A brief preface: Though it is not the express intent of this article, if it does manage to elicit even a tweet of a response from Ozzie Guillen himself, I could be buried tomorrow a happy man.
That said, the hot topic for the Chicago White Sox this fall has been the changing of the managerial guard from one beloved former left infielder, Guillen, to another, Robin Ventura.
General manager Kenny Williams hand-delivered Christmas early to baseball writers everywhere when he announced that Ventura will be calling the shots from the dugout next season. And Ventura most certainly will not be serving up Lemon Drops or Irish Car Bombs in the clubhouse.
He is well known for being a clean-cut, no-nonsense guy who quietly leads by example, not the loud and destructive Ozzie kind of “no nonsense” that brings back nightmares of my alcoholic ex-Marine Little League coach.
With only a season’s worth of experience as special adviser to director of player development Buddy Bell, Ventura’s progression as manager and how that translates to on-field success for the White Sox will be constant headline material.
But let’s discuss the decision that led to this new direction, taken ostensibly to right what this lifelong White Sox fan sees as a slowly sinking ship.
Was Kenny Williams wise to sever ties with the man ultimately responsible for leading Chicago’s black sheep of sports franchises to its only World Series title since before the Great Depression?
That fact alone would lead Ozzie enthusiasts in Chicago to feel like I will when Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore inevitably call it quits on their blissful marriage: heartbroken.
When you take into account his 13 years of service as a fan-favorite shortstop (including an AL Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glove Award, and three All-Star Game selections) and eight seasons of nonstop excitement as manager, the heartbreak goes from Ashton and Demi to A-Rod and Cameron Diaz levels of severity.
Guillen is well known, and was perhaps once upon a time most well liked by his players for his dealings with the media. It is no secret that he always did everything in his power to deflect from his players, and ultimately absorb himself, the constant flow of criticisms and negative attention from story-seeking reporters.
If there has ever been a person in baseball more willing to throw himself under the bus for his team’s sake, I have not heard of him.
We can parse through the numbers season by season, game by game. We can generate a formula that would make the Elias Sports Bureau squeal to trend Ozzie’s successes and failures over the course of his career.
I’m just a regular fan growing up in the dizzying age of technology, so my memory span rivals that of your standard goldfish. I prefer to keep it simple.
To understand if bringing an end to the Ozzie Era was the right move, which it was, all you have to do is take a survey of the past few seasons.
Question No. 1: Have the White Sox been able to rely on their regular marquee players for productive seasons?
The Sox lineup has been littered with average or disappointing years from pitchers Mark Buerhle, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Edwin Jackson, and hitters Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, Mark Teahan, Gordon Beckham and Adam Dunn (though to be fair, I don’t think even the great Connie Mack could squeeze anything out of Dunn).
There is no excuse for missing the playoffs five out of six years with a Klump-sized payroll loaded with talent most managers would cast an Unforgivable Curse to have.
Question No. 2: In light of the previous point, has Guillen been memorable for discovering any J.J. Barea's in recent years?
In other words, in absence of production from the heart of the lineup (minus Pope Paul and a few other saints), was Guillen known for coaxing big numbers out of the “little guys”?
Phil Humber shows promise, Juan Pierre has certainly put forth his best efforts and Sergio Santos has been a nice surprise. But where are my David Freeses? Or my Ben Wallaces circa his first stint in Detroit?
Question No. 3: Did Guillen’s off-field antics maintain purpose and effectiveness?
There is no debating the answer here. Absolutely not. And not only were they becoming counterproductive, but I strongly believe that the organization can point to this one-man media circus act as a big part of the White Sox recent struggles.
Whereas the shrewd baseball fan once found merit in Ozzie’s tactics throughout the first half of his tenure, his public spats since winning the World Series have felt more like the Ringling Bros Circus that annually evicts the Bulls and Blackhawks from the United Center.
Jay Mariotti, Wrigley Field, Cubs fans, Bobby Jenks and even Sox fans, Ozzie has basically told all of them, and countless others, where they can go stick it. Nobody concerned with the White Sox should care about the first three entrants on this list, but the last two are clear examples of running players out of town and yelling and screaming because he likes the way his voice sounds (or maybe he figures if enough people hear him speak, someone will inevitably feel compelled to correct his grammar).
Instead of distracting the public and the media from the White Sox, Guillen repeatedly got caught up in his own magical world of imaginary beefs that would make 50 Cent and Ja Rule proud.
Nobody will ever take the 2005 World Series away from Guillen. Nobody can ever take away the fact that he was the first Latin American manager to win the title.
But stripping Ozzie of his position as manager of the White Sox was perhaps the best move Williams has made as GM, even if privately for him it was a no-brainer.
It is very possible, dare I say probable, that the Robin Ventura Experience will be a struggle. But White Sox fans can rest assured that it will be a classy struggle devoid of a madman’s embarrassing Twitter ravings splashed across the front page of the Chicago Tribune.
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