His home franchise in flux, Buehrle gives a hell of a goodbye just in case

His home franchise in flux, Buehrle gives a hell of a goodbye just in case
He's been great // Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

For the second straight year, the White Sox have had their otherwise meaningless closing series punctuated by a poignant tribute to a franchise great facing an uncertain future, due to the failures of the season and the potential future need to cut costs.  What an absolutely horrible trend.

That fact took nothing away from one of the best nights of the season.  In his last start under contract, Mark Buehrle spun one more gem for the U.S. Cellular faithful; allowing 6 hits and striking out just as many through 7 shutout, walkless innings.  The Sox got all the touches right, with interim manager Don Cooper setting it up for Buehrle to walk off to a rousing applause, and Hawk Harrelson showering him with well-earned praise during a post-game interview.

When you think of fitting sendoffs for franchise heroes, a complete-game shutout to win the World Series comes to mind (and if that sounds trite, try to imagine Buehrle throwing a complete game shutout to win a World Series, and pretend like that wouldn't be the greatest thing ever).  Still, the sight of Buehrle toiling on a cold, rainy night in front of scattered crowd, provided a humble setting so fitting to his yeoman nature.  Like Mark, it lacked flash and visceral thrills, it took a second look to really appreciate.

Ozzie post-mortem

Now that Guillen is really gone, and the lamentation over such a great run ending so poorly is over, it's easier to view it in brass tacks.  And in brass tacks, the White Sox very clearly cleaned up.

They had an unhappy and underperforming veteran manager under contract for another year, after a season where he managed so rigidly and illogically it's still not for certain that he wasn't tanking the franchise out of spite.

They not only removed him, but got out from other his contract and got two half-decent prospects from Florida in return.  The Florida Marlins gave the White Sox two minor leaguers and $3 million, just out the goodness of their insane hearts.

It's no knock on Guillen to call this a steal.  While plenty of debate rages over what statistics are the best for assessing the value of players, there's nothing even close to that for objectively evaluating managerial performance, or even determining whether managerial skills are a rare commodity.  And by rare, I mean rare enough throughout baseball to be relevant in a league with only 30 teams.

The Marlins just traded decent prospects for something that could be effectively limitless in supply.  I don't actually believe that it is, and think that Guillen has worth as a manager, but it simply can't compare to that of a player for those reasons.

Not only that, but pitching coach Don Cooper--a coach whose effect can at least be measured in the individual success and performance of players who directly cite his influence--was retained with a multi-year deal.  Greg Walker has success stories of his own, but clearly not enough, as it appears that everyone besides Harold Baines is being jettisoned.  Especially Joey Cora.

Change is afoot, and every coach who couldn't point to a track record of sustained and glittering success was clearly at risk.

That means no more Camp Cora before Spring Training, but given Gordon Beckham's participation the last two years, there's a circumstantial case to made that Joey's been hosting it on a haunted Indian burial ground.

Promote Kenny

For those scared witless of losing revered Assistant GM Rick Hahn to outside teams (and why are you in love with any member of the front office right now?), a somewhat far-fetched scenario of Kenny Williams being promoted to another position in the organization while Hahn assumed command seemed ideal, and certainly more realistic than Williams getting fired.

It's not happening, but not because the famously headstrong GM wasn't willing to take a backseat.

"Williams was extremely candid during the sit down, telling us that he had offered to step down as Sox GM on multiple occasions and that he would 'work within the organization if that was what chairman Jerry Reinsdorf felt was best for the franchise.'

However, Reinsdorf has committed to Williams to be the man to fix a team that woefully underachived this season."

Partly because of Guillen and partly because of Williams' own recent absence from the public eye, that's a lot more self-awareness about the failures of 2011 than has been heard from 35th and Shields in a while.  For Kenny to offer up his chair shows how frustrating and humiliating this season has been, and paints the picture of a man who notices he's not lapping the market and fleecing colleagues the way he was a few years ago.  That said, he just got the Marlins to trade 2 players in exchange for bottled air.

Optimistically, Reinsdorf sees no point in moving Williams because he sees no immediate risk of losing Hahn.  More likely given the strength of their relationship, Jerry genuinely trusts Kenny more than anyone else to turn the franchise around from this horrific intersection of mediocrity, stagnancy and payroll exhaustion.  Pessimistically, Williams has one more year to clean this slop or else.

Williams' return is not a happy statement for anyone who doesn't like to have to associate the term '3-year cold streak' with the title 'Our General Manager', but if it's any consolation, it's not like another guy would be able to dig out from under most of these deals in 2012 anyway.

 

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  • Tee hee I promised you I was going away, but I lied. You are SUCH a homer. I mean that in the nicest way.

    A team official also told reporters that Cora would serve as interim manager.
    But Cora received a text this morning from Williams telling him not to bother coming to the ballpark because Cooper is taking over the team for the last two games.

    Williams said...well, SOMEBODY told Cora he was managing the last two games but you know I lack the cojones to face anyone so I had to text him and tell him that he was no longer welcome in the clubhouse. I don't know who told Joey he was managing the last two games but it wasn't ME and you know I really had to put my foot down and deal with it, through a text message, because I am such a coward I can't face the Sox fans anymore after Dunn and Rios and blowing the next couple years out the door.

    Nevertheless, my coach quit (with several months warning) and SOMEONE in the organization told Joey he had the last two games but it wasn't ME because I was wining and dining Jerry to try to keep my job.

    Meanwhile, now that I have wrecked the franchise for the foreseeable future, I will retreat behind my closed door and try to rebuild instead of buying one shot wonders.

    Please don't call me, call my secretary. Oh yes, we're now in rebuilding mode.

    And DON'T ask me about my last meeting with Ozzie because he is an awful selfish man who just happened to bring home a Series in his second year after playing 13 years for this franchise and holding the 40th best career fielding percentage among shortstops in MLB history, which may or may not have been better if he hadn't blown out his knee. I think he was faking that.

    Plus we never had that last meeting because I am too much of a coward to face Ozzie. Also, I am afraid he would have kicked my ass.

    Meanwhile, I am driving Reinsdorf's car and serving his dinner so I can't be bothered with what you little people think.

    But I sucked at baseball and I am so jealous of my prerogatives (and Ozzie's superior skills both on the field and as a judge of talent) that honestly I am so insecure that oh hell let me text you the rest.

    Meanwhile, rally the wagons, because the White Sox hats are all over Michigan Avenue now. I take full credit for that because after all it is all about me. I won the Series, I hired Ozzie, I fired Ozzie, and it is all about me.

    Thanks for everyone in Chicago agreeing to throw Ozzie under the bus, because this is the NEW Kenny Williams. I will be a better GM than I ever was a ballplayer. Believe that. I do.

    Meanwhile, I think the smart money is betting on the Marlins next season. Oh wait that last part was me, not Kenny. Old people need to learn to let go, and I guess Jerry is old now.

    The Sox are hosed until they get rid of Williams....but he's the one you got. Good luck with a loser on the field, off the field, no people skills, massive egotist, selfish, insecure, no judge of talent, and honestly I don't think the guy knows how to count up to a payroll.

    Nevertheless, I wish the young men well. What will be REALLY funny is when Buehrle goes to the Marlins.

  • In reply to Charlemagne:

    Florida? Buehrle's gotten a little portly in recent seasons, and big guys don't much like the sun. I think he's at the place where it's one of two teams for him, and I know you know which two I'm talking about.

    If there's a reason Ozzie's getting more scrutiny, or seems to be taking blame for a season that had MASSIVE roster construction issues, it's because he forced his status as a matter for debate. I've been highly critical of him all year long, but with all the successes he's had that you listed, he certainly deserved to manage out his remaining year. Instead he seemed to pick the worst time to demand an extension. With the way he immediately transitioned to the Marlins (and his comments today and the blog post), it's impossible to believe a deal wasn't in the works long ago, and he decided to force the issue in a no lose scenario. He'd either get a big deal out of the Sox or the Fish. Turns out it was the latter.

    I don't why the hell Cora was ever made interim manager given the likelihood he was following Ozzie, but his dismissal was even more goofy.

    Kenny's been on a massive cold streak with trades, and I really think they could justify firing him, but Reinsdorf doesn't want to at all. He seems to be having his distrust for youngsters exploited recently, but if he adjusts at all to that, he's not totally incompetent.

  • Oh, I agree. Thanks for listening to my rant and responding so reasonably. I have ALWAYS had great respect for Reinsdorf as an owner, I just think Williams is a terrible GM. I do not know (does anyone?) why Jerry is so enamored of Kenny.

    I agree that Ozzie is immature and somewhat narcissistic, but I still think the Sox were lucky to have him. I don't think they will be back in the Series anytime in the foreseeable future.

    However, for your sake, Chicago's sake, and the young men who wear the uniform, I hope I am wrong.

    It could be worse! We could be Bosox fans right now. YIKES!

    Hopefully we will chat again next season. Meanwhile, thanks for some enjoyable blogging. Rock ON!

    Cheers,
    Luke

  • In reply to Charlemagne:

    Thanks for all the kind words, Luke. I invite you to read the earliest entries of this blog if you think what you wrote qualifies as an unreasonable rant.

    I think Kenny made a lot of hay early on betting against youngsters, often at the exactly right times. He had a decent system to pull from, and he wound up zapping a .500 team into a champion with a lot of quick moves. Unfortunately that made him set in his ways while a lot of teams have adjusted to his approach, and really exploited his undervaluing of youth recently. Some recent prospect flops (Borchard, Fields, Anderson) have made him even more distrusting, and it has resulted in a GM who's smart enough, but has really seen the effectiveness of his approach wane since 2008.
    If 2011 was really a harsh look in the mirror, or Jerry threw down a mandate that he has to build these teams more cost-effectively, then perhaps there's hope. Otherwise, yeah, the Sox are screwed until he's gone.

    Ozzie's a very good manager when he's giving it his all. For whatever reason--work atmosphere, discontent with roster, contract status--I don't we were getting that, or were going to get it soon without major changeover.

    The Red Sox pain was admittedly pretty delicious in spite of knowing I shouldn't be spiteful like that. Maybe they'll get their revenge when the White Sox overpay for Francona

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