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The end of Ozzieball

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Raise your hand if you thought the Mike Quade era in Chicago would end before the Ozzie Guillen era. Despite all the chaos and bad vibes of the last couple months, and despite Ozzie having talked himself out of his job, and having talked the Sox out of wanting him to stay, I thought Jerry Reinsdorf's sense of loyalty would prove to be the strongest factor in getting Ozzie to stay without a contract extension. I thought Reinsdorf wanting No. 13 to stay would be enough for No. 13 to stay.

It turned out to be a pretty naive belief. Though we can't be exactly sure how the conversation with Reinsdorf went, it seems like Ozzie asked to be released from his contract. The ball was in his court, as much as he tried to convince everyone with was in Reinsdorf's.

The Sox say na-na-na-na, hey-hey-hey, good-bye to arguably the best manager in the history of the franchise, but with Ozzie's insistence on an extension and his unwilingness to sacrifice his coaches, the time was right. The biggest problem for the Sox is that no one near his caliber is currently available to replace him.

The top name on many wish lists will be Tony LaRussa, but that's a long-shot at best, and it's more likely that GM Kenny Williams will push for someone more likely to be a good, humble employee than Ozzie was.

Now that Ozzie's out, it will be interesting to see how far Kenny goes to change this team. Much has been made of Mark Buehrle possibly pitching his final White Sox game tonight, but I think letting the World Series manager walk out the door makes it more likely that the franchise's favorite pitcher from the World Series era won't be renewed. It's more likely, too, with the emergence of Tyler Flowers that World Series catcher A.J. Pierzynski could be traded in the off-season. And, why not ship Paul Konerko while you're at it?

I don't really want these things to happen, but it's very likely the Sox will hire a manager without a World Series championship under his belt and without Ozzie's years of experience as a winner. Someone like Joey Cora could provide a natural organizational transition, but even that seems doubtful if Kenny wants to clean the house of "Ozzie's guys."

Next year's team could very well be a bunch of very young players, plus a couple of veterans chained to big contracts and looking for a rebound. That's not an appetizing situation for any manager--as Quade found out this year--let alone a proven winner.

Kamikaze Ozzie

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Ozzie Guillen is not interested in going down with the ship unless he's the one to force it down.

Despite the flame-outs of the last three seasons, there are few better managers in the game, and Ozzie is more or less correct in his assessments of the current roster of players not playing up to their potential. However, in continuing his blunt criticism at this point--when the season officially has been lost, seems like both overkill and desperation to me.

He knows there is little flexibility to completely overhaul the roster next season, so he is essentially asking to be fired. Throwing the players under the bus as frequently as he has in the last week leaves Reinsdorf and Williams very little choice in the matter.

If Ozzie can't get the current crop to win and says they stink, how is he supposed to get anything out of more or less the same group next year? And why would the players he has criticized want to give him any more effort than they have thus far? I understand he's telling it like it is, which is usually admirable, but what's his goal, and what does he expect to come out of it? That a handful of man-children find their inner character?

Ozzie's defense of his coaching staff is admirable, but also overdone, because he knows that something needs to change. When a team that is supposed to win loses instead, its understood by everyone involved that someone's head needs to roll if for no other reason than the appearance of change. On the Sox, it is not going to be the pitching coach's head, and that leaves the hitting coach. Again, blame Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel for not getting it done--they are all professionals--but what is the value of a hitting coach if he has no real ability to affect the situation. greg Walker should have been gone already, and Ozzie's apparent protection of him only encourages one to find more fault with Ozzie himself.

Let's not even get too much into Ozzie's apparent desire for an extension, made public at a bad time. There are no real grounds for an extension, nothing you can point to as progress for a team that looked very much like it would win the division at the start of the season.

The real issue is that Ozzie wants Reinsdorf to back him up, to give him a bvote of confidence that essentially says Williams made bad choices on players and that those players failed on the field. Reinsdorf only has two ways out of the bind: Fire Ozzie, or promote Williams to president, promote Rick Hahn to GM (before the Cubs hire him), endorse Ozzie in a way that leaves the extension a possibility, and declare a new era of player development for the Sox.

I hope he chooses the latter because there are not a lot of great manager options out there for the Sox, short of possibly Tony LaRussa, but Ozzie's bad-mouthing of the players may push Reinsdorf toward the first choice. Ozzie's openness may be his way of doing things, but it also might lead him to the highway.


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