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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Media Rain on Sox
by Hal Vickery

It’s becoming really fun to be a Sox fan these days. Not only are the Sox winning on the field, but the sideshow created by the sports media types is becoming absolutely hilarious as they try to find ways to rain on the Sox parade.

Here are a few examples from the past week:

•ESPN analyst and former pitcher Jeff Brantley ripping Sox manager Ozzie Guillen a new one for his handling of the bullpen in a couple of games.

•WSCR sportsblab host J. Hood asking Sox fans in his audience if Ozzie was right in “lashing out at fans and media people, or if fans and media have a right to criticize” his decisions.

•An article by Chris De Luca in Sunday’s Sun-Times that somehow equates Juan Uribe’s heads-up deke of the Cubs’ Derrek Lee with the Sox complaining about a rules violation by the Angels’ Brendan Donnelly.

First, let me say that I was unable to watch ESPN’s coverage of the Sox over the past week, so I won’t spend a lot of time commenting on it. It seems that Brantley’s main beef was that Guillen misused his “closer” Dustin Hermanson during Sox losses.

There is an assumption here that Hermanson actually is Guillen’s closer. I have yet to see Guillen make any such announcement. In fact, what Guillen has said throughout the season is that he has three pitchers who are capable of closing (Hermanson, Damaso Marte, and Shingo Takatsu) and that he will go with whoever he thinks can get the job done.

Granted, Hermanson has become Guillen’s de facto closer, mainly due to the loss of effectiveness by Takatsu and Marte’s inability at times to throw strikes. Still, even Hermanson has said that his job is to get three out no matter what inning he’s brought in.

I was at Wednesday game, and I was even more concerned about Timo Martinez starting at first base than I was about Hermanson coming into a game when the Sox were down by two runs.

As for Hood, I simply have a question: When exactly did Guillen come down on fans for criticizing his managerial decisions. I can remember Guillen going off on Brad Palmer (media type), and I can remember him going off on Brantley (media type). But for the life of me, I can’t remember him going off on Bob McCarthy (fan).

Does Ozzie think the fans have a right to criticize him? Based on what I’ve heard him say over the years at Windy City Sox Fans luncheons and at SoxFest where he’s taken questions from fans, I don’t think he questions that right. Based on his responses at those events, I know he won’t hesitate to tell fans that he disagrees with them, but I’m pretty sure Guillen knows that fans will always question his moves when they turn out wrong.

As for the media, that’s another story. Based on his behavior, my guess is that Guillen thinks of his relationship with them as adversarial. I think he came to that conclusion as the result of such incidents (but not limited to these) as:

1) His comments when he assumed command of the Sox about expecting everybody to bunt when the situation required it and “I don’t care if it’s Frank Thomas or Magglio Ordońez,” to be an attack on Thomas.

2) His comments, spiced with numerous expletives, in response to Ordońez calling him “my enemy” widely reported as being an unprovoked attack on Ordońez.

3) The general perception one can obtain from listening to and reading media reports about Gullen that he is a loose cannon.

Is it any wonder that Guillen has little patience with the media? I’m sure he’s also influenced by the reporting over the years by the media of Frank Thomas, especially in light of the free pass that a certain former member of the North Side club got despite bat corking and rumors of the use of performance enhancing drugs (at least until the Tribune Co. decided that they wanted to get rid of said player).

As if we need more evidence of the stupidity of the sports media in Chicago, all we have to do is turn to that article by De Luca, which begins, “It seems the White Sox' interpretation of baseball's unwritten rules has irked someone other than the Cubs.”

Two points for Mr. De Luca:

1) If you’ve ever watched middle infielders during any ball game, you’ve probably seen them fake taking throws from the outfield to slow them down. This is called a “deke,” Mr. De Luca, and this has been going on since the game turned professional in the late 1860s. It is also not unusual for players to shout, “Balk” to cause a pitcher to do just that. Ask Bill Simas. Players are taught in little league when coming into second to check the third base coach, not watch or listen to another player. The whole bit about it being an unwritten rule that players don’t deke other players was just more of Johnny B. Baker, Jr. being a blowhard.

2) On the other hand, it is a written rule that a player may not put his hand to his mouth while on the mound. This rule is dispensed with when the temperature is cold out. It was not dispensed with on Tuesday or Wednesday night when Donnelly went to his mouth. Guillen had the right to gripe, as did Mike Scosia, and you’d better believe that former catcher Scosia would have griped just as loudly as Guillen had the shoe been on the other foot.

Perhaps Mr. DeLuca should learn the rules of baseball before he writes about them. Of course that might make the story more favorable towards the Sox because it was Guillen’s heads-up action of catching Donnelly breaking the rules that led to his being caught not once, but twice.

Then De Luca’s theme would have changed from “Ozzie is a crybaby” to a story about a pitcher who didn’t learn from his first mistake and got caught in the same mistake again. As it was, De Luca managed to get this point in…twelve paragraphs into the sixteen paragraph story. Great job, Chris!

Of course these incidents are obviously aberrations in the completely fair and balanced reporting we’ve seen of the Sox all season. Right?


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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