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Kansas City Blues

Picking a Skipper


by
Guy Bacci

Okay, so Iím biased. Very biased. My heart wants Ozzie Guillen over Cito Gaston. There is a good reason for this. I adored Guillen as a player. (Is there a Sox fan who didnít?) And Guillen is the only player Iíve ever met personally, in 1990 when I had an opportunity to visit the Sox clubhouse. He actually took the time to converse and sign autographs with my family. That may seem like a little thing, but Guillen was always known for doing the little things.

In contrast, my clearest memory of Cito Gaston is from the 1993 All-Star Game in Baltimore. The AL was protecting a small lead late in the game, and Gaston began warming up a young Oriole pitcher named Mike Mussina. Everyone expected that Mussina would get an appearance in the 9th inning to appease the hometown crowd. To the dismay of the fans, Mussina never made it in the game. While the crowd chanted ďWe want Mike!Ē Gaston appallingly went with his own Blue Jay pitcher, Duane Ward.

I could write an entire article on Gastonís All-Star blunder and how it changed the face of the All-Star game forever. But it wouldnít have anything to do with Gaston as a White Sox manager. Thatís the problem with following your heart. It doesnít always make sense.

So what does make sense? Gaston or Guillen? I probably would have said Gaston until I read a quote in the Chicago Tribune that made my jaw hit the floor:

ďSeveral Sox players reportedly are pushing for Guillen to get the job, including free-agent second baseman Roberto Alomar, who has told friends he's a slam dunk to return if Guillen is hired.Ē

Wow. Does this imply Alomar wants Guillen over Gaston? No, but itís still surprising to hear, especially when Alomarís former manager is one of the prime candidates. Keep in mind, Alomar is great friends with Guillen. But Alomar has recently praised Gaston too. Does this mean Alomar would also be a slam-dunk with Gaston? Maybe... but maybe not. Alomar is guaranteed if Guillen is the choice. Again, wow.

If Guillen is anointed Sox savior, and Alomar is behind him 100-percent, wouldnít all the other veterans likely fall in line? Thatís a major plus for Guillen. What else would make Guillen a great manager? Heís certainly fiery. He would be great with the fans and media. Heíd inject liveliness in the clubhouse. He was a co-captain of the early Ď90s Sox teams that had great success on the field. Heís been an integral part of a Marlins team that has reached the World Series. (Of course, so was Jerry Manuel, but hey, this is a much different Marlins team.) Iím starting to think my heart might be right after all.

But there are so many unknowns with Guillen. Can he handle a bullpen? How will he deal with disgruntled players? Is he ready to move from Marlins small-ball to White Sox long balls? No doubt, itís a gamble going with Guillen. But is Gaston guaranteed to be better?

Since I know little about Gaston and his managerial reign in Toronto, I asked fans on the Blue Jays message board at ESPN their opinion of Gaston. The general consensus appears to be that Gaston handled his bullpen extremely well and was great for a veteran team. He struggled developing a few players (Shawn Green in particular) but overall had success with young talent. It all sounds pretty good, but there are two glaring flaws: 1) Gaston is extremely low-key, which obviously didnít work in the Gandhi regime. 2) Many Toronto fans think anyone with a pulse could have won championships with the early-Ď90s Blue Jays. Maybe those two facts are what have prevented Gaston from landing a job sooner.

So where does this leave the debate? Honesty, Iíd be happy with either choice, especially if the alternative is Buddy Bell or Terry Francona. But a choice must be made. In searching for the answer, I was intrigued by a quote from a Blue Jay fan on another Blue Jays board:

ďCito may or may not be a great manager ... it is possible that anyone could have managed those early 90s teams. But certainly his accomplishments are such that he deserves a chance to prove that to be false, and he has deserved his chance for some time.Ē

Ah ha, so is that why Cito should get the job? To find out if those World Series wins were a fluke? I think thatís exactly why Cito would get the nod. People seem to be blinded by World Series rings. Iím not falling for it. Iím sticking with Guillen, not because my heart says so, but because my mind says so.

I could turn out to be terribly wrong. A bad decision could sink the Sox for many years to come. But Guillen is a risk worth taking. He will not be another Jerry Manuel, win or lose. Gaston, on the other hand, could be Manuel all over again, allowing our notoriously lackadaisical veterans to play uninspired and watching the clubhouse implode. Does anyone want to risk seeing that again? I sure donít. I say go with Ozzie, and then pray.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back.† He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player.† His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay).† Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

More features from Guy Bacci here!

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