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Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

The Tongue of Oz

by George Bova

":This is the Yankee Clipper."  It starts and the trip has hardly begun...

"Not the White Sox Clipper.  Yankee fans only."  He's smiling the whole time.

My son Pants and I are boarding New York's Metro North commuter train (his older sister Sweetpea was a late scratch suffering from stomach cramps; she's fine now) heading straight for Yankees Stadium.  Predictably, we're taking grief.  Not predictably, the grief is coming from the conductor of the train. 

He's joking of course.  "Tough loss last night."  He's referring to the tenth inning walk-off 3 run jack by Robinson Cano to beat our Sox to the prior evening.  One thing you can always count on about Yankees fans:  They're magnanimous winners.  They aren't quite so magnanimous when they lose but everything is simply sunshine and rainbows for them this summer.  They're in first place with a growing lead over their hated rivals from Boston.  They've even taken time out from booing Robinson Cano to now hail him as a Yankee great -- for the moment.  Again, they're only magnanimous when they win.

The conductor takes time to talk with us; he really isn't a bad guy at all.  "This could be their year to win their 40th pennant... and possibly their 27th championship.  Of course he meant "our" the whole time.  Pants and I were strictly on the outside looking in.  I just smile.  "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore," is what I'm thinking but keep to myself.

In case you've forgotten this particular Saturday afternoon Sox game on August 29 at Yankees Stadium (and as a Sox Fan it's better to forget this game as soon as possible), this defeat featured exactly ONE White Sox hit off the latest nobody to look like Cy Young pitching to our Sox, Sergio Mitre.  The final was 10-0 and it wasn't even that close.  I tell Pants this is easily one of the worst Sox defeats I've ever witnessed.  I'm certain I've never seen the Sox offense shutdown so thoroughly.  I was having flashbacks to the bad old days of 1988-89 at Old Comiskey where Jeff Torborg's Sox routinely fell hopelessly behind in the third inning and then left us 5,000 in attendance to be tortured six additional innings as the deficit kept growing.  Ah, memories... at least the 8th inning churros offered sugary fat relief.

I had two major fears on this trip to Yankees Stadium.  The first was how much grief Pants and I might take if the Sox didn't make at least a good showing.  The good news is nobody gave us any grief at all.  Again, the average Yankees fan is magnanimous in victory and this one was never in doubt.  They're precisely the opposite of Cubs fans.

The second fear was what might happen if Jake Peavy couldn't start and Ozzie was forced to start a rookie or minor league call up.  The bad news it was far worse than that:  Ozzie started Jose Contreras instead.

This is the same Contreras Ozzie had officially declared out of the rotation and relegated to the bullpen just five days earlier following yet another horrible outing in Boston.  If Ozzie's critics accuse him of coddling his veterans, Contreras is the example to largely disprove the theory.  Contreras is a past hero of the 2005 championship team but Ozzie was eager to jettison him from the rotation as soon as he believed he had a better option waiting in the wings. 

Who was this better option Ozzie had in mind?  Obviously it was Jake Peavy.  Ozzie never speaks his mind about Contreras last Monday if he isn't sure Peavy deserves the next start in the rotation five days later.  Too bad fate intervened.  After all, nobody else in the Sox system -- whether on the Sox roster or in the minor leagues -- ultimately got the start on Saturday inside Yankees Stadium.  When no better option was available, Ozzie went back to Contreras swallowing what he said just 5 days earlier.

Peavy was bruised in the elbow, ultimately left to pitch one extra rehab assignment  in Triple-A.  Peavy clearly is the Sox rotation replacement for Contreras just as soon as he is ready.  And this is where the story gets interesting. 

Did Ozzie willingly pick Contreras to sacrifice the loss in this game?  (We're assuming Ozzie had no idea Sox hitter would make Yankees starter Mitre look like Cy Young.) 

Would Ozzie ever willingly swallow his own words so soon out of his mouth -- especially on such a big stage as Yankees Stadium?

Did someone besides Ozzie make the decision for Ozzie, to hell with Ozzie's sentiments on the subject?

And here's the ultimate question:  What event eventually causes Ozzie to depart the Sox managerial seat?  Here's my guess:  Ozzie's final departure will be caused by an event that looks a lot like this current situation with Peavy and Contreras.  Ozzie doesn't swallow his pride easily.

Maybe what Ozzie Guillen and GM Kenny Williams and pitching coach Don Cooper say publicly about this situation can be taken at face value.  Maybe it can but I wouldn't believe a word of it.  Only Ozzie ever said Contreras was out of the rotation, not Williams or Cooper.

Maybe Ozzie, Kenny and Don all agreed Yankees Stadium was no place to start an inexperienced pitcher against the league's best team.  This is reasonable to assume.    But is it reasonable to assume all three of them share equally the inevitably-disastrous results caused by the mistakes that left Contreras as the best of a set of lousy options Guillen was forced to choose from for Saturday's Sox starter?  No way.

Maybe Kenny is okay letting Contreras start one more game, and maybe Guillen is resigned to letting Kenny sell his idea as the best of the lousy options left for Guillen to choose from, but no way is Guillen out running his mouth last Monday if he isn't bristling at the notion that the word "best" be attached to any option including Contreras starting another game for the Sox.

The truth is Ozzie Guillen is untouchable as Sox manager unless Ozzie's own tongue gets him fired.  He's the first Sox manager to win a world championship since Pants Rowland in 1917 and the core of his team believes in his methods.  If this core of players ever turned on Ozzie (Buehrle leading the pitchers; Konerko/Dye/Thome leading the position players ), they are as likely to be sent away as Ozzie.  The Sox front office builds around the veteran core of players only to the extent that Kenny approves of their methods and ability -- and Kenny has never been a big fan of dissent.  Just ask Nick Swisher and Brian Anderson.

Ozzie stays as long as Ozzie wants to stay.  That's why Ozzie's tongue is so important.  On Ozzie's Tongue does the whole future of the Sox clubhouse -- if not the team's entire fate -- ultimately rest.

If Ozzie ever gets fired it will be because some Chicago sports mediot goads him into saying something Ozzie ultimately wishes he didn't say.  The city's biggest media troll lost his job at the Sun-Times over a year ago so Ozzie seems safe for now.  That leaves only one other likely place for Ozzie's Tongue to finally terminate Ozzie's tenure as Sox manager:  Ozzie's brain finally says, "Enough is enough" and simply allows Ozzie's Tongue to lash out at the front office.  As Swisher and Anderson know, Kenny Williams will only abide so much dissent.

If Ozzie ever decides he has accomplished all he wants to accomplish managing the Sox (and he has already accomplished more than nearly any other Sox manager in franchise history), he'll walk away -- probably with a few choice words just days or weeks before he leaves.  When it all finally happens it will be Ozzie's Tongue giving us all a clue what the near future will hold.

What could possibly provoke such thoughts inside's Ozzie's brain is precisely the same as the futility of publicly asking for a better pitcher to start a big game -- possibly a must-win game for a third-place Sox team sliding below .500? -- and getting nothing for the effort besides a chance to look a bit foolish starting the same worn-out pitcher you just declared out of the rotation? 

Watch what Ozzie does these next five weeks, but more than that listen to what Ozzie says.  The man is far more transparent than his broken English might lead you to believe.  When Ozzie is disgusted, he has little trouble expressing it.

Ozzie's Tongue is our window to far more than just routine managerial cliches served up in Span-glish.


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive.  You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com


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