After Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals, Ozzie Guillen and his White Sox could no longer avoid their second losing season in three years. It's also the third straight year the Sox failed to make the playoffs, which would lead one to believe that Guillen doesn't have a whole lot of leverage in negotiating his future.
Even Guillen realizes it. It's hard keeping track of all individual instances of doubletalk -- he said he'd give himself a "Z" on an A-to-F scale, but says that he wouldn't change how he managed the season -- but I think this statement from a couple days ago trumps all:
Thumbs up to whoever asked that question, because it forced Guillen to adopt the perspective of an objective party.
The newest development is that Guillen said, "I'm coming back if they pay me." I thought that meant that he's coming back for 2012 as long as he's not fired (since the Sox will be paying him), but based on additional context in Doug Padilla's blog entry, apparently "pay me" means "give me an extension." It's hard enough to follow what Guillen means from one day to the next -- now it's getting difficult to parse individual statements at this point.
So until actual news breaks, I think I know all I can know at this point. I don't think Guillen is trying to get fired, but he's willing to sacrifice his job in order to achieve one or both of his higher priorities. He's obsessed with how much he is (and isn't) making, and based on what Joe Cowley said on The Score a couple of weeks ago, he would greatly prefer it if Kenny Williams weren't around. The actual task at hand -- managing the White Sox -- trails as a distant third.
Getting back to the lede, it's worth noting that Guillen's teams have failed to play October baseball for three straight seasons, because that's the same sin that cost Jerry Manuel his job earlier this century.
They just happen to have diametrical personalities. Manuel accepted his fate rather quietly, whereas Guillen is raging against the dying of the light -- although he's also the one peeing on the flame.
But their circumstances were more alike than they are different, which is even worse news for a guy trying to make his case.
Compare and contrast!
|Ozzie Guillen||Jerry Manuel|
*Both managers' teams had an inability to fatten up on the teams below them. With Guillen, it's the Royals and Twins. In 2003, the White Sox went an unimpressive 11-8 against the 119-loss Tigers, while the Twins went 15-4 against Detroit. Fittingly, the Twins won the division by four games.
*The AL Central has been a two-team division for most of Williams' reign.
*Manuel's offenses were regarded as feast-or-famine, while Guillen's recent teams would be better described as "anemic." But both were criticized for being terrible at situational hitting and executing the fundamentals, regardless of the home run count.
*Both managers' reputations suffered heavy damage when their teams were swept by their chief rivals in September.
*Manuel sealed his fate when he took his foot off the Yankees' throats and started Neal Cotts instead of Mark Buehrle in a series finale in the Bronx. This would have never happened under Guillen's watch, since his veterans manage themselves.
*Manuel willingly adopted an adversarial relationship with Frank Thomas, with the belief that little slights and barbs help keep Thomas motivated. Guillen, on the other hand, hasn't applied any meaningful public pressure to his struggling veterans.
In Guillen's favor:
*That World Series ring.
*This is the second time the Sox have fallen into this malaise under Kenny Williams' watch, which might be more indicative of the organization's inability to develop a real culture. Instead, they've developed into a Trapper Keeper of other team's parts.
*Along the same lines, the vacuum that engulfed Adam Dunn and Alex Rios is really hard to work around.
*He's a superior manager when it comes to handling pitchers, which provides a real reason to keep him around. When Manuel was at the end of his term, his defining trait (an even-keeled approach) had run its course.
*There's no evidence that he has lost the clubhouse, although probably because the Paul Konerko-oriented clubhouse is a self-sufficient entity.
Working against Guillen:
*While Manuel was a victim of Fifth Starter Hell, Guillen has benefited from a full-service rotation for most of his managerial career -- especially over the last two years. Hell, when he lost Jake Peavy for the season in July of 2010, Williams went out and got him another reliable veteran in Edwin Jackson.
Last year, Guillen proved that looking out for Numero Uno does pay off. Had he not squawked for an extension last year, he wouldn't have had his 2012 option guaranteed. Whereas Manuel quietly resigned himself to the future in the weeks leading up to his dismissal, Guillen was able to turn the tables on a dire set of circumstances and get himself another couple million guaranteed. It wasn't graceful, and it cost him some credibility, but bully for him.
This year, he's proving that you can overdo it. Had he simply said little while playing Kenny Williams' failures, chances are that Williams would be the one underneath the heat lamp. Instead, he pressed his luck and tested the goodwill of everybody by going back to the extension well, when he had done even less to earn one than the year before.
It reminds me of a Jay Leno Joke I made on Twitter last week:
Ozzie Guillen wants a contract extension while falling well short of fulfilling goals. Forget managing - run for Congress!
Sadly, I wasn't that far off:
"So I want an extension?" Guillen said. "So what? Everybody does. It's not just me. Everybody wants to know what's going on. That's a normal thing in life. That's why the president wants to run again for president. He wants more years. Obama wants an extension, too."
That's true, except Obama has to campaign for an extension because presidential terms are set in stone. Guillen is demanding a referendum on his performance before it's necessary. If Obama has a red-phone direct line to 35th and Shields, I wonder if he would tell Guillen to hold off putting his fate before the public until his respective economy improves. And then I wonder if Guillen would respond with a four-letter word.