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The 2011 season was a disaster, but on this day 13 years ago, spirits were high — and Ozzie Guillén was guaranteed the 2012 season.
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Today in White Sox History: January 21

Ozzie gets a freebie

Brett Ballantini started at South Side Sox in 2018 after 20 years of writing on basketball, baseball and hockey, including time on the Blackhawks and White Sox beats. Follow him on Twitter @BrettBallantini and email your site feedback to brettballantini@yahoo.com

1985

The White Sox signed free agent pitcher Dave Wehrmeister.

Wehrmeister was a No. 3 overall pick in the 1973 January draft, by the San Diego Padres. Still, players bypassed in the summer and grabbed later (back in the days of two drafts) weren’t all just oversights — there indeed were significant players signed in the middle of winter.

And Wehrmeister seemed on track to be just that, starting in Double-A at age 21 and making a quick ascent up the San Diego system, making his MLB debut at age 23, in 1976.

Now, the bad news: Wehrmeister yo-yoed from the minors to majors for nine years and in three organizations, his 310 games logged in Triple-A (84% of his total MiLB games) making him the epitome of a AAAA player. Over five of those nine years Wehrmeister saw MLB time, and in none of those campaigns did Wehrmeister put up a positive WAR.

When the local product (Lyons Township High, in Ber-wyn) signed with the White Sox, let’s not say for sure that it was his swan song in baseball — but, at 32 and with a career -3.0 WAR, the clock was ticking short for him.

And boy, did Wehrmeister end his 76-game major league career on a good note. Coming to Chicago never having had better than a 5.14 ERA or -0.1 WAR in a single season, he was a solid contributor to the solid, 85-77-1 White Sox in 1985. He had 0.9 WAR and a 3.43 ERA (3.37 WHIP) over 23 games, which included four games finished and his first two career saves.

In fact, in a cool moment, Wehrmeister made what would be his final MLB appearance on the second-to-last day of the season. In a game at Comiskey Park where both starters took their lumps, Wehrmeister entered in the sixth inning of a Tom Seaver start and threw zeroes the rest of the way, earning his second career save and preserving a shaky 16th win of the season for Seaver. Wehrmeister’s .298 WPA in the game also made him the contest’s de facto MVP.

(Ironically, Wehrmeister’s other career save, in August 1985, was also a bout of scoreless, four-inning support, this time preserving a win for Britt Burns.)

For a career that was a bit star-crossed, how sweet is it for Wehrmeister to say that his last moments on a major league mound were preserving a win for one of the greatest pitchers of all time?


2011

With considerable hullabaloo and in a public show of brotherhood, White Sox GM Ken Williams announced during SoxFest that the option on manager Ozzie Guillén’s contract had been picked up for 2012.

It had been a winter of love between the two White Sox leaders, as a powwow at the end of the 2010 season resulted in relationship-mending and securing Ozzie’s commitment to the White Sox for 2011. And after an “All-In” offseason that saw the White Sox spending big to establish themselves as AL Central favorites, vibes were so good Williams went ahead and guaranteed his manager’s deal on this day for the next year as well (for 2012 to have been guaranteed for Ozzie, he would have had to outright win the division in 2011).

However, once play began, things turned sour: Ozzie and Ken were locked in a power battle for control of the roster and for owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s affection, Ozzie counterintuitively insisted on playing badly-slumping stars Alex Ríos and Adam Dunn well past their expiration dates as some sort of twisted “punishment” for Williams having acquired them, and Guillén made noise late in the season about getting a pay raise and contract extension in spite of his ballyhooed team playing worse than .500.

The final straw came with Ozzie negotiating with the Florida Marlins for their manager job with the White Sox season still playing; Ozzie released a post on his blog that indicated he was resigning and moving to Miami while the White Sox were starting their final home series of the season.

At least that final embarrassment saw Ozzie leave the White Sox and put a miserable, underachieving season to rest, for good.


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