Showing posts with label Ozzie Guillen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ozzie Guillen. Show all posts

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ozzie Guillen to manage again -- in Venezuela

Ozzie Guillen
Every now and then, you hear somebody ask either White Sox manager Robin Ventura or GM Rick Hahn if they think Ozzie Guillen will manage in the major leagues again.

Their answers are usually some combination of "yes" and "I hope so."

I'm a little more skeptical. Guillen, who managed the Sox to their only World Series title in the last 99 years in 2005, left the organization on bad terms after the 2011 season. He feuded publicly with then-GM Ken Williams, apparently failing to realize the GM wins the overwhelming majority of the time in GM-manager power struggles.

Then, Guillen managed the Miami Marlins in 2012, where he praised Fidel Castro, went 69-93 and got fired after one season.

Even though Guillen has proven himself as a manager, I would be surprised if another major league team gives him a shot. With the way the media culture is today, front offices like to control the message they put out to the public, and it's just impossible to muzzle Ozzie Guillen. He's the type of man who is not afraid to let you know what he thinks, and he'll give you an honest answer to any question -- even if it's not what the questioner or the public wants to hear.

I don't necessarily think that's a bad trait to have, but teams just don't want someone with that type of personality to be the face of their franchise anymore.

It's different in Venezuela, where Guillen is a national hero, and he's getting another shot to manage in his native land. Guillen was hired Wednesday to manage the La Guaira Sharks of the Venezuelan Winter League next offseason.

The La Guaira team president and vice president said in a statement that hiring Guillen, "has been an aspiration of ours since we acquired the team in 2004."

I'm sure a lot of people will be happy to see Guillen back working in the game, even if it is just the Venezuelan league. But will it lead to something more down the line? You never know, but I doubt it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The six best recent White Sox reunions

If the theme to "Welcome Back Kotter" wasn't enough to get you stoked for the return of former first-round White Sox draft pick Brian Anderson, maybe a listing of other favorite sons returned home to U.S Cellular Field will.

Two things the Sox have been noted for over the years are loyalty and a love of all things familiar. So they haven't been shy about giving players an extra spin in their uniform, and that extends beyond former prospects like Anderson and Kip Wells, who missed both comeback lists.

Let's start with the best, going back only through the New Comiskey Park Era:

6. Scott Podsednik
First tenure: 2005-2007, .270/.333/.354 batting line, 111 stolen bases
Second stay: 2009, .304/.353/.410, 30 SB
In need of an extra outfielder as the team was still trying to make something of Anderson's first stint, and with an injury-prone Carlos Quentin in left field, the Sox turned to one of their former World Series heroes.

To me, Podsednik was a better hitter late in his career than when he was the electrifying leadoff man earlier in his career. By then he had found more balance to his hitting approach, not trying to pull the ball as much as his forgettable final season in Milwaukee, but willing to turn on balls enough to keep pitchers honest, which he didn't always do with his slappy approach when first joining the Sox.

Age and injuries took their toll, and Podsednik didn't have much career left after leaving the Sox again. But he was a pretty nice lift for a flawed Sox team that needed one.

5. Freddy Garcia 
First tenure: 2004-2006, 42-21, 4.26 ERA
Second stay: 2009-2010, 15-10, 4.56 ERA
Garcia was part of the vaunted World Series-winning rotation, and friend and family member of manager Ozzie Guillen. Injuries limited his time on the mound between Sox stays (only 73 IP between 2007-08, and 56 his first comeback season in Chicago), but Garcia capably filled a hole in the back of the rotation through 2010, even though he wasn't the workhorse he was earlier in his career.

4. Jim Abbott 
First tenure: 1995, 6-4, 3.36 ERA, 112 1/3 IP 
Second stay: 1998, 5-0, 4.55 ERA, 31 1/3 IP 
Abbott was famous for becoming a big league pitcher with only one hand. After a few down seasons with the Yankees, Abbott signed as a free agent with the Sox. He held up his end of the bargain in 1995, but with the Sox going nowhere, he was traded to the Angels, where he began his career, for a bundle of prospects that included Bill Simas, John Snyder and McKay Christensen.

The revival didn't last in Anaheim, where Abbott was OK down the stretch, but bottomed out the next year with a 7.48 ERA and a 2-18 record in which he led the league in losses. (Abbott also had two losses in AAA that year, even if the magical 20 didn't all happen in the big leagues.)

In need of another comeback, Abbott came back to the Sox in 1998, and after a brief minor-league audition, rolled through September with a perfect record thanks to some average-ish pitching and some huge run support.

Abbott's career ran out of steam for good the next year in Milwaukee, but his last run on the South Side helped make a second-half surge from the Sox a little more entertaining.

3. Carl Everett 
First tenure: 2003, .301/.377/.473, 10 HR 
Second tenure: 2004-05, .255/.314/.428, 28 HR
Everett was a midseason pickup in 2003, hitting like a monster out of center field, even if his glove left plenty to be desired. He probably would have been back with the Sox if his big salary ($9.15 million in the last year of his contract) wouldn't have made any Chicago offer look like a massive pay cut.

Instead the Expos signed him to a two-year, $7 million contract, and almost immediately regretted it. No longer able to handle center field, and also unable to hit for both average and power like he did in his prime, Everett was shipped back to the Sox in 2004 after Frank Thomas was lost for the year because of injury.

Still under contract, Everett started 2005 as the regular designated hitter while Thomas was still on the mend. When the Big Hurt's return was short-lived, Everett again took up most of the DH at-bats.

While his overall body of work during his return to the Sox was unimpressive, call this a results-oriented ranking. Everett did spend most of the year providing the team with a competent bat at a position that requires a minimum of that. He also batted .300/.333/.300 in 43 postseason plate appearances to help the Sox to a World Series title they maybe don't win if Timo Perez is the regular DH.

2. Harold Baines 
First tenure: 1980-1989, .288/.341/.462, 176 HR 
Second stay: 1996-97, .309/.394/.490, 36 HR 
The first overall pick of the 1977 draft, Baines was so beloved that his number was retired when he was traded to the Rangers during the 1989 season. After knee injuries early in his career forced him into a DH role, Baines was arguably just hitting his stride as a professional hitter, batting .321/.423/.505 for the Sox at the time of the deal.

Even adjusting for a higher offensive era, Baines was a better hitter from age 31 and onward (.290/.372/.468) than he was through the first 10 seasons of his career. When the Sox needed to add a designated hitter before the 1996 season, Baines was a natural fit.

After helping power a potent offense on a team that should have won the AL Wild Card, he was back again in 1997, out-hitting mega-free agent Albert Belle before the disappointing Sox shipped Baines out to another stay in Baltimore ahead of the infamous White Flag trade. When the team said the trade was about helping Baines get a chance to win a title, not about giving up on the season, Robin Ventura famously quipped, "Isn't that what we're supposed to be doing here?"

1. Ozzie Guillen 
First tenure: 1985-1997, .265/.287/.339, Rookie of the Year (1985), 3x All-Star (1988, 1990, 1991), Gold Glove winner (1990)
Second stay: 2004-2011, 678-617 (.524 win percentage), 2005 World Series Champion, 2005 Manager of the Year
Players rarely return to former teams as managers and find much success, but Guillen did.

As a slappy-bat shortstop, Guillen only flirted occasionally with being an OK hitter. He became a lineup stalwart because of a glove that, depending on whom you ask, was either overrated or underrated. Nobody says he wasn't a good defender.

Guillen spent a few years as a utility infielder after leaving the Sox, and went from playing for the Devil Rays in 2000 to coaching with the Expos the next season. He was part of the Florida Marlins staff that won a World Series in 2003 before replacing Jerry Manuel as White Sox manager the next season.

When the Sox won a title in 2005, Guillen basked in the glow of the first baseball championship for Chicago in 88 years, taking home a Manager of the Year award. You could argue it never got better than that for Guillen and the Sox, who won 90 games the next year but came up short, and made only one other playoff appearance together -- a 2008 first-round exit against Tampa Bay.

Guillen certainly left hard feelings behind by demanding a contract extension or a trade to the Miami Marlins during his last month with the Sox. It was an ignominious ending to a reunion that began with triumphant glory.

Time will heal all wounds though, at least until the Sox win another title. If current skipper and all-time Sox great Robin Ventura is the manager lead them to one, he should easily displace Guillen at the top of this list. If he does that, he'll have engineered a surprising near-playoff run (2012), a rebuilding project (2013-?) and then a championship.

If those dreams come true, it would be another good reason getting back together isn't always a bad idea.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Jose Abreu wins AL Rookie of the Year; Jacob deGrom wins NL honor

The American League Rookie of the Year voting, as expected, offered little in the way of drama.

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu became the ninth unanimous winner in the history of the award, earning the first-place vote on all 30 balllots (150 points). Los Angeles Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker (40 points) finished a distant second, while New York Yankees reliever Dellin Betances (27 points) placed third.

Abreu had one of the best offensive seasons ever for a rookie. He hit .317/.383/.581 with 36 homers and 107 RBIs. That's good enough to win the award just about every year, and let's face it, the competition for this honor was not particularly stong this season. It was Abreu and everybody else among AL rookies, especially after Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka went down with an injured elbow midseason.

In fact, if you look at the first-half numbers, you'd have to say Abreu and Tanaka were at one point in a tight race for Rookie of the Year:
  • Abreu: .292/.342/.630, 29 HR, 73 RBI
  • Tanaka: 12-4, 2.51 ERA, 129.1 IP, 19 BB, 135 K
But, the injury limited Tanaka to just two starts the second half of the season. While Abreu managed just seven home runs the second half, he hit .350 and raised his overall batting average by 25 points. That made Monday's announcement a foregone conclusion.

Abreu becomes the sixth White Sox player to win Rookie of the Year. The others are Luis Aparicio (1956), Gary Peters (1963), Tommie Agee (1966), Ron Kittle (1983) and Ozzie Guillen (1985).

In the National League, New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom won Rookie of the Year. He picked up 26 first-place votes (142 points) and finished comfortably ahead of Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton (92 points). St. Louis Cardinals infielder Kolten Wong (14 points) was third.

The 26-year-old deGrom had a monstrous second half, compiling a 1.99 ERA in his final 15 starts. For the season, he finished 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA. He recorded 144 strikeouts in 140 innings.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hey, Nick Punto! Don't wanna get picked off here in this situation...

Some years ago, I was watching a White Sox game on a Saturday afternoon, and former Sox first base coach Ron Jackson was miked up for one of those "Fox Sounds of the Game" segments.

One of the clips they played featured Jackson telling former Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen, who was on first base at the time, "Don't wanna get picked off here in this situation."

Thank you, Captain Obvious. As if there is any situation where it would be considered OK to get picked off.

Speaking of getting picked off, Los Angeles infielder Nick Punto got picked off at pretty bad time Tuesday in Game 4 of the NLCS. The Dodgers were trailing the St. Louis Cardinals by two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning when Punto reached second base on a one-out double.

Los Angeles had the top of its batting order coming up, and it appeared the Dodgers would have a chance to get back in the game in this inning. Alas, Punto was picked off second base by St. Louis reliever Carlos Martinez. Los Angeles didn't score, and the Cardinals took a 3-1 lead in the series with a 4-2 victory.

Maybe Punto would have benefited from having Jackson standing next to him there on second base.

"Don't wanna get picked off here in this situation." That's sage advice right there.

Would you believe it if I told you the Cardinals are hitting just .148 as a team in this series, despite their 3-1 advantage? It's true, but on this night two home runs made the difference for St. Louis. Matt Holliday, who had no hits the first three games of the series, hit a mammoth two-run blast off Los Angeles starter Ricky Nolasco in the third inning. Little-used reserve Shane Robinson added a solo shot in the seventh, his first hit in the playoffs, to account for the final run of the evening.

The Dodgers are on the ropes, but I wouldn't count them out. Remember, St. Louis had a 3-1 lead in the NLCS last year as well, and it failed to close out eventual World Series champion San Francisco. The Dodgers will need a big start from Zack Greinke in Game 5 Wednesday afternoon. The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Joe Kelly.

Boston takes 2-1 lead in ALCS

I mentioned the Cardinals' lousy team batting average in the league championship series. Well, the Red Sox are doing even worse. Boston is hitting just .133 as a team through the first three games of the ALCS, yet it finds itself ahead 2-1 after a 1-0 win in Detroit on Tuesday.

John Lackey fired 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, and Mike Napoli hit a solo home run off Detroit's Justin Verlander for the only run of the game in the top of the seventh inning. Verlander was dominant otherwise; at one point he struck out six batters in a row. He finished with 10 strikeouts and allowed just four hits over eight innings, but Napoli's blast was enough to beat him.

The game's pivotal moment, though, came in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Tigers looked poised to tie or possibly take the lead with runners at first and third and only one out, with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder due to hit. The table was set for Detroit's best RBI men. But Junichi Tazawa fanned Cabrera, getting him to chase a pitch that was well outside for strike three. Boston closer Koji Uehara was summoned to face Fielder, and he fanned the Tigers first baseman on just three pitches.

If the Red Sox go on to win this series, those two strikeouts of Cabrera and Fielder might be considered the turning point.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Charity event in Schaumburg to feature former White Sox, former Cubs

If I didn't already have plans for the weekend, I might be tempted to attend the Inaugural Larry A. Pogofsky Chicago All-Star Softball Challenge.

The event is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg. Former White Sox players will take on former Cubs players in an softball game to benefit Chicago White Sox Charities, Chicago Cubs Charities and the Special Kids Network.

There are some several good names on the list of scheduled attendees, former All-Stars from both teams, at least one future Hall of Famer and even an former World Series MVP (pictured). Here are the rosters:

White Sox: Frank Thomas, Jermaine Dye, Ozzie Guillen, Carlos Lee, Ray Durham, Ron Kittle, Magglio Ordonez, Cliff Politte, James Baldwin, Tony Phillips, Norberto Martin, Chad Kreuter and Brian Anderson

Cubs: Derrek Lee, Lee Smith, Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd, Jamie Moyer, Michael Barrett, Bob Dernier, Brian McRae, Bill Madlock, Steve Trout, Scott Eyre, Willie Wilson, Gary Matthews Jr., Manny Trillo and Adam Greenberg.

I did notice they have 15 former Cubs listed and only 13 former Sox. Trout played five years on both sides of town, so maybe they should have him play for the Sox to even out the sides. 

In any case, it sounds like a good time. Tickets start at $15. They're saying this is an inaugural event, which implies they are going to do this again next year. Maybe I'll put it on my calendar for 2014.