We've all got that friend.
You know what I'm talking about. The friend whom you love hanging out with, but you try to keep away from other people.
The friend whom you know might raise a few eyebrows or rub certain people the wrong way.
Yes. I see you know what I'm talking about. You probably just rolled your eyes and said, "That friend."
Well, for the Chicago White Sox, Ozzie Guillen is that friend. And once again, it looks like he's getting on other people's nerves.
Here we go again
I didn't pick up today's Sun-Times. Mostly because I didn't have time, but partially because the Sox hadn't played the day before.
In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't, as Jay Mariotti probably would have had some more to say about Sunday's game against Kansas City. Seeing as how Jay has made many of his checks by hating on the Wiz, there was no doubt a double feature about how Guillen is a classless individual that's ruining the already sordid image of America's pastime, throw in a Barry Bonds reference, talk about the time he called me a 'fag', blah blah blah.
This is not to diminish the event. I am not a proponent of fighting, and even though I still crow about the haymaker James Shields threw at Coco Crisp on my birthday, I never want to see someone get seriously hurt playing baseball, which is, at its core, a child's game.
But the facts are out there: Fighting happens in baseball. Players get hit all the time. Some of them think it's for a reason. Words are exchanged, punches fly, benches clear, and SportsCenter has its lead for the late show. It's a circle of life kind of thing.
What happened to the old school?
The big story out of this is not just that players fought and suspensions were handed out. The big story was that Ozzie publicly admitted that he has ordered pitchers to throw at people.
It really wasn't a secret to Sox fans. You listen on the radio or watch on TV, and you'll hear Ed Farmer or Hawk Harrelson say some equivalent of, "Well, you knew that was coming." They're former ballplayers; they know the score. In fact, they've mentioned many a time that you used to see it way more often than you do now.
When I was younger, I couldn't believe it. In little league, I got hit in the knee once and after that, I was a little cautious (to put it mildly) about leaning over the plate. So why would a major league manager order a purpose pitch?
Now that I'm older, I realize that it serves just that: a purpose. Goose Gossage was quoted last week, before being inducted into the Hall of Fame, that he would throw pitches way inside to keep batters honest and scare them a little. That intimidation factor kept opposing hitters from getting comfortable against him.
Sure sounds like a good strategy.
Besides that, Farmer will mention from time to time that if you were to hit a homer off Don Drysdale, you were getting plunked in your next at-bat. It was that simple. What's more, players knew it was coming and accepted it. They might take a trip to the mound and have a "discussion" with Drysdale, but it was part of the game.
Now, you have warnings, ejections, suspensions, and all kinds of policing measures. And I'm not sure why or when things changed.
To punish an honest man
I just read an article by fellow BR writer Jerry Burnes, saying that Ozzie needed to be punished more severely by the White Sox for his actions. He also said what many people throughout the sports media have been saying since he was hired: Ozzie is a distraction.
One, I don't see him as a distraction. I see Ozzie as a passionate, in-the-game manager that knows when to step back, and who knows when to fire his team up. He's said over and over that the Sox flopped when he mellowed out last year, so he was not going to hold back this year.
Two, I don't believe it's fair to punish Ozzie for being honest. There are other managers in baseball that have had a longer career that Guillen, and I guarantee you they've ordered some purpose pitches in their lifetime. But to single out the one person that was forthcoming? Wrong.
Ozzie Guillen deserves better treatment than he has gotten from the Chicago, and national, media. They treat him like a clown or a carnival sideshow. I've heard many people deride his accent before they criticize his managing style, which is wrong as well.
But I like Ozzie for his forthrightness, honesty, and unwillingness to sit back and let things happen to him or his team.
He's made mistakes. He shouldn't have called Jay Mariotti a fag. He shouldn't have screamed at Sean Tracey. He shouldn't have come at Dave Duncan's head. He's made mistakes.
But so have you and I. The only difference is that our mistakes aren't headline news the next day.
Besides, you haven't heard the players come out and say that Ozzie is bad for the White Sox. If they don't mind him leading them, why should we?
In the end, that's what's good.