As the lat turns...

As the lat turns...
Friends on Twitter // Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

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.


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  • Nice title. When presented a choice between dwelling on Cowley induced intra-organizational melodrama or changing the subject, I generally go with the lat-ter.

    Thanks. I'll be here all week.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    No one issued me a reminder, but I'm going to go ahead and tip my waitress.

    Yeah, I couldn't figure out how to come up with a closing line besides "Isn't the premise of all this that Cooper has somehow been a problem? Don't we know that he'd essentially need to be comitting felonies to undo his positive effects?". Also, where does one draw the line between "Cowley's a newsman, and there's a need to hold the organization to scrutiny, especially if it's going to continue to gobble its share of public funds" and "He kinda creates problems that may be making the team worse"?

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    Interesting you bring up public funds, but I think you give Cowley too much credit. I highly doubt that he is motivated by a sense of social responsibility, nor do I find anything he writes relevant to a discussion about the public financing of baseball teams. Suggesting so would be an insult to writers like Ben Joravsky, who have the best interest of city taxpayers in mind, and have reported on the sweet deals that Reinsdorf & co. have received from the city.

    For me, there is nothing of substance gained from this kind of Cowley story. "Newsman" and "scrutiny" do not come to mind, I think you are mistaking Cowley's earnestness for professionalism. Exposing clubhouse tiffs, complete with "sources familiar" and "sources unnamed," just seems too much like tabloid journalism.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Well, yeah, I'm definitely overcorrecting for my urge to just call him a biased numbskull. I'm not saying Cowley is a crusading investigator, I'm just saying that I can't really say "I wish he didn't exist and stopped screwing with my favorite team" because it's tantamount to censorship. Even though I find most things about his professional profile repugnant, I think I'm fooling myself to say there's no value in his work, just because I don't like it. For some reason, White Sox people are willing to drop him inside information (and I can be cynical about the reason why). He doesn't seem to be leaving, so I'm trying to be somewhat open-minded about his place in the mediasphere. It probably won't last.

    I think we're on the same page here for the most part, especially since you name-dropped Joravsky. Have you read some of his sports stuff? Generally it's more goofing around than his usual material, but there was some full-length piece on him tracking a high school basketball team for a season that was pretty great.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    I have not and I'd like to read it. Did it appear in the Reader?

    Joravsky's Bleader blog posts are more goofing around with a serious pretext if you're in to city politics and some not-so-good natured Rahm ribbing. But it's probably bad form to be plugging the guy on your blog, not that anyone pays attention to my opinion. Let me leave it at this: I don't think I'm overstating it when I say that Joravsky is a god. There, that was subtle.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    The high school profile was in The Reader. I'm constantly mourning what I could or would be reading more of if I wasn't in a cycle of scouring the Earth for White Sox news, but my sister giddily forwards me enough Joravsky stuff for me to feel like I'm not as ignorant as I could be.

    Fun (or tragic, or stupid) story. It had to be well over a year ago, my girlfriend lets me know that she was talking to her hairstylist about my work, and that her hairstylist said her husband writes a sports blog too.

    I try to explain, that this is not the mind-blowing coincidence she thinks it is, but she implores me to check it out so we could, I donno, network, or become blog friends, or whatever it is it's called when you share common interests with people on the internet. And so I looked it up.

    It is this:

    It's not the sleekest designed page in the world, and the most recent post for the author "Benny Jay" is a post called "F$%# the Heat", which recalled a night of walking home after watching the Chicago Bulls and Heat at a friend's house and coming to the realization that he feels perfectly comfortable loathing the Heat. It's kind of a tossed-off, not serious rant, and scanning through the archives portrayed the group as a bunch of middle-aged guys goofing off and riffing about sports when the mood struck. I didn't hate it, but it didn't scream "WE SHOULD NETWORK!" with great urgency.

    Sigh, well, my impression that the blog wasn't serious was right. Because it isn't. It's the goofy side project Ben Joravksy uses to unwind after slogging through the city's muddled political scene through his day job. Benny Jay = Ben Joravsky.

    I didn't have this forehead-slapping moment of realization until months later, at which time my girlfriend was in med school and had no time to be trekking across the city for hair appointments. Even now, just thinking about reminds to press her about going back.

    Yeah, I screwed up that one.

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