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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Ozzie's Good Rant
by Hal Vickery

Some of it may have been blown out of proportion, but Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s discussion with the press last week about the effort his players were putting out was appropriate and perfectly timed. 

Everyone who knew Ozzie predicted that this moment would occur in one form or another.  In a radio interview before Ozzie’s royal chewing out of his players, Frank Thomas said, “Eighty percent of the time Ozzie will goof off, have a good time, and just be one of the guys, but the other twenty percent of the time, he’s serious, and you’d better listen.” 

The time for his players to listen came last Thursday following the Sox’ lackadaisical performance in a 5-4 loss at the hands of the San Diego Padres.  The way Guillen saw it, the Sox were going through the motions, and that is not what he has been preaching since camp opened.  So the manager decided it was time for his crew to receve a little reinforcement regarding his philosophy.

Guillen telegraphed his reason for his little rant as soon as he opened his mouth.   "I don't think we're playing good baseball, and I don't want this to get out of my hands,'' he began, “[It's] not because we lost [four] in a row. We're not playing the way we should be playing, and I'm not happy about the way we're playing.”

This already puts Ozzie miles ahead of former manager Gen. Disarray, who, after the Sox started the 2003 season with three straight losses to the Royals, said nothing.  Guillen recognizes that poor play is just as infectious as winning, and he’s about to nip that situation in the bud.

"The last two innings, we were dead in the dugout,” he continued.  “I come here and give all my energy, wake up at 5 o'clock in the morning ready to go. My coaches are ready to go. 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.

"You have a great job; just go out and do it every day. I know spring training gets old sometimes, but that's what you're paid for. I expect them to show up tomorrow and play a better game. I hope they read the [bleeping] paper tomorrow.”

Guillen is right.  In most jobs, you are expected to always put forth your best effort.  If you don’t, then it’s likely you’ll be having a conversation with your boss about why you aren’t.  The Sox have been playing corpseball for three seasons, but apparently no one has bothered to have that boss-employee conversation with them.  Guillen is out to make that there won’t be a fourth season of this kind of don’t-care attitude.

"They're not ready to play and I don't like it. I could care less what they think,” Guillen continued. “They know they have a friend here, but I don't [want this] to go the wrong way. I want them to show up tomorrow, and it should be the biggest game we're going to play.''

The great thing about Guillen is that he expects every game to be the biggest game the Sox are going to play, an attitude that hasn’t existed on the South Side for years. 

Guillen pointed out, "I show up here at 5 o'clock in the morning, 5:30.  They show up at 9:15, and I've got the same enthusiasm every day. And I'm older than them. They only play four or five innings, and the rest play two innings, and I have to be there with my coaching staff for nine innings. I get up every day ready to go, and I expect everybody to be ready to go.'' 

A lot was made by sportstalk radio hosts of Guillen’s dissatisfaction with the pitching performance of 21-game-winner Esteban Loaiza.  Of course, when quoted on the talk shows (at least the ones I caught), there was a key phrase left out. 

Guillen said, “I think he threw too many pitches.  I'm not saying I'm mad at him, but I didn't like the way he threw. If you throw 80 pitches in four innings, that's not a good sign.  He's a better pitcher than that.  His next start I want him to be more focused and pitch the way he should." 

Of course he is correct.  The problem is that at least in the comments I heard, this part was pretty much headlined, “Guillen tees off on team in general and Loaiza in particular.  Apparently a change in subject eludes the knotheads who host these call-in shows. 

Guillen followed up his “discussion” with the reporters with a team meeting Friday morning.  When it was over, Guillen told reporters, "If we played five innings every spring training [game] we would be undefeated," Guillen said. "I talked to them this morning. I'm not going to be the type of manager who is going to blast any of my players in the papers. I just told them we have to do the little things and play with enthusiasm." 

Ozzie needs to keep in mind that old habits are hard to break, and the corpseball legacy goes back at least three years.  If the Sox respond, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.


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.

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