Are the White Sox still in it? Is Ozzie still in it?

At the end of June, I wrote that it felt like the Sox were contending by accident.

Fast-forward two months, and does it feel any different? They're making strides in the standings with a five-game winning streak. Coupled with a couple Detroit losses, the White Sox raised their postseason odds from 5 percent to 11 percent in the process.

There's no reason for them to talk themselves out of it. They have a veteran-heavy roster with a lot of money tied up for 2012. More importantly, they have six games left with the Tigers, so they can tell themselves they control their own destiny.

But depending on who's got your attention, you might think that they're already thinking about next year. Or their next job.

It starts at the top, where Ozzie Guillen has asked for a contract extension without asking for one for the second straight year.

"One thing I make clear, I don’t think I’ll be back here for just a one-year contract and (not) know what to do the next year," Guillen said Tuesday before the White Sox hosted the Minnesota Twins. "Eight years with this organization, I’m guessing I do a pretty good job. No, no, I think the players did it for me. I think we should deserve more than that."

I'd like to know what Mark Buehrle and Juan Pierre think about the line I emphasized. But then later...

"I don’t think Jerry, after all this bad year, so far, the last thing he wants to talk to me about is a new contract," Guillen said. "I’d be embarrassed to talk to him. (If) I say, ‘Listen, I want a new contract,’ the first thing (he will) say is, ‘You want a new contract? Look at where you are right now.’ I don’t want to take that chance yet."

Wait, what?

Guillen was in the same position last season, at the helm of an underachieving team with a couple of unexpected black holes. With more than a year remaining on his contract, he started talking about other managerial positions in an attempt to gain leverage. It didn't quite work, but he did get his vesting option picked up.

It's probably good for Guillen that the Sox guaranteed the option year, because there's an 89 percent chance that he wouldn't have triggered it with the way they've played this season. Nevertheless, Guillen wants his money, and Joe Cowley has given him a platform, so here we go again.

 

It's generally accepted that Cowley presents Guillen's perspective. Hell, the intro music to his segments on The Score 670 say as much ("Mr. Cowley, did you wax Ozzie's car?"). Both sides laugh about it, they talk or shout at each other for 10 minutes, and do it again the next week.

But Brett Ballantini dropped the smile when writing about the Ozzie-Cowley relationship in his article on the matter:

In typical Ozzie fashion, his private confab on Monday with Chicago Sun-Times columnist Joe Cowley has led to screaming CST headlines indicating that the dissolution of the GM-manager relationship is imminent. It’s not the first time that this dynamic duo has churned up such flotsam, the jetsam of which roils over into the next day, when Guillen is left to have to answer for the mess he conspired.

And Ballantini isn't alone. In the Daily Herald, Barry Rozner veiled it slightly: "Guillen can't help himself when provoked by those he trusts to do his bidding for him."

Now, as Trooper said in the recap thread, these pieces can easily be too kind to Williams, because neither party is doing their job.

Guillen can point to Alex Rios and Adam Dunn and say these were the players Williams gave him. He can say that he would've played Dayan Viciedo if Williams made a move. Williams is in charge of acquiring talent; Guillen is in charge of deploying talent. Both have handled those tasks without any real sense of urgency for an "All In" season.

With failure on the horizon, they've chosen opposite approaches with the media -- Williams has all but disappeared, while Guillen campaigns for more money he knows he hasn't earned.

Williams' approach makes a lot more sense, because he can at least pretend that he's focusing on the task at hand., even if he's resigned to second place (or worse). But when Guillen talks about his next job, he sounds like he's already given up on this one. To use Williams' vernacular, Ozzie Guillen is creating an Ozzie Guillen Problem out of whole cloth.

Worst yet -- the team he's managing just started becoming likeable, five months into the season. He already took way too long to bench Adam Dunn, and he continues to bat Alex Rios cleanup. In spite of it all, we're beginning to enjoy watching the KnightSox support Paul Konerko and the pitching staff -- so here comes Guillen and his designs on ending the 2011 season the way he ended 2010.

From what I can tell, this entire team was constructed in order to exasperate its fans, with winning games as a secondary purpose. Nobody in the leadership ranks is in a position to demand love at this point in the season. At least not without apologizing first.

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