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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

Our Guy Ozzie

by George Bova

It never gets boring being a Sox Fan and one of the prime reasons is our mercurial manager, Ozzie Guillen. The guy is a gem and an unappreciated one at that. He's our guy, for better or worse, and what Sox Fan can deny it has never been better for us than what Ozzie has served up the last 3 seasons.

Mind you, this opinion is coming from somebody who was against signing Ozzie as new Sox manager back in 2003. Besides being unconvinced Ozzie had the managerial acumen to deliver a championship, I also mistakenly believed Ozzie would just keep putting his foot in his mouth and make an unholy mess of things in the clubhouse.

I was wrong on both counts.

Ozzie hasn't just controlled his clubhouse, he has gotten results from his players none of us might have expected. I mean did anyone seriously think after the 2004 mess of a season that the 2005 White Sox would go all the way? And instead of putting his foot in his mouth, Ozzie's crazy motor-mouth comments have placed all the media's headlines on himself (usually negative headlines, too) freeing up his team to laugh it off and perform without the daily interrogations.

It's genius... pure genius... even if Ozzie never intended it as so.

He speaks better Spanish than English, but who cares? A large portion of the Sox clubhouse appreciates Ozzie's fluency in their native tongue, and since they're the ones living here and having to adjust to English everywhere else they travel during the season, who better than Ozzie (and family) to help these guys feel at home at the ballpark?

Ozzie speaks a winner's language, and no ballplayer on the South Side -- or Sox Fan -- could ever disrespect that!

He shot his mouth off about former-Sox Magglio Ordonez and the team just kept winning. He returned fire with Magglio over and over... and it made no difference. The Sox kept winning.

That's control. And that's confidence. Ozzie the manager has both.

Brandon McCarthy made some rather innocuous remarks about liking his new Texas clubhouse atmosphere better than the one he just left, so here comes Ozzie with an earful for anyone willing to listen.

It's 100 percent predictable. It's Ozzie's team and Ozzie's clubhouse, and anyone who has a disparaging comment to make about Ozzie's team or Ozzie's clubhouse -- no matter how innocuous it might seem -- had better know Ozzie will be ready with a retort. And he'll probably return the favor with interest, too.

Then there is what had become the annual Frank Thomas Soap Opera, played out every spring since long before Ozzie Guillen ever became Sox manager. Anyone doubting our guy Ozzie as a true gem needs to recall that whole scene dating back to the late-90's.

While still brand-new to the position, Ozzie had no problem publicly calling out the franchise's undisputed greatest hitter of all-time for not being more of a team player. The wails from Ozzie's detractors were deafening, many of them taking time out from being full-time Frank Thomas detractors in order to join the chorus. The mediots can be such hypocrites...

So how did Frank Thomas respond to what Ozzie had to say? Frank put up two of his best half-seasons in several years, each shortened by what eventually was proven to be a very serious injury. Even Ozzie can't fix everything.

Frank Thomas stood on the champions' podium on October 28, 2005 holding the World Series trophy and thanked everyone on the team and in the organization for dragging his "big butt" across the finish line. That's the championship finish line. And that's Ozzie's team and Ozzie's organization Frank was talking about. To this very day it's the only championship Frank Thomas has to his name.

Still not convinced about our guy Ozzie?

Consider some more history with Frank Thomas. The guy was riding a Hall-of-Fame express train his first eight seasons inside Major League Baseball. If his credentials for induction have been smeared at all, it was only because of the petty and vindictive nature of Ozzie's predecessor to fail in dealing with the same inflated ego that Ozzie had no problem conquering and pushing to new levels of achievement.

Who can forget the unforgettable shuttle run Jerry Manuel made Frank run? Did that make the Sox champions? Hardly. In retrospect it isn't surprising at all to see Frank's biggest failures all began with the arrival of a lousy manager, and just as quickly ended once the lousy manager was shown the door.

Manuel's special genius was to find each ballplayer's unique weakness and magnify it. If Frank can't throw, make him play first base. If Jim Parque has a sore shoulder, leave him on the mound to suffer. If Jose Paniaqua has no major league talent, let him pitch a critical game.

Ozzie's player never give up on Ozzie, but it was painfully obvious to nearly all Sox Fans that the players gave up on Manuel long before he was shown the door. They stopped believing all that "Gandhi" nonsense long before the 2003 collapse.

Ozzie's players never give up on Ozzie. Not even after he said "we suck" in September, 2005 did they ever give up. In fact the smartest ones in the clubhouse probably laughed and shook their head in agreement. For most of September they really did suck. Manuel said nothing and how did the 2003 season turn out?

Not to criticize Manuel too much. He was actually an upgrade over his predecessor, Terry Bevington. Now there was a true managerial buffoon!

See how big of an improvement Ozzie truly is?

Yes, Ozzie's genius is to place his ballplayers in roles where they can succeed. He expects them to execute and he gets upset when they don't, but you never see Ozzie doing something foolish like throwing a punch or baiting an umpire. Those are the sorts of antics I wrongly thought Ozzie would commit when he was hired.

Meanwhile other teams hire these sorts of buffoons and the local media fawn all over them.. Go figure, Sox Fans.

Ozzie is just crazy enough to win the Sox another world championship. This isn't to say that one isn't enough. After all, the last manager from Chicago before Ozzie to accomplish this feat was skipper during the dead ball era and went by the nickname Pants. How soon we forget how unique Ozzie's accomplishments already have been!

Ozzie has plenty to say. That's the worse anyone can say about him.

It's also the best that can be said of him, too.


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

More features from George Bova here!

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