Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Will today’s ball players turn old-school after they play out the ’09 string?

I must admit to finding it humorous whenever a contemporary baseball manager complains about how the modern-day athlete doesn’t take “the game” as seriously as the old-school athletes did back in the days when he played.

The latest example of this trend is Ozzie Guillen of the Chicago White Sox, who got upset that his ball club blew a big lead and wound up getting its butt kicked on Saturday, only to react by calmly lounging around the clubhouse and watch television.


In short, his ball club that some of us Chicagoans had dreams would actually accomplish something this season was playing like a losing ball club just playing out the string of games (one more week, and the 2009 regular season is over).

What I find amusing about this tirade by Ozzie, or any other contemporary manager, is that I am old enough to have first learned about baseball back in the days when they were the ballplayers – and it was a batch of grizzled old farts who remembered the days of DiMaggio and Musial who were the managers.

Actually in Ozzie’s case, he was a rookie shortstop for the White Sox back when I was in college. But in the case of Lou Piniella, I remember him as a favorite ballplayer of mine back in his prime days with the New York Yankees – and still remember his defensive stop in the outfield in that 1978 tie-breaking playoff game between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox that ensured the Red Sox did not tie up the game in the ninth inning, and forever assured that one-time White Sox shortstop Bucky Dent would have his moment of baseball glory.

BUT I CAN remember when it was those managers of old who would rant and rage about the new era of ballplayer who had no loyalty to team or to fans, and was all about themselves and the money.

They were talking about guys like Piniella and Guillen, and all of their ballplaying contemporaries – who now are the management of many professional baseball organizations.

Now perhaps some of you will argue that somehow, these guys have matured in their aging years. They aren’t the same now as they were back in their 20s when they were ballplayers.

Or maybe it’s just that all this talk about old-school thought is somehow sort of a crock.

PERHAPS THE GUYS who were complained about back in the day are just using the same tired old rhetoric when it comes to letting people know their frustration about poor play on the field.

Because I’m sure there are plenty of baseball people who could come up with stories about Ozzie Guillen being less than a team player or giving top effort on the field.

Could it just be that Guillen, and all the other managers who complain about this new-style ballplayer of today, are just a little short-minded about what things were truly like in their playing days?

Could it be that some people deal best with a crushing defeat (which is what happened on Saturday) by trying immediately to forget about it and not dwell on it to the point where it interferes with one’s future athletic performance?

IN FACT, ABOUT the only point of Guillen’s rant that I truly agree with was his assessment of football in general – a game whose point I have never comprehended.

“Stupid-ass football when those (bleep) players don’t give a (bleep) about you,” says Guillen, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Of course, one could argue that the way the White Sox played in the past month, going from a team that had an outside shot at a division title and success in the American League playoffs next month to one that will need a miraculous turnaround this week to avoid finishing the 2009 season with a losing record, they also didn’t care about us fans who bothered to pay attention to the activity on the field.

So with one week left to the regular season, what should we remember about this year – one in which both teams would like to think they were contenders for a time, but in reality both fell short of the level of quality they could have achieved.

IN MY MIND, that perfect no-hit game back in July by Mark Buehrle was the highlight – a quality performance that (for one day) put the White Sox in first place. It’s just too bad they couldn’t hold on to anything, and couldn’t even finish out the season in close contention for a division title.

I suppose it was something that the Sporting News recently acknowledged that game as the performance of the first decade of this century – particularly since it made Buehrle the only pitcher in the 2000s to pitch two no-hit games.

So while baseball may continue into the early days of November, our Chicago teams are out of it. And Guillen may continue to rant about the “old school” days, just like the Sox players of today will someday complain that the athletes of the 2030s just don’t play as competitively as they did back in the old days of 2009.

Complaining ballplayers and Chicago teams winning nothing. Some concepts are truly timeless.


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