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A.J. Pierzynski has no idea where he’s going to end up next year, and Paul Konerko is holding off on addressing the issue. Their uncertainty is understandable, because their contracts expire in a matter of weeks.
What’s harder to understand is why Greg Walker and Ozzie Guillen are unsure whether they’ll be part of the White Sox coaching staff.
Obviously we know why Guillen might ponder a change, but the timing is especially strange with Walker, who’s having maybe his most triumphant season as a hitting coach. Getting a league-average offense with a disaster of a DH situation, question marks in three of the four corners and Omar Vizquel pressed into everyday action is a noteworthy achievement, and Walker should get a share of the acclaim.
According to Joe Cowley, Walker said he was especially exhausted after taking a beating the first two months of the season. But it’s not like that was unwarranted, because it was the fourth straight year the Sox failed to hit at the onset of the season. Walker might not be to blame, but when the faces change and the results don’t, it seems only fair that the incumbents get the heat.
I thought this quote was more interesting, though, in terms of sheer bluntness:
”My skin has gotten very thick in that regard, but at times you wish that you would have built up a little more goodwill because we have done some pretty neat things here over the years,” Walker said. ”And I think at times — I don’t know if it’s to sell tickets or what — we’ve told people we were a little more talented than what we were in a given year or maybe we just misjudged it. I know last year you looked up at a given time, and we had Chris Getz and Josh Fields hitting 1-2 a month into the season and Brian Anderson and Dewayne Wise [in the lineup]. Nothing against those guys, but they just weren’t ready to handle those roles. … I don’t know if we were that good a team last year.
This is a classier variation of Von Joshua’s “can’t make chicken salad out of chicken poo-poo” line, and he has a point in terms of the overall offense. But when guys like Jermaine Dye, Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez endure prolonged slumps, those are the ones that ultimately get the attention. There are points being missed here.
And after a day of speculation, I think I’m seeing what the point of Ozzie Guillen’s sustained hemming and hawing. It started with a USA Today report:
Two weeks ago, Guillen privately informed several people within the organization that he might announce his resignation effective at the season’s conclusion, according to three club officials with direct knowledge of the conversation who could not comment on the situation because it is ongoing.
Later, Guillen changed his mind. “I want people that want to be here,” White Sox general manager Ken Williams says. “He was hired because of his passion for the White Sox. If he wants to go, he can. If he wants to see if there is another situation better than this, I won’t stop him.”
But Guillen still wants some answers about his future. And he wants those answers quickly.
If he’s in the Sox’ plans, then it’s time for an extension. If he’s not, then it’s time to say their goodbyes now instead of waiting for the final year of his deal to run out.
”I never talked to them that I don’t want to come back,” Guillen said. ”First of all, I don’t have the power to do it because right now they don’t want to hear that s—. They don’t want to hear me … if I don’t want to come back. I know the answer, ‘All right, have a good one somewhere.’ But I want to know where I stand in this organization. I don’t want to come here and work day-by-day. I’m better than that. I give this organization more than that. I deserve — I’m not going to say respect — but [I deserve] more consideration about yes or no.
Once again, the timing is odd, with Guillen quasi-demanding a contract extension as the Sox were set to lose their seventh straight and all mathematical hope. There is no doubt the Twins are the better team, but it’s gotten to the point where self-respect is questioned. That doesn’t suggest the Sox have an indispensable leader on their hands, regardless of 2005.
Most people have to see their contracts all the way through before getting another one, unless you’re Mark Teahen. But Guillen wants more than a contract, I reckon. He wants to know if he’s winning the fight against Kenny Williams, and I’m not sure that’s the behavior of somebody who deserves a commitment.
It’s one thing that he disagrees with Williams, who has made some questionable decisions as of late, and very well might be running on fumes. Ten years is a long time for a general manager, especially somebody who is mentally unable to cut his losses.
But anybody who replaces Williams is likely to construct a team against Guillen’s wishes. They may have disagreed on the value of Jim Thome, or how much strikeouts and basecloggers hurt, but Williams invested heavily — and I mean heavily — in starting pitching, which Guillen appreciates. And he emphasized toughness and clubhouse fit, which is why they ended up with Darin Erstad and sent Nick Swisher packing.
No, the next GM, if there is one, will probably have a more dissonant philosophy when it comes to roster construction. Let’s use Rick Hahn as an example, since he’s the most obvious replacement. When Hahn talked to us bloggers in March, casually dropped the phrase “runs over replacement” in response to a question about Rotating DH. I don’t think that term is in Kenny Williams’ vernacular.
If the Jim Thome decision were in his hands and Guillen had to justify his preference above the numbers — how do you think that would go? How would Guillen respond to hearing “marginal wins” when sticking with Daniel Hudson instead of getting outside help like Edwin Jackson? Williams probably has a more commanding and controversial presence, but Hahn isn’t some namby-pamby numbers geek who Guillen can shove into a locker.
Making a move to placate Guillen only goes so far. People like Cowley will point to the 2005 trophy and ask who put the franchise on the map. But one could easily wait for the Sox to return home and point to all the empty seats. Guillen might be the face of the franchise, but he doesn’t sell tickets.
Losing Guillen would be a hit to the team’s stock, but letting him build a roster would really hurt the team financially. When he sits down with Jerry Reinsdorf (and maybe Williams), this is what needs to be addressed first and foremost. Maybe it’s gotten too personal with Williams for that relationship to continue, and maybe both sides are to blame.
However, if personnel decisions are what lead to personal beefs — with his son stoking the flames again (Hahn is one of the “geeks who never played baseball a day in there (sic) life”) — that’s going to undercut relationships with all future GMs. Guillen is a fine manager who needs moderation from above, and that’s the lesson everybody should have learned from this season. We should discover shortly whether it’s sunk in.