Baseball is full of colorful characters. From the zany antics of the Loyal Order of Buffalo Heads in the 1970s to the modern day theatre that is Lou Piniella throwing a base into right field, there's no shortage of interesting characters in the Major Leagues.
More often then not, these quirky characters are embraced by fans for their unpredictable behavior and penchant for driving authority figures up the wall. However, if 15 years of careful baseball watching has taught me anything, the game is also full of people that fans love to hate for one reason or another.
The way I see it, there are three types of hated characters in baseball: the dishonest ones, the ones who leave your favorite team for greener pastures and/or more money, and the crybabies who feel they're always being hassled by the fans or the media.
The dishonest type of player is one who continually denies rumors about them that everyone knows is probably true. In this modern era of steroid allegations, the choice is obvious as to who the modern day poster child of this group is. If I have to tell you, then you obviously don't follow the game.
The greedy type of player is one who constantly complains about not earning enough money. When contract time approaches, he and his agent squeeze every penny out of the organization that is desperate to keep him because he means a lot to the team. When a player and his agent don't agree with what the GM thinks the player is worth, the player leaves for more money elsewhere. Modern day examples of these players are Johnny Damon and Torii Hunter.
Finally, there are the whiners and complainers, the ones who can't stand the fact that someone or something is more popular than they are. They're also the type of people who take any sort of criticism as a personal attack on their ability. They're not above telling off the media or the organization when this occurs. Most of the time, the manager is the biggest moaner on the team. Billy Martin is the classic example, tbut he modern day example is Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
Guillen's a guy who has yet to understand two facts of life in the rough and tumble city of Chicago. Number one: The White Sox, no matter how hard they try, are always going to be the second most popular baseball team in Chicago. Number two: Chicago is a passionate sports town full of fans and figureheads that are going to second guess moves the manager makes. They're also going to kick the team when they're down because they want to win. Guillen has yet to understand these two universal truths. instead of making the best of situation, he continue to hold grudges against certain members of the media and the more popular baseball team on the north side of the city.
Even though the Cubs have not won a World Series in exactly 100 years, there is still an aura about them. They've earned a reputation as a bunch of lovable losers and play in one of the most intimate and popular ballparks in the major league. A team that has those intangibles is hard to top in an American city, let alone Chicago.
Guillen doesn't see it that way. He believes that his team should be the most popular team in the city because they won a World Series. What he doesn't realize is that that happened three years ago and the White Sox have not returned to that caliber of play since. Therefore, instead of being angry at the Cubs for merely existing and the Cubs fans for not acknowledging the fact that his team has been more successful in recent years, he should learn to co-exist with Cubs. It's only fair because they were there first. You don't see Willie Randolph moaning to the New York press that his team gets no respect because he's mindful of the fact that the Mets are second to the Yankees in popularity. Guillen needs to stop whining about the respect issue, he's always going to be number two in the city whether he likes it or not.
Chicago is also a rabid sports town, there is more then one newspaper as well as two sports radio stations. Columnists and talk show hosts exist to give he readers and listeners what they want to hear. When the going gets tough, they're going to second guess people and tell others how they would have done it better. In passionate sports towns, that's an everyday occurrence. In Guillen's world, it's unfair and intolerable under any circumstances. If you criticize him, be prepared to be berated with salty language by an angry Latino who is tired of being hassled.
And so, I offer the following advice to both Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox organization - toughen up. Guillen needs to stop taking every piece of criticism so personally. It would also help if he dealt with reporters in a more tactful way. I understand that English is not Guillen's native language and that the press can be brutal, but that still doesn't give him the right to disrespect them by using offensive language that would make Tony Montana blush.
The organization, whether it be Jerry Riendorf or GM Ken Williams that does the talking, needs to be cognisant of the fact that Guillen is considered a nuisance to many people in the media. The fans may love him because he's blunt and honest, but he has yet to replicate the success he had three years ago.
I'm not calling for Guillen to be fired. I'm merely suggesting that anger management or a heart-to-heart conversation may be just what the doctor ordered to rectify this situation. If Ozzie continues to burn bridges with the media and Cubs fans, it will create as domino effect. The White Sox won't get much press, and the fans won't go to the games. If Guillen can stop taking criticism so personally and understand he'll always play second to fiddle to the Cubs, he'll earn more respect from the media and his peers.