Can Guillen handle a lost season?

Entering this month, we heard about how June would make or break the White Sox.  They responded by losing their first two games in disheartening fashion, prompting Ozzie Guillen to call yet another meeting.

“We have time to recover. We still have time to gain some ground,” Guillen said. “But I can’t do it alone. I’ll try to help. I want to let them know we have to attack people, we’ve got to pitch better. We haven’t played the way we should be playing. And we know if we lose 100 games, I will continue to say this ballclub is better than what we show.

That phrase (emphasis mine) is one Guillen has used plenty of times throughout the year, and now that he’s used it in defense of a hypothetical 100-loss team, I think I know what it means.
It’s not that the Sox are a better team than their performance would lead you to believe.  It’s that Guillen might be maturing. Maybe. Just a little.
You may remember me writing about Chris Jaffe’s evaluation of Charles Comiskey last December, which was a part of his larger book on baseball managers.  Watching this season unfold reminded me of something Jaffe wrote about Guillen:

Also, when the Sox hired Guillen one anonymous baseball official said Guillen would help a good team win some more games, but cause a bad one to lose more.  Guillen demonstrated the veracity of that statement in 2007, when the Sox went 72-90.  He did the same things that he normally did, but with a very different effect.  He sought to light a fire under his team with outrageous comments, tried building rivalries with other teams – all the button-pushing tricks that previously worked.  Alas, the team did not have the talent to rise up.  Guillen resorted to the same dramatic maneuver he made in 2005: holding himself accountable, he said the team should fire him if he could not make the squad win.  Saying this once or twice, as in 2005, gets people’s attention.  However, because the team kept losing, Guillen spent all summer repeating it.  A motivational technique transformed into a cry for help.  Instead of buckling down, the team flailed about.  When a team lacks what it takes, sometimes the best course for a manager is to be patient and try to get the team ready for the next year.  Guillen does not take it easy; patience is not his virtue.  It is win or die trying, not win or die waiting.

Guillen made the same point about accountability when talking to the media, but he refrained from the dramatic.  It’s more like simple algebra — he’s basically saying, these players are worth [x] wins.  They have won [less than x] games, and somebody besides these players is responsible for the difference. Even though I would point the finger at Kenny Williams, Guillen clearly isn’t.
Now that I’ve written this, there’s a good chance that Guillen will thrash about, throw somebody under the bus and render any claims of maturity irrelevant within the week. Regardless, I still hold out hope that he learned something from the last time the Sox went through this.
Guillen has to be aware that this team is fatally flawed, right? Sad as it may sound, Mark Teahen’s finger injury pretty much cements it.  He’s not great; he may struggle to stay merely OK.  But his absence forces Guillen to start three offensive zeroes in the infield alone for six weeks. That’s not a team that’s better than its record.
Yet it doesn’t excuse Guillen entirely.  Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd are killing any chance at momentum, and he really can’t form a credible lineup out of the available players.  Williams gave him an offense so thin, prophylactic companies are dying to know his secret.
There’s one thing that’s squarely on Guillen’s shoulders, though, and it’s a big one: He needs to get Gordon Beckham back on track before this season is over.
And his recent handling is confusing the hell out of me.  In the opener against Texas, Beckham had two sharp singles and two RBI, which gave him an encouraging five hits over his last 15 at-bats.
The next night, he went hitless in three at-bats before Guillen lifted him for a player who doesn’t need at-bats (Mark Kotsay).  And now, Jayson Nix, who started on Thursday, might be cutting in:

“So far,” Guillen said. “Nix starts hitting and has a couple hits there, then I’ll play Nix. [I’m not saying] I’m going to bench [Beckham]. I’m just saying if someone performs better than him, I have no choice. I need to win some games.”

Maybe Guillen knows that Nix won’t hack it, as he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.  Maybe it’s merely a bit of support for Nix, with an overall message to the rest of the team that he’ll reward good play.
But I’m growing increasingly concerned that Beckham will lose at-bats to players who offer nothing in either the short or long terms, and I’m not sure how that will help.  If he’s rotating with Nix and Omar Vizquel, he may as well be in Triple-A.
That last step could be necessary, for all I know.  It’s going to be one bold decision in a couple of months filled with them, and it’s the only one Guillen should be concerned with.  He might have his hands tied in most other aspects, but that should theoretically free him up to figure out how to handle the player with the greatest impact on the team’s future.  If June’s as bad as the first series would lead you to believe, Guillen has the last three months to get it done.
******************************
Minor league roundup:

  • Charlotte 3, Pawtucket 1 (6 innings)
    • Daniel Hudson threw an abbreviated complete game, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out five over five innings.
    • Dayan Viciedo went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
    • Brent Morel went 1-for-3, his first Triple-A hit.
    • Tyler Flowers walked and struck out in his two at-bats.
    • Jordan Danks went 1-for-3 with a double and a K.
  • Tennessee 5, Birmingham 2
    • Brandon Hynick struck out seven over five shutout innings. He allowed three hits and two walks.
    • Christian Marrero walked and struck out. over four PAs.
    • C.J. Retherford went 0-for-4.
  • Winston-Salem 11, Kinston 4
    • Jon Gilmore went 2-for-4 with a triple, a walk and two RBI.
    • Eduardo Escobar went 2-for-5 with a strikeout.
    • Brandon Short hit a solo shot; Justin Greene wore a collar and a silver sombrero.
    • Charles Leesman: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.
  • Greenville 5, Kannapolis 3
    • Kyle Colligan singled, walked and struck out twice.
    • Brady Shoemaker doubled and drove in two.
    • Nick Ciolli went 0-for-3 with a walk and two K’s.
    • Jimmy Ballinger’s struggles continue: one run on three hits and a walk over an inning.
Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
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.

Articles: 3710
18 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
danks50

Starting nix is going to help this team win games?? What the hell are you talking about Ozzie? Beckham is going to need to get on track and fast for this team to have any sort of present/future success. Jayson Nix is just a guy who’ll be gone and useless when he’s no longer making the league minimum.
And oh yea is their ever going to be a minor league recap without a flowers K? Like clockwork.

soxicano

We can bash the bench all we want but the problem has been the starting lineup and starting rotation ERA well over 5.00. I don’t think anyone could have envisioned the following scenario, Pierre hitting under .250, Beckham .200, Pierzinski .220, Quentin .220. There is no way Ozzie or Kennie could have seen this coming. No fans saw this either so lets not act like we told you so. As dismal as it continues to look the batting averages are going north. The clutch hitting is coming around. Players are now doing what they were supposed to be doing April. Specifically A.J., Quentin, Pierre. Since they have been coming around, the offense has been getting on the board early and often. The tendency of this pitching staff has been to surge in a half season, and depress in another half. Buehrle, Floyd especially. So lets bank on them surging up in the second half, the offense continuing to come around and the Sox cutting more and more the games behind gap wih the Twins.

blah

Considering that the Sox were second to last in almost every offensive category last year, I think you can say that the offensive struggles could have been predicted. Trading for Teahen (who might have been nontendered) and letting go of Thome in favor of getting Mark Kotsay at-bats… Yeah, a lot of people knew that was gonna be awful.
The one thing I am surprised at (and agree with you on) is how bad Buehrle, Peavy, and Floyd have been. You can make the argument that Floyd could have been predicted, but the dreadful play of Buehrle and Peavy is just spirit crushing.

dudeman

I agree that TCQ is not someone you should count on, but I hate when people make an argument against a player by taking away something that actually HAPPENED.

bigfun

But that’s a fair way to make the point that this team basically went into the season expecting (needing) Quentin to be a lot more like 2008 than 2009 or 2007, with no backup plan or room for error if that didn’t work out.

eddystankysghost

Players do have “career years” but it usually doesn’t happen in their first full season!

eddystankysghost

Apropos of nothing in particulare, my favorite snapshots of Quentin came this week, in the field: one day he makes a spectacular catch, literally the next day, a ball almost bounces off his noggin and over the fence*. Sad.
*okay, bounces off his glove and drops at his feet.

bigfun

Yeah, there are projection systems for all these things, and the projection systems all said this team would be pretty bad offensively. The awful pitching is a surprise, but if they had built a better offense or had retained some depth in the minors or had some good trade chips, they would be able to cover for the bad pitching. But it’s a razor-thin team and a shallow organization, so they can’t. And that was something that Jim and many non-Sox commentators saw coming, so if it was a surprise to Ozzie and Kenny, well, why?
This is a team that needed to have everything break just right to have a shot at competing. And not much is breaking just right.

ricksch

Your analysis of Guillen suggests he has an intelligence or that he’s able to plan. Ozzie repeats the same ol’ shit all the time. Quotes that I’m sure he’s forgotten about the moment they leave his mouth. Granted, sports’ quotes are almost always useless and dim-witted, but trying to parse out Ozzie’s remarks and suggest he’s “maturing” is really a stretch. Ozzie a jock who likes to joke. He’s a “guy’s guy”. He used to be a good SS. This is a man who not only doesn’t think, he hates thinkers. “Maturing”? Get serious. And shouldn’t a guy in his mid-40s who has been managing for the last 7 years already have matured?

blah

I like how you use a lot of words… and yet not manage to say anything.

ricksch

I think Ozzie realizes that to slam his guys now is counterproductive to the many moves they’ll have to make as they become someone else’s guys. Also, Ozzie may be getting bored and in that blank quietude may seem more mature.

vanillablue

I see the dreaded “organizational favorite” curse is getting to Charles Leesman…

Buehrlesque

I don’t know Jim. I think you’re giving Ozzie too much credit here. I’m more worried about accountability for this team. Typically in MLB, when hitters don’t perform to their expectations, hitting coaches get fired. When the whole team doesn’t perform to expectations, managers get fired. When the team just didn’t have the horses to begin with, the GM gets fired, etc. You know none of those things will happen to this team.
Ozzie clearly loves his players- his Kotsays and Vizquels and Pierres, et. al. So he’s not really going to parcel any blame/consequences to them about performance (barring a Nick Swisher scapegoat TBD.)
So to me it seems more like “The numbers lie- our players are better than their performance… so we’re not gonna beat ourselves up about it.”

As Cirensica

The best I read above was the comment about how thin this team is, and how Kenny built a team with not margin for errors because there is nothing exciting awaiting to be called up to the majors. Last exciting player we had was Beckham, and before that….I can’t remember. So rebuilding this team for next year remains a Free Agency analysis….Kenny has a lot to think of….a lot of deals to make so the retooling does not take us more than 1 year. This year is clearly lost….which it’s a pity considering how winnable the Central Division is.