Forgive me, as I'm playing catch-up on this one due to sickness. I still don't know why my company thought it would be best to poison their employees at the Christmas lunch, but from what I can tell, this not-having-a-appetite thing is going to be a real financial boon for me. I've spent $6 on food today...and I've eaten none of it!
In the past day or two--not clear, as I am quite ill--a variety of accounts have emerged about the health of Don Cooper's relationship with the pitching staff--particularly Jake Peavy--during the previous season. It's funny for a controversy to emerge around the White Sox pitching staff, seeing as anything not related to massive holes in the lineup doesn't have much to do with the team's struggles in 2011.
First, Joe Cowley centered his latest work on how Don Cooper let his contract status affect his job performance around a fairly candid interview from John Danks. Cowley asserts that Peavy and Cooper have a frosty relationship because Cooper "threw him under the bus in several interviews" (italics mine). When questioned on the topic, Danks admits that yeah, things are not the smoothest between Cooper and Peavy.
“Things need to be fixed. I’m easygoing, I didn’t have anything with anyone, but I know Jake and Coop need to both sit down and get on the same page."
That's not exactly the biggest condemnation in the world, but it's not insignificant for Danks to come out with that to a reporter. Of course, Danks dismisses having actual problems with Cooper himself, and all the heavy lifting of the article is provided by an anonymous source.
“He was in survival mode for the first five months, and then all of a sudden when he got his contract [extension], he was back to ‘good ol’ Coop,’ ’’ one pitcher said recently. “They preach to us to act a certain way in a contract year, and you have a coach who couldn’t even lead by example. That rubbed a lot of us the wrong way.
“He treated a lot of us differently before that.’’
In Cowley's defense, who on Earth would put that on the record with their name attributed to it while under contract? Still, anonymous quotes just can't carry the same weight, and Danks mentioning being irked by the perceived lack of value placed on his brother by the organization, and the lack of a serious contract extension talks seem like the most tangible elements to take away from the piece.
In response, Peavy made a very aggressive push to put a good public face on things...with the Tribune's Mark Gonzalez.
"The one thing about it, Coop and I have an open relationship. There was one time (italics mine) where I disagreed about something he said about me being on and off after coming back from the surgery, and I told him about it.
"But let's be real: The Sox don't win a World Series without Mark Buehrle, and look at what Coop has done over the years. It takes time to know someone. I have no problems with (Cooper)."
Instead, Peavy shifts more of the responsibility for the end of season tumult onto the departed Ozzie Guillen, citing a disagreement about the decision to shut him down at the beginning of December as a bone of contention. He even goes so far to welcome the culture change that his removal and replacement with Robin Ventura will bring.
"Things needed to change with the way we did things," said Peavy, referring to the managerial change of Ozzie Guillen to Robin Ventura. "We're all to blame. It wasn't just Ozzie."
"I'm not, in any way, bashing Ozzie," Peavy said in a telephone interview. "He took this franchise to the World Series (in 2005), and now he has a chance to fulfill a challenge in Miami. But we all saw (Guillen's departure) needed to happen — for both sides. I don't think it's a shock what I'm saying. We have a fresh face (Ventura) with a new attitude and a guy who is highly respected."
Apparently that was smooth enough to to keep everyone in a good mood. Guillen took to Twitter to praise Peavy for his honesty in a tweet that was curiously taken down, but still visible here on Jim's piece, and Peavy responded in kind...and Ozzie kept the lovefest going.
Cowley remains unconvinced, and you can definitely see what he's getting at. Peavy's interview is way more of a example of deft PR work than any kind of visceral release of his true feelings. Cowley seems to have a knack for uncovering the seeds of discontent in the White Sox organization that can otherwise stay glossed over, but his typical refusal to shine the same critical light on the Guillen family, contrasted with the length he'll go to argue against the other side, makes it so hard to know how far to follow along with him past direct quotes from players.
Of course, if the interest is the White Sox organizational health, the hope is that Cowley has to scramble for leads more and more. As much as anything, Peavy and Danks seem to be pushing for the front office to take a chance on the current roster to contend, in spite of positively dire projections for the group.
This attitude, the semi-disappointed talk about extensions, and the performance of the staff, hardly support the notion of Don Cooper as a divisive destructive force. Perhaps, this off-season has killed the notion of Don Cooper--the humble and unassuming organizational soldier, but it's not like a a more self-interested personality type is really beyond the pale for the organization. Worse, and less successful cases have been tolerated before.