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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

The Art of Winning?

by
Guy Bacci

It only took Ozzie Guillen a week to realize what most of us have known for the past few years: This group of White Sox needs a swift kick in the pants every once in a while.

After four consecutive spring losses, it seems Ozzie had enough of losing. He railed against his teamsí lack of intensity and desire, and his rant soon became public. "I don't care if we lose the games, but I don't like the intensity we had today," Guillen said. "I don't like what I see. I expect them to come with intensity every day -- if it's Spring Training, the first day of the playoffs, the last game of the season. I don't want them to lie down and relax.Ē

Sox fans have suffered the trance of Jerry Manuel for too long, and weíre thrilled to hear such statements from the new skipper. But if Guillen gets this testy in Spring Training, whatís he going to be like when the losses count? And how long will the Sox clubhouse be able to absorb his outbursts?

With the possible exception of Jose Valentin, the Sox are not an overly enthusiastic bunch. Thatís not to say they donít care. But they certainly donít ride emotion like their manager does. The stars of the team are mellow as opposed to flamboyant, stoic as opposed to fiery. Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee, Mark Buehrle -- they all lead by what they do on the field, not what they say in the clubhouse. And thatís not such a bad thing.

But when the team scuffles, theyíre instantly blamed for being lethargic. And when they start to slide, it seems they have a hard time getting out of it. Thatís where a low-key leader like Manuel became part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

Guillen refuses to let such problems linger. "I come here and give all my energy, waking up at 5 o'clock in the morning and ready to go, and I'm older then them," Guillen said. "I expect the players to come the same way. Whether you are playing three innings or nine innings, you better show up and play the game and have enthusiasm and thank the Lord for what kind of job you have.Ē

That kind of sentiment comes from a special man. Guillen has the energy and optimism of a 16-year-old. Whether his team succeeds on the field or not, Guillen is going to be a success. The respect he will show for the game, the energy he will give to the fans and the openness he will share with the media will make him a worthy MLB manager. The obstacle Guillen faces is getting his lackadaisical club to buy into his message.

After his spring rant, there was Paul Konerko saying all the right things. "It's never too early to have that attitude. It's safe to say we haven't had that here in the last few years. We were hard pressed to get that during the season, let alone Spring Training," Konerko said.

Iím convinced Konerkoís smoothness with the media is a partial reason why he garnered a lucrative contract a few years back. Konerko rarely passes blame, and he always says things fans want to hear. Case in point: "We practice everything down here -- taking ground balls, taking our swings. We might as well practice the attitude of winning," Konerko said. "There's an art to winning, and it's tough to get. But it's a good thing once you get it, and you can really ride it out."

Baby steps, Paulie. How about focusing on the art of hitting first? Then move on to the art of winning. Because without hitting, there wonít be any winning, no matter what kind of attitude Ozzie brings to the clubhouse. Guillenís efforts wonít matter much if Konerko fails to hit, Billy Koch fails to pitch, and Dan Wright fails to find the strike zone.

Speaking of Wright, itís looking more and more like heíll be back in the rotation, especially after his outing against the Cubs last Saturday. But Iím certainly not sold on Wright. He still appeared to struggle with his command, and when he was in the zone, he was often hit hard --Sammy Sosaís monster bomb the most glaring example.

Sure, Wright was a 14-game winner not long ago. But the sad reality is, heíll win the job by default. Jon Rauch once again looks like a creampuff. Neal Cotts shows flashes of brilliance, but has control problems of his own. The apparent worries go much deeper than Wright. Scott Schoeneweis continues to get rocked, supposedly while testing new pitches. From what heís shown so far, his new arsenal is abysmal, and heíll soon return to being a two-pitch pitcher. Thatís not a good sign for our third starter.

There are other concerns too. Wee Willie continues to have a Wee Little batting average. Jeremy Reed and Joe Borchard are hurt, putting all the pressure on Aaron Rowand to deliver. And, just recently, Joe Nossak resigned as bench coach for health reasons. Nossak was supposed to help Guillen navigate his rookie season. So much for that idea.

So yeah, it might be a long summer. But Ozzie Guillen has the fire the Sox need. Heíll do his best to make the 2004 campaign an enjoyable one. Hopefully his message wonít fall on deaf ears.


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.

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