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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Ozzie's Apology
by Hal Vickery

Well, Ozzie finally went and did it. He said something that his bosses apparently felt was enough over the top to require him to make an apology. Part of this really involves the stupidity of Commissioner Budlight’s “brain” child, the World Baseball Classic.

It also has to do with a lot of the stupidity of world athletics in general. It seems that if anyone can claim one ancestor from any given country, they are eligible to represent that country in world athletic competition, despite the fact that they were born in the United States. Thus we’ve seen American-born athletes representing Italy, Greece, and who knows what other countries on the world stage.

This same rule applies to the WBC (which stands for Was Budlight Crazy?). So some athletes had to make a decision. If they wanted to play in this hokey non-event, do they play for the land of their birth or for their ancestral homeland?

One of those players happened to be the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. Another was new Dodger Nomar Garciaparra. Rodriguez made a rather large production about whether to play with the Dominican Republic or the United States, at first declining to play for either supposedly so as not to disappoint anyone from either country, and then deciding to play for the United States team. Garciaparra’s decision was whether to play for the United States or for Mexico.

Ozzie, the proud Venezuelan with the golden mouth, decided to take a shot at both of them when he was interviewed for Sports Illustrated.

"Alex was kissing Latino people's asses,'' he was quoted as saying. "He knew he wasn't going to play for the Dominicans; he's not a Dominican! I hate hypocrites: He's full of ****. The Dominican team doesn't need his ass. It's the same with Garciaparra playing for Mexico. Garciaparra only knows Cancun because he went to visit.''

Very little was made of the comments towards Garciaparra, who has been reduced by injury to jouneyman status in baseball. A lot more was made about his comments towards Rodriguez, the richest player in baseball who also happens to play for the New York Yankees. You can imagine the response from the New York media. You can imagine the response from George Steinbrenner.

You can imagine the response of Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams when they saw the firestorm descending over their heads. The result was that Ozzie appeared before the media in Tucson on Friday to issue an apology.

Gullen denied any pressure, stating that he had trouble sleeping after hearing his comments quoted on television. This is quite possible. It is also quite probable that he had some assistance from above in his decision to issue a public apology. At any rate, Guillen made his act of contrition.

Ozzie told the media, "I'm going to have to apologize to Alex Rodriguez, his family, his fans, the New York Yankees organization and the White Sox organization because it's the first time I feel like I have done something wrong. I've been in a lot of controversial things before. I started this one, and I'm going to finish it.

"I don't call him a hypocrite that way. Alex Rodriguez is not a hypocrite. I was just trying to say he does not have to please people or make people from the United States or from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela happy. When you do that, you sound like you are a hypocrite….

"I've known Alex since he was 17 years old. I'm not going to say he is a good friend of mine, but I have a lot of respect for him. I said the wrong thing about the wrong guy.''

At the time he delivered his apology, Guillen said he was unsure as to whether he would call Rodriguez and apologize personally. Guillen also added that if Rodriguez wanted to take a shot at him in retaliation, he would take the second punch in just the same way as he would deliver the second punch if the circumstances were reversed.

Evidence that the decision to apologize was not entirely Ozzie’s came from GM Kenny Williams, who said on Friday, "Ozzie and I talked about it last night.”

Williams expressed hope that Ozzie would now stay out of the matter, calling whatever Rodriguez does “Yankee business.” He continued, “"We'll continue to practice 'no comment,' and we'll practice the 'no bleeping comment' in case [Ozzie] feels more comfortable.''

Ozzie immediately quashed that idea, saying, “"Kenny's got the wrong guy. You know why? Because if I say, 'No comment,' I feel guilty about something or I am lying about something I have to cover.''

So why did the White Sox and/or Guillen feel the necessity to apologize to Rodriguez? A good guess is that Rodriguez is a) the richest player in the game, b) a media darling, and c) the premier player for baseball’s premier franchise. It’s pretty obvious that the White Sox saw no upside to this.

What the Sox did see was the weight of the east coast media coming down on their manager at a time when he needs to concentrate on spring training. It’s hard to do that when you’re constantly fielding questions and hearing reports about the martyrdom of St. Alex to that evil satan in Chicago. One would hope that even Ozzie will have the common sense to keep his mouth shut now that he has issued his apology.

The lack of an apology to Garciaparra seems to support this theory. When asked if he would apologize to Garciaparra, Guillen said, “No, I thought that one was funny. It's true, though.''

Of course that one was funny. Garciaparra is now exiled on the west coast with the Dodgers. He isn’t a top player anymore. He won’t have the New York media juggernaut bearing down on the Sox in his support.

And besides, it’s pretty likely that Kenny Williams could only convince Ozzie to back down on the part of the quote regarding Rodriguez. That kind of compromise with Ozzie is as close to a victory as you’re going to get.


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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