to Jenks' level. Acting like an adult just isn't in Ozzie's DNA. So again, why do we put up with this constant verbal philandering from the manager of a team in one of the biggest baseball markets in America?

Let's just recap some of Ozzie's transgressions:

  • He publicly throws his players under the bus and tells the press when his players have stunk up the joint. This is a no-no for any manager. Criticism is always supposed to be handled with employees in house and in private.
  • He verbally spars with his bosses in the press and otherwise. Such a combative relationship with those who employ you is usually career-suicide. But thus far, Ozzie is still there and by all accounts, will be there for some time to come.
  • His ideas as a leader don't always work. His attempt to recreate the go-go Sox fell flat last year as the team struggled to score runs. Such creative decisions usually present a ticket to the unemployment line. No for Ozzie.

Now it may seem that this post is all about asking why Ozzie Guillen is still the manager of the Chicago White Sox. You couldn't be more wrong. This post is simply asking a question of why the White Sox and baseball put up with such shenanigans. To be honest, having Guillen around is a blast for the average fan who isn't particularly a fan of the White Sox. Who else in Guillen's position provides so much entertainment? Life in the MLB would be infinitely less interesting and more stodgy if Guillen wasn't providing his verbal gymnastics. Where would we be without his tweets and his bombast? We'd be a lot more bored.

This post isn't asking the question of what Guillen's...umm...approach to managing does to his team and if it has a negative or positive impact on his players. This writer isn't qualified to answer the question. There is no access to the players to know. That is a question that Kenny Williams needs to monitor on a weekly basis and report to his bosses. When Williams and his owner finally feel that Guillen is more of a negative than a positive, Guillen will be fired. But he hasn't been yet, so the bottom line has to be that Williams and his owner do not believe Guillen is a negative force for his team. That's the assumption we have to take.

This far, the reason we put up with Ozzie Guillen is that he is successful. He has now managed the White Sox for seven years. Those seven years include two first place finishes, a World Series title and 15 wins over the Pythagorean won-loss record the team should have had based on their run differential. His .529 winning percentage is higher than Jerry Manuel's was in the six years previous to Ozzie. And Manuel was as dull as they come with negative body language and a lack of inspiration. Ozzie, at least, will fight you tooth and nail to get to the finish line first. He may not always make it, but you know he's going to leave it all out there trying. Despite a fundamental flaw in the design of last year's team, he had them tied for first at one point after a terrible start. That's why we put up with Ozzie Guillen.

Some day, as inevitably as that the winter will some day end, Ozzie Guillen will reach a point where his antics do not remain lower on the judgment scale than the winning baseball he brings. Someday, Kenny Williams or the owner of the White Sox will say enough. But for now, the ultimate answer for why we put up with Ozzie is that because, for the most part, it works.

1 comment:

Parker said...

Came across this on a random Google search. I think the reasons Guillen has a job still is because he's good at it. He knows when to give his players slack, and he knows when to be aggressive.

I think it says something that certain players (who are perceived to be the total opposite of him, such as Konerko, Buehrle, Thome, etc.) speak so highly of him.

It's generally the "hard-nosed" types that love Guillen, and the primadonnas that clash with him. If it wasn't for the abrasive way he said things, he wouldn't be seen as crazy, but instead be seen as insightful. It's a thin line I guess.