If he did it...

If he did it...
LET'S ANALYZE THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS PICTURE IN RETROSPECT!!!! // Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune

Is it safe to say that the relationship between the White Sox and its manager Ozzie Guillen was completely broken during the 2011 season?  I feel that it is.

Guillen left after a bizarre contract dispute, his worst season in terms of job performance, and curiously bolted to his next position instantaneously.  The pure swiftness with which Guillen was yucking it up at a Miami Marlins press conference, and his mistimed blog post suggests the writing was probably on the wall at 35th & Shields about where Gullien wouldn't be on Opening Day 2012.

That in mind, while the first thing to figure out when reading Joe Cowley's piece on how Don Cooper betrayed Ozzie Guillen was where Cowley's admirable sourcing ended and his notorious admiration for the Guillen family began, the second thing was to figure out was why I should care.

If taken at absolute face value, we have Cowley identifying Cooper as angling for his own job security as early as June in anticipation of Guillen getting the boot.  This is painted as an act of betrayal by Cowley, which is debatable given that Cooper has pre-Guillen standing with the organization.  (On the other hand, Greg Walker also had previous standing with the organization, but certainly wasn't in the position to act separately from the regime).

As much as he and Guillen appear to be resentful of Cooper for such an action, that's irrelevant to Cowley's main point; that it's problematic to have coaching staff members "who care about making sure their own paycheck clears and they stay on the job for as long as possible."

The problem with this conclusion is that if there's a White Sox employee who exemplified letting personal concerns get in the way of the larger good of the team, it's Guillen.

It's Guillen who is said to have "checked out" for half the season out of dissatisfaction with his contract,  it's Guillen who set up his departure for Florida before the close of the year, and  it's Guillen again who chose to enter his contract situation onto the public record back-to-back years.  If we want to attribute the blame onto Cooper for Peavy's handling while ignoring his work with Humber, Santos, and even  Dylan Axelrod, we'd have to work even harder to see what objective success Guillen was still able to scrounge up while his attentions were divided.

If the most important element is how the team fares from going forward, it's hard to see how the team made the wrong decision even in the face of a Cooper power-grab.

Perhaps just axing Kenny Williams and shifting away from built-on-the-fly pseudo-contenders would have been beneficial, but that was never on the table.  They retained a coach who remained productive (The White Sox pitching staff finished in the top 5 in fWAR for the 7th straight season) and jettisoned one who let his sensitivity to the words of others interrupt his responsibility, to where even Cowley and Cooper seem to concur that he checked out, and cost the team production when he played inferior players for no reason other than perhaps spite.

Would the White Sox be better off without Cooper managing the pitching staff?  Absolutely not.  Will they be better off without Guillen at the helm?  He offered it into question.

So to the question of whether to believe a wild tale of Cooper engineering the demise of his mercurial and discontent manager, sending him hurtling into an incredibly easy landing in Florida, I'd say he might as well have.

 

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  • why would coop worry about job security cowley? there's no chance he stays unemployed for 2 days if the sox fire him. his name is don cooper, not greg walker joe.

  • I love Ozzie and yet it is so refreshing to read respectful analysis that points out he quit on the team this year. To suggest any problems in the management of the Sox was due to Don Cooper is inconceivable...unless you are a muckraking tabloid journalist.

  • Thanks so much for the kind words, I really appreciate it.

    Once I get over this whole being mad thing, I'll go back to loving Ozzie for all the great times he brought.

    As Wiz pointed out in his comment and you hinted at, his argument seems to center around Cooper not performing well, or not being in enough to demand that he would have to scheme and supplant Ozzie in order to secure his status in the organization. And that notion is propped up on the flimsy notion that Cooper is entirely at fault for Jake Peavy.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    Probably the more surprising thing was that Kenny and Coop went after Cowley and called him a liar that quickly. I guess they thought they had another Mariotti.

    I said before that Ozzie wanting out was all predetermined (you can look at my comment in Byrne's blog about that). While it was clear that Coop was reupped as pitching coach immediately thereafter (and not as manager, and he preceded Ozzie), I think a valid criticism could be made not only based on Peavy (not this year, but Peavy saying on radio that his lat tear was due to messing with his motion to overcome the foot injury), but that all the pitchers, except Buehrle, pretty much hit the wall in August, and essentially did not recover.

  • In reply to jack:

    Good point about Marriotti. For as much as Cowley twists, he has legit sources, and can't be dismissed as just some outside opinion.

    The ERA for the pitching staff goes as thus:
    April: 4.66
    May: 3.61
    June: 3.21
    July: 3.23
    August: 4.12
    September: 5.63

    In thos last two months, two things shot up - Home Runs allowed, but also strikeouts. September actually saw the Sox staff post a fairly absurd 8.6 K/9, while also giving up an awful 1.24 HR/9. Because USCF is rated as such an awful park to pitch in, advanced metrics tend to just write this off as the type of bad luck that will occur, and the Sox staff still rates out super-high.

    That said, yeah. It's troubling. You'd like to see Floyd or Danks finish up a 200 IP year strong. I'd still say that the value of those middle months, and some of the projects Cooper had a direct hand in, like getting valuable innings out of Humber and working with Santos, is undeniable. Both those guys faded down the stretch, but they also were eclipsing career-highs in workload.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    Would the numbers be explained that they were around the plate, but also too much in the fat part of the strike zone? Or batters connecting with pitches at the bottom of the zone? Of course, there is also the question of what kind of home runs, as more men on base, more damage done by a home run. I also seem to remember a large number of full counts.

    Heck, the story on Garza before this season was supposedly similar--lots of Ks and lots of HRs.

    In any event, the numbers seem to confirm that the pitchers lost their effectiveness starting in August.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yeah, no doubt. I guess I'm just saying it's not in a way that leaves me thoroughly pessimistic. Strong K/BB ratios are going to see you through most of the time.

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