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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Manuel's Alibis

"Not my fault," says General Disarray!

Several years ago I worked with a guy who came to the school at which I was teaching from a nearby district.  He volunteered the story of how he left.  “Every time I sent a disciplinary problem to the dean, he’d send him right back.  The guy just wouldn’t back up the staff when it came to discipline and the kids were running wild in the school.”   

Most of us who heard the story were sympathetic.  My response was, “I can see why you left.  You have to get backing from the administration when it comes to discipline.” 

It wasn’t long, however, before I began noticing something about this guy.  Like his first hour class standing out in the hallway waiting for him to show up in the building ten minutes after first period began, and like how this occurred at least three days a week. 

Then there was the time when I missed a page that my students would need later in the period, so I sent an assistant to the office to make the twenty or so copies I needed for that class.  It should have been a five minute job to go to the copy room, make the copies, and come back.  It took him nearly a half hour. 

When I got a chance, I asked my assistant, “What took so long.” 

His reply was, “Mr. Smith [not his real name, as they always used to say in “Dear Abby”] was making copies when I got there, and he didn’t finish up until just a couple of minutes ago.” 

That was interesting.  Mr. Smith had a class that period.  After checking around, I found out after doing some checking that he had left his class unattended the whole time. 

It came as no surprise to me when I found out several months later that Mr. Smith would not be returning the following year.  What did surprise me was his reasoning as to why he was not rehired. 

“I knew I wouldn’t be back the day I backed into the car of one of the school board members,” he said.  “They’ve been out to find an excuse to fire me ever since.” 

Such people have become known as “Alibi Ikes” after a character in a story by Ring Lardner about a Cubs pitcher who had an excuse for everything that went wrong.  The story was later made into a movie starring comedian Joe E. Brown.  You can see it every now and then on Turner Classic Movies

Have you ever noticed that whenever anything goes wrong with the White Sox, Gen. Disarray is quick to point out how it is never his fault? 

In one game earlier this season the general was asked in the post-game news conference about a decision that was made after he was thrown out of the game by the umpire.  The general talked about it being bench coach Joe Nossek’s decision.  Nossek becomes acting manager when the general is tossed. 

I remember reading a book about the 1908 pennant race that was composed of newspaper stories mainly covering the New York Giants.  One of the articles talked about how John McGraw had a little cubby hole behind the dugout in the old (wooden) Polo Grounds where he could see the game without being seen and tell his acting manager what moves to make. 

I can also remember watching games as a kid in which the manager was thrown out in which Jack Brickhouse would point out that the manager was standing in the tunnel just behind the dugout and that he was still making all of the decisions.  

“The only rule regarding this,” Brickhouse would note, “is that the umpire can’t see the manager.  But he’s there making all the decisions.”

I can even remember years after that when the cameras at ball parks improved seeing shots of the manager standing in the shadows behind the dugout. 

From all of this, the only conclusion I can reach is that either Gen. Disarray is a liar, and the decisions made after he is tossed really are his (like pitching in the tenth inning to David Ortiz in last Wednesday’s loss to Boston when Ortiz already had an RBI single and a two-run homer under his belt) or that Manuel is an idiot and doesn’t know that he can continue running the team behind the scenes. 

The past couple of weeks have contained a couple of classic examples of the general’s passing the buck to his underlings.  When Neil Cotts was thrown to the wolves at Yankee Stadium in place of Mark Buehrle, Gen. Disarray was quick to point out, “It was a staff decision.”  The general couldn’t possibly take the blame.  It was shared among all of his staff, whoever they may be. 

Then there was the case in Wednesday’s game in which third base coach Bruce Kimm waved in Aaron Rowand who was out by ten to fifteen feet an a nice toss from Manny Ramirez to Nomar Garciaparra, who then threw a bullet to catcher Jason Varitek.   

I was watching the game at home, and based on the sequence of camera shots, it looked to me as if Rowand was barely to third base, if that far, when Ramirez made that toss to Garciaparra.  I was screaming, “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!” at the set.  Unfortunately, Kimm and Rowand didn’t hear me. 

When asked about the play after the game, Gen. Disarray’s response was, “You’d have to ask Bruce about that.” 

And if you want to be one hundred percent accurate, you’d have to say the general is right.  That is a split-second decision by the third base coach.  However, you would expect the same thing from the manager of a ball club that I would expect from a principal if I made a mistake:  backing in public and a private chewing out.  

Instead of Gen. Disarray saying to his lieutenant, “I’ve got your back,” Disarray left Kimm twisting in the wind. 

But then again, if he said anything to back Kimm, that might involve the general taking some of the heat for something that goes wrong, and that’s just not in his nature.


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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