Two decisions highlight Guillen's true talent

Between the Twitter account (and the son who gets fired because of one), the throwing of the players under various buses (which often precedes him saying he’ll take the blame), the random trash talking, the threats and promises to quit and the claims that he doesn’t care about any of it, it’s often difficult to get to the heart of Ozzie Guillen’s managerial worth.
That’s why it’s nice to have moments like Guillen’s two mound visits on Sunday afternoon.  Twenty thousand people and the viewing audience at home see the manager, his pitcher and his catcher deciding between two choices — and nothing else.
He had two big decisions to work out with his players against the Mariners.
First fork: Eighth inning.
He came out to talk with John Danks.  The book probably would have said to yank him, because he was at 104 pitches and had runners on the corners. Moreover, right-handed Franklin Gutierrez came to the plate, and he had homered off Danks earlier in the game. It wouldn’t have been the wrong decision to use Tony Pena for some righty-righty action.
Decision: He left Danks in, to the delight of the crowd. Gutierrez hit a can of corn to center.
Second fork: Ninth inning.
After two easy outs, Bobby Jenks had allowed a double to Casey Kotchman (courtesy of Juan Pierre’s arm) and walked Eric Byrnes to bring Ken Griffey Jr. to the plate.  Guillen had Matt Thornton in the bullpen, who would cause Griffey problems due to his left-handedness and his fast-throwingness.
Decision: Guillen kept Jenks in the game, with strict orders to give General Soreness his best fastball.   Three heaters later, the Sox celebrated a sweep.
Both of these moves worked out, but that’s not why they were the right ones.  They would have been correct even if Gutierrez or Griffey hit three-run homers, he would’ve gotten exactly what he needed out of it.
Earlier in the week, Guillen had said about managing that “everything is overrated” and good teams don’t need managing.  Guillen was intentionally oversimplifying it to make a point, but it overshadows times like these, where personalities and abilities are put to the test for posterity.
In this case, had Guillen gone to the bullpen, he would have learned little about two very important players.  Bringing in Pena is like flipping a coin; bringing in Thornton is like trying to avoid snake eyes.  Either way, you’re hoping that they get the job done, but the vagaries of small sample sizes and cold pitchers means that anything can happen. Thornton gave up a grand slam last year in Tampa in such a situation, and he still had a great season.  Those are filed under “sh-t happens.”
Sticking with Danks and Jenks had reciprocal benefits:

“If somebody deserved to win or lose that game, it was going to be John Danks,” Guillen said. “That’s why I went out there and made sure me and the bench were behind him. I was just making it clear, ‘If somebody’s going to lose it’s going to be you. Good luck.’ And I walked away.
“Bobby, I was a little bit uncomfortable with him. I just wanted to make sure he was fine. And he was. Bobby’s my closer until we think he can’t do it anymore. I showed him my vote of confidence there.
“If I don’t make those decisions, I lose confidence from my players because they don’t think I’m going to believe in them.”

He definitely saw eye-to-eye with Danks, who said, “This was my game. He wasn’t going to take me out. You definitely appreciate that.”  And that reminded of Jon Garland, who finally developed when Guillen put more decisions in his hands, for better or for worse.
A lot’s been written about the failed Guillen Manhood Challenges, like the Sean Tracey incident or the time he chewed out Boone Logan in Boston while leaving him in the ballgame, only to see him fail miserably.  They make for good TV and second-guess fodder, because it’s so bizarre, harsh and potentially reputation-ruining.
But on Sunday, Guillen showed how well he can appeal to his players’ egos.  He put the game in Danks’ hands, and Danks got the “W.”  That matters to any starter, but it’s extra special to Danks. That victory lifted his career record above .500 for the first time ever (he’s 34-33).
With Jenks, everybody knew he could get the job done in theory.  We saw it on Saturday — had he kept throwing his fastball, Griffey probably couldn’t touch it.  Thus, the situation was clear-cut: If Jenks couldn’t execute the right pitch selection after learning exactly how he went wrong not 24 hours earlier, Guillen would have to reevaluate the closer role for good.
Now? A baseline for Jenks’ competence has been established, with hopefully plenty of room for upward mobility.  That wouldn’t have happened if Guillen brought in Thornton.  It would have been the right decision in isolation, but wouldn’t have simplified late-inning decision-making down the road one bit.
These are the moments that get lost in the Guillen tornado because he didn’t do anything.  Had Tony La Russa been in his shoes, the number of Sox pitchers in the box score would have doubled, at least.  Meanwhile, Guillen came, Guillen saw, Guillen left.
Guillen would probably say that’s not managing, but that’s when he’s at his best.
*************************
Christian Marrero Reading Room (at least Mark Teahen has his health edition):
*Josh Fields will undergo hip surgery and miss the season.
*Chris Getz is also on the DL, but he’ll begin a rehab stint on Monday. Unintentionally funny quote:

“I think we’re pretty much in the clear in terms of the injury,” Getz said. “It’s pretty much healed. Now, it’s just, (I’ve) got to wait out the rest of the DL time. I think the plan is do some rehab games next week.”

*Oral Sox has a new podcast up.
*Guillen says he’s being protective of Matt Thornton.
*Greg Walker says A.J. Pierzynski is “fighting the game.” Either way, he shouldn’t be batting higher than eighth.
*Sergio Santos catches the attention of the New York Times. Quality story.
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Minor league roundup:

  • Norfolk 7, Charlotte 2
    • Dayan Viciedo went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.
    • C.J. Retherford wore the collar and struck out twice.
    • Jeff Marquez allowed four runs on six hits (two homers) and two walks over five innings, striking out four.
    • Clevelan Santeliz allowed a two-run homer. He also walked and hit a batter over his inning of work.
  • Birmingham 4, Tennessee 3 (Game 1, 7 innings)
    • Brent Morel had a perfect day at the plate, singling, doubling, tripling and driving in two.
    • Christian Marrero went 1-for-3 with an RBI.
    • John Shelby went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts.
  • Tennessee 9, Birmingham 7 (Game 2, 7 innings)
    • Morel singled and walked over four PAs, but also committed his second error of the season.
    • Marrero went 3-for-4 with two RBI.
    • Shelby tripled and struck out in four ABs.
  • Winston-Salem 8, Wilmington 6
    • Nathan Jones racked up another quality start: 6 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
    • Santos Rodriguez had another rough go of it, allowing four runs on three hits and a walk and just retiring one batter.
    • Kyle Bellamny threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk while recording a strikeout.
    • Gregory Infante went 1-2-3 in the ninth.
    • Jon Gilmore went 2-for-5; Brandon Short tripled and drove in two.
    • Kenny Williams went 2-for-4 with a walk and two RBI.
  • West Virginia 10, Kannapolis 6 (Game 1, 7 innings)
    • Kyle Colligan hit his first A-ball homer, a three-run shot. He also drew a walk.
    • Trayce Thompson went 1-for-3 with a double, but committed an error.
    • Nick Ciolli went 2-for-3 with an RBI; Daniel Wagner went 4-for-4.
    • Joe Serafin was betrayed by defense: 6 1/3 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 HR.
    • Drew O’Neil gave up his first runs of the season, and it wasn’t pretty. Four crossed the plate on his watch on five hits over two-thirds of an inning.
  • Kannapolis 5, West Virginia 0 (Game 2, 7 innings)
    • Miguel Gonzalez hit a pair of solo homers and drew a walk.
    • Thompson went 2-for-3 with a double and his first stolen base.
    • Colligan and Ciolli each went 1-for-3 with a stolen base.
    • Ryan Buch walked one over a scoreless inning.
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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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onlysoxfaninboston

as much grief as ozzie gets (and deserves) with the baffling line-ups he assembles, he deserves as much in credit with how he handles the pitching staff.

striker

Great article about Sergio Santos. I’m glad he’s a member of our ball club.

knoxfire30

Ozzie made two good calls, but sticking with anyone with a fastball over 92mph vs griffey is an easy decesion, that guy is DONE! Leaving danks in was a lot more ballsy, and that move paid off big time. However, I hate to bring up something like this after a sweep but ozzie had the boner of the year so far. 2-2 game, leadoff double, bottom 7, alexei ramirez at the plate, alexei currently hitting 212. YOU HAVE GOT TO HAVE HIM BUNT ALL THREE FUCKING ATTEMPTS!!!! HAVE TOO, IF HE CANT DO IT BRING IN VIZQUEL IF HE CANT GET IT DONE GO TO THE MINORS AND FIND SOMEONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Embaressing watching alexei fail at bunting, not get the bunt sign again then take the third strike, just embareessing.
Good wins this weekend, fun games, jones and rios look great quentin and aj are lost but hopefully winning will ease some of the pressure they are putting on themselves.

soxfan1

I agree with knox30 regarding Alexi. He plays an average ss and is barely batting .200!! If he can’t bunt he should be in the minors. Ozzie loves him despite some strong statements to the press last year. He just pencils him in everyday hoping his bat will return to 2008 levels.

knoxfire30

You have to start alexei, but in a surefire bunt situation you can replace him with omar or someone else cause he cant get it done.

bigfun

Knox, what makes you think Omar could get it done? He’s done very little except strikeout and ground weakly to the shortstop in most of his at-bats. He might be slightly faster but all of his other numbers point to a downgrade from Ramirez.
If I had seen better bat-handling from him this year I might agree with you, but he’s just looked lost at the plate.

sars

alexei is an above-average shortstop. positive UZR/150 last year and that will presumably continue this season.

sars

love this post, jim. i truly think ozzie is one of the better pitching staff managers in the game. he leaves very little to be desired on the hitting side (i think…that’s where my ozzie-confusion comes in), but i have loved his ability to manage starters & the pen ever since he started on the south side.

marshlands

Sacrifice bunts are a waste, most of the time. Substituting a much inferior player (Vizquel, Nix) for the sake of a tactic that isn’t particularly lucrative is a bad, bad idea. Especially since it’s just one AB.
I’m glad you pointed this out, Jim. Ozzie’s handling of pitchers over the years has been about as good as it gets. Was really glad to see him stick with Danks in the 8th. Killed it.

knoxfire30

I hope your joking, this wasnt inning 1 where a bunt is a bad idea, its a tie game late with one of your worst hitters at the plate, you execute take the lead and turn the game over to jenks and danks, PERIOD

Shinons

Almost 20 games in and Konerko is leading the league in homers. Wasn’t expecting that…

bigfun

People need to stop talking about batting average like it means something in a month’s worth of baseball. Ramirez has 62 plate appearances. In that sample size*, the only meaningful stat is swing percentage. In that regard it does seem like Ramirez is falling back to his 2008 approach in terms of swinging outside the strike zone (although he is at least making contact with more of those rather than just missing like he did in 2008). So I can understand the frustration with him. However, that’s happening to the team as a whole**, so I don’t really get this singular fixation on Ramirez.
*http://saberlibrary.com/more/sample-size/
**http://palehosepariah.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/greg-walkers-burden-promote-less-hacking/

blah

The fixation on Ramirez is more because he strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk.

bigfun

A fair concern, but he’s hardly unique in that, and Pierzynski, Kotsay, and Vizquel have all been worse hitters thus far. Unfortunately this team wasn’t built to draw walks and that’s probably something people should expect through most of the lineup.

Shinons

Personally, I figure Ramirez ought to get more of a pass than some of the others – we already know he’s not going to hit early on, which is why he started the season at the bottom of the order. We can feel fairly confident that he’ll come around, and will hit the ball hard when he does. I’m much less confident in AJ, Q, even Beckham.

blah

Of those three, Ramirez has the most talent hitting wise. It’s a love hate thing. More is expected of him than Kotsay, AJ or Vizquel.

mechanicalturk

“That manager is best which manages least.” seems to apply to Ozzie, and in general. I think it was Tommy Paine who said that- managed the Pirates back in the day. if memory serves.

blah

Coke habbits… probably not his fault.