Ozzie Guillen was the last truly successful White Sox manager, but he was also the first of their managerial disasters this century. Somebody as openly unhappy as Guillen should’ve been dealt with in one way or another before the 2011 White Sox became collateral damage in the cold war between him and Kenny Williams. Instead, the relationship rotted in the public, the success of the team took a back seat, and Jerry Reinsdorf didn’t do anything about it until the final series of the season.
The White Sox have won two whole postseason games since the attempted coup 11 years ago, but because this is the White Sox we’re talking about, Williams and Guillen are still active in the team’s orbit.
Williams surfaced publicly on Monday when Bob Nightengale followed his report of rifts, cliques and a lack of leadership at the player level with this note.
When local beat writers inquired about it, Williams told them it was a “private discussion,” which, sure. Next, he’ll try to make an anonymous donation to name a building after himself.
Guillen made his own noise after the game, calling out the White Sox for general lethargy.
This is valid and valuable criticism, especially considering Jerry Reinsdorf owns a 50 percent stake of the network. The problem is that the White Sox’s agoraphobic tendencies manifest themselves by narrowing the scope of possible solutions, so this leads to calls that Guillen should manage the Sox, even though the last time he had a team that was underperforming expectations thanks to costly flops, he responded by giving 1,777 plate appearances to the team’s three worst regulars, then fleeing to Florida.
Of the White Sox managers and general managers since the World Series 17 years ago, Rick Renteria is the only one with anything resembling a healthy entrance and exit. Sure, the White Sox hired him to replace Robin Ventura without an interview, but he came to the organization via an actual process of evaluating external candidates for the bench coach job in Ventura’s last year. After four seasons, the White Sox fired him before it was absolutely necessary because they thought they could achieve more from that position.
I don’t think the White Sox would be better off under Renteria, because while his 236-309 record as Sox manager isn’t his fault, it takes a special manager to overcome the baggage of losing that much, and the lack of composure his team showed over the final two weeks didn’t foreshadow resilience. Yet it’s easy to feel sympathy for Renteria because he’s been pretty much the only person in the White Sox’s management ranks held to any kind of standard. (Dallas Keuchel probably has a newfound respect for him in this regard.)
As for the White Sox clubhouse, Vinnie Duber at CHGO says that from what he’s seen and heard, the only difference between 2021 and 2022 is the record, which can flip a lot of characteristics into their negative images. “Groups” become “cliques.” “Fun-loving” becomes “not serious enough.”
The record determines everybody’s enjoyment, but the White Sox’s rich history of complacency makes me automatically wary of waving away concerns with “if they were winning…” because when it comes to the White Sox, winning is historically the hypothetical outcome. Similarly, it’s hard to discount the results over the process when the process results in La Russa, Williams and Guillen all being the principal newsmakers for the White Sox decades after their last significant South Side successes.