With the WhiteSox embarking on their first World Series since 1959, Manager Ozzie Guillen’s quirky, unorthodox, and irreverent style is getting more and more press. There are too many writers to list(Bayless, Mariotti, et al) that have criticized Ozzie as being a half-wit, left-of-center, crazy, and when the WhiteSox didn’t fold pulled the old "I was wrong, but everyone else thought it too." speech. Indeed, there are times when Ozzie seems he should be in a padded room rather than a dugout. The Venezuelan F-Bomb Machine even calls himself crazy, "They don’t call me Crazy Ozzie for nothing! ****, Crazy Ozzie calls himself Crazy Ozzie!" http://www.yard-work.org/?p=417 .. (that’s deep, yo, a 3rd person reference to oneself in the 3rd person—BBHeckler).
The BBHeckler dug a little deeper. Could it be that Guillen is the modern-day managing equivalent to TV Police Lt. Columbo(played by Peter Falk), a homicide investigator w/a crumpled trench-coat and a beat-up car? One who acted as an incompetent bumbler, but who was really crazy like a fox(www.tv.com) . The criminals would underestimate the Lt., get overconfident/complacent, and inevitably make a mistake.
I am convinced that Ozzie is the Venezuelan Columbo. When he signed on as WhiteSox manager, the crime Guillen was entrusted with solving was how a major market team could go 88 years with out a World Series title. And how to do it with the current version of the South Side nine, a team choc full of more miscasts and degenerates than that of the squad in the comedy, "Major League".
Well, picture this. Many organizations/cultures/societies etc. have a hierarchical system of power, or social system based on a dominance order, be it a government, prison, or a wolfpack. Wolves have often been studied to describe social behavior. The leader of the pack is called the alpha male. A weak alpha or one whose dominance is challenged successfully can result is the disbanding of the pack.
One has to wonder how Alpha Ozzie kept his pack of WhiteSox together so long and so successfully. Look at the resume’s of this group of Shady Slims/miscasts:
Jose Contreras(Cerrano): defected from Communist Cuba, and spent 2 years in depression as his family was not allowed to leave.
A.J. Pierzynski(Roger Dorn): reputed Clubhouse Cancer who allegedly kneed a S.F. trainer in the family jewels during an exhibition season.
Bobby Jenks(Ricky Vaughn): 270lb punk rookie closer with who was released by another team for his alcohol problems
Scott Posednik(Willie Mays Hayes): Career minor leaguer w/one good ML season.
Damaso Marte: Sensitive LH reliever w/confidence issues.
Frank Thomas: Veteran slugger whose sometimes selfish and soft play earned him the derisive moniker "the Big Skirt".
Mark Buehrle: normally steady-Eddie #1 starter who almost went off the deep end when he had his 6 IP streak stolen from him.
‘Crazy’ Carl Everett: most erratic and angry player in all of MLB, one could argue,…most dubious moment was head-butting an umpire in 2000.
This is an attendance roster for an insane asylum, not a baseball team. Dominant order. Keeping the pack together. With an entire criminal population, who’s the alpha of a prison? The baddest mo-fo. An insane asylum?. The CRAZIEST of them all. No one messes with the guy walking down the street twitching his head or speaking in tongues.
Ozzie gets this. As a player and as a coach, Ozzie has always been regarded as having a high Baseball I.Q. Since day 1, he’s had the acumen and ability to solve the no World Series ring crime. No way to do this if you lose alpha male status, no way to get that message across to the pack. So like Lt. Columbo, he orchestrates his behavior, and throws an occasional curve(pun intended) to get the job done. Calculated craziness to maintain pack order as a means to deliver the knowledge to solve the crime. Brilliant.
Oh, just one last question….you didn’t believe, did you, Amoeba Mariotti
Peace, E Maj
"Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."–Yogi Berra
I’m sitting here an hour before Game 5 of the ALCS, with Game 4 of the NLCS on right next to me, lost in thought. If the WhiteSox win tonight’s game it will mark a return to the World Series for the first time in 46 years(1959), and a chance to take home Baseball’s ultimate prize, a feat they have not accomplished in 88 years(1917), a dubious distinction. I grew up a RedSox fan, and now reside on the North Side of Chicago. Although I root for the Cubs in person about 45 times a year as a season ticket holder, I am a Chicagoan now and nothing would make me happier than to see my WhiteSox Fan friends live the elation I felt last year watching my boyhood team, Boston, release years of demons like they never existed. Plus, maybe the added commerce will allow the city to get rid of the parking meter guy who rides, McGyver-style underneath my car waiting for me to park illegally.
The WhiteSox have been in solid control, and have been confident ever since Jedi A.J. Pierzynski’s use of ‘The Force’ in Game 2. Three CG in a row, and the unconscious Jose Contreras on the mound will tend to harbor that. But Sox fans will be nervous until the cork is popped, rightfully so, as Boston made another of Mr. Berra’s witticisms come true last year vs. his famed team New York, "It ain’t over ’til its over."
What I find myself reflecting on, so close to what may be a night where I may have to dodge police in riot gear, is how amazing a journey the WhiteSox season has been, how they play baseball, and why even still they’ve gotten so little credit as a legitimate team.
The question is why? Why do they not get the respect(still) of a team that led the division wire-to-wire because of the way they won? Isn’t that the most dominant statistic there is? Wins?. And why do people like Jay Mariotti(Sun-Times) and Phil Rogers(Trib) have tenured sportswriting jobs?
The Heckler knows.
The 2005 version of the Chicago WhiteSox under Ozzie Guillen play what is known as Smallball. First, let’s define it, and then explore why the Heckler thinks the term has an unfair negative connotation. Smallball is a style of play that uses sacrifice bunts, stolen bases, hit-and-run plays, etc., in an attempt to ‘manufacture runs’. Devices a team will use to methodically gain a base at a time to score a run. It takes a lot more work than the instant 4-base gratification of a Home Run.
The word Smallball itself is a subtle insult. Americans, right or not, like things big. Big cars, big houses, big meals, big black books filled w/women who have big……hearts. Small=bad. Small=not enough. Include small with any other phrase and what comes to mind—small chance, small hope, small brain, small equipment used in the bedroom.
Smallball is therefore unhip. It’s wrong, and it has saddened baseball purists everywhere. We need to redefine it. To the Heckler, Smallball= Team Ball, Smallball=Fundamentally sound Ball, Smallball= Real Baseball, Smallball=’I will do Anything to Help this team Win as long as there’s no farm animals involved’ Ball. Hey, I love a towering Home Run as much as anyone, but there are many other ways to win a baseball game. Since when has it become uncool to sacrifice bunt, uncool to get an efficient lead, to run bases properly, to sacrifice the numbers of one, for the betterment of the team(wins).
Money. Money. Greed. Greed. The worst players are millionaires, the best make 8-figure salaries. The temptation to cheat is too high for those of negotiable morals, and the punishments have been too low or non-existent all together. In any system, the true good guys, and true cheaters have, are, and will always be what they are. But there exists a middle strata, those who are good most of the time, sometimes forever, but have a price in which they’d sell their soul.
Baseball Devil: "Jason, I’d like your Baseball Soul."
Jason Giambi:"No way!"
Baseball Devil:"If you give it to me, I will give you Steroids that will make your stats double, salary quadruple, the rights to Bed any woman in New York, and if you get caught, all you’ll have to give the public is your pride."
Jason Giambi:"Where do I sign?"
The salary difference between a 15-HR hitter, and a 25-HR hitter is in the millions. Sacrifice At-Bats?. HA! Good of the team? I’d rather have that hot blonde over there.
The public has enabled this pandemic by its insatiable hunger for all things statistic. People root for their Fantasy/Roto teams, not their Actual Teams. Statistics are tangible, Smallball can be obtuse. Statistics(Home Runs) are fun, Smallball is boring(nuances).
While there will always be ways for players to cheat, the new Steroids Policy along with more public scorn seems to be working pretty well. Fear is an effective deterrent. Look at the dropoffs in power performance by some of those who used/accused of using. Subsequently, this has increased the marginal value of Smallball, or Team Play or Real Baseball…….Amen.
I was wrong on a lot of things this year, but friends know I was early w/my "Kenny Williams ahead of the Smallball curve" call ERA", the alpha example being the Posednik/Lee trade.
Heckler says Statistics are selfish, Smallball wins baseball games. The WhiteSox have embodied, as the pundits say, the ‘winning ugly’, or Smallball model all year. Number of wins, my friends, at the end of the day, is the only statistic that counts. I say Smallball is beautiful.
Peace, E Maj
p.s. Good luck to both teams, and I hope my Chicago friends have enjoyed the journey.