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Monday, June 2, 2008

Understanding Ozzie: Madness Meets Motivation

That another rant has gotten Oswaldo José Guillén Barrios in the Sports pages surprises no one. The shock comes with the subject matter of his rant: no, he didn't call Jay Mariotti a fag again, but he did indirectly call out just about everyone in the organization. Indeed, the principals of a more 'personal' approach that has begun to prevail in organizational circles, while Ozzie Guillen continues to demonstrate his preference for irate verbal slurs and condemnations.

Despite these and Ozzies' numerous other unorthodox
moral-building techniques, the results seem to support his idiosyncrasies. The Chicago White Sox are currently riding atop the AL Central (Twins 1-game back) and have won a World Series under Ozzies' guidance (2005, the same year he was awarded Manager of the Year). Irrespective of his track record and history of odd behavior, the media continually drops the ball when opining on the man who knows no filter.

Like players, managers can be cast in a variety of molds: some are cerebral and calculated, other intuitive and spontaneous. Whatever their demeanor, it can nearly be guaranteed that their behavior and temperament are reflected in the way they communicate with the media (and I don't need to tell you the category in which Ozzie falls).

So when a guy with a history like Guillen shoots off, we shouldn't treat it the same way we would if Mike Scioscia or Joe Torre called one of their players 'a fat boy from Venezuela'. Unlike Ozzie, the latter men are methodical and calculated when using the media to manipulate the psychology of their players, if and when they deem the tactic appropriate. The result is something subtly formulated which intentionally requires translation or (media) interpretation.

Ozzie knows not the means to be so coy. Instead, he uses his crude grasp of the English language to express his oft emotional concerns. The resulting commentary rarely needs interpretation – it is what it is, to paraphrase something Ozzie himself has surely uttered. So when he calls out his boss, he does so without previously assessing the unintended consequences. He says the bullpen and hitting are weak not because he wants some hack from Yahoo or ESPN to write about his sleuthy undermining of GM Kenny Williams, but because he thinks the bullpen and hitting are weak. This is the type of analysis that has alluded much of the media commentary directed towards Ozzies' comments. Sometimes the simplest explanation is most plausible (but evidently journalists prefer complexity to correctness).

We should appreciate the candor and enthusiasm that Ozzie Guillen brings to his job: if everyone else had the stones to be so frank the office-gossip would be endlessly rich. Unfortunately, those who speak their mind do so risking subsequent unemployment, a fate that at least now, it appears Ozzie won't have to deal with.

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