First a disclaimer: I am not a diehard White Sox fan like Jerod. I was not born in the Midwest and I am not particularly tied to the fortunes of those particular professional teams.
However, I am a student at Northwestern University, which allows me to witness the microscope both Chicago baseball teams are placed under.
And, as a neutral observer, I have to make a confession.
I think Ozzie Guillen is awesome.
Are there better tactical managers? Eh, maybe. I don’t know. I’m not the best person to say. Each manager has his own particular strength on the tactical side of things.
But, based on my own outside observation, there doesn’t seem to be a manager that gets his guys to play harder for him than Ozzie.
Personally, I think Ozzie has such success because he has a team with several key veterans. The leaders of that team – Dye, Thome, Konerko – are all guys that have been around for quite some time. They all know their roles and Ozzie knows his. With a younger team? I don’t know. Ozzie might not have the patience to deal with a bunch of rookies.
But Ozzie’s skills as a manager are not what I like the most about him.
What I like most about Ozzie Guillen is that he is never boring.
Seemingly every day, there’s a new story involving something off-the-wall regarding Ozzie. Most recently it was his comments about how he hates Wrigley Field that caused a big hullabaloo.
I thought it was pretty funny to see Ozzie come out against Wrigley (which, by all accounts, is a tomb underneath the seats in the locker rooms) and see people react negatively to those comments.
Although there wasn’t that much of a negative response – people are starting to get used to Ozzie’s antics. What did you expect? Ozzie to come out and say that Wrigley is the greatest ballpark in the major leagues?
My favorite Ozzie story comes from a game I attended between the Texas Rangers and the White Sox in Arlington on June 14, 2006. The White Sox were defending their 2005 title well, entering the contest with a 40-24 record. The Rangers were clinging to first place with a 34-31 record.
The game itself was a clunker, with the Rangers running away with it early, scoring 4 runs in the third inning to go up 5-0. What is notable is what happened in that game. Vicente Padilla, the almost certainly crazy right-hander, hit A.J. Pierzynski twice in his first two trips to the plate.
The Rangers pounded Javy Vasquez for six runs in six innings, so he was lifted for young reliever Sean Tracey, making his third major league appearance, entering the seventh with the White Sox trailing, 6-0.
Lefty Hank Blalock was leading off the inning for the Rangers, having already doubled and homered in the game. Tracey’s first pitch was way inside; in fact, it went behind Blalock. The next couple of pitches went for strikes, but the fourth pitch was again a ball inside. Blalock, however, was not hit, and grounded out to second base on the next pitch.
Tracey was then pulled for Agustin Montero, who finished off the game, giving up a pair of runs in the eighth. Tracey was immediately optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the game, and wouldn’t make another appearance for Chicago for more than another month.
Ozzie said after the game that he brought Tracey in specifically to hit Blalock, regardless of whether or not he would have been thrown out.
Above all else, that’s why I love Ozzie. He does things his way and doesn’t worry about what people think.
So here’s to you Ozzie – thanks for being Ozzie.