Wednesday, August 4, 2010

They ought to keep quiet

There are those people who want to criticize Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for going off on a rant the other day about how ballplayers from Latin American nations don’t get as much help adjusting to this country as do ballplayers from Asian nations – particularly Japan.

Personally, I thought Guillen’s comments made Sunday stated the obvious, although they oversimplified the details (which was probably necessary to get television news broadcasts to understand them). The only part of this that really mystifies me is the reaction of the Chicago White Sox ballclub itself.

ONE DAY AFTER Guillen spoke out, the team felt the need to issue a public statement saying their manager is wrong on the issue. Major League Baseball itself is reluctant to take any stance with regards to Guillen, likely because they know it will blow up in their face because the historic record of the way ballclubs use Latin American talent has its flaws.

Or maybe they just feel that the team’s official statement is sufficient reprimand enough. Because I must admit to being shocked that the team felt the need to do anything. This would have been the one case where it would have been best to keep quiet and wait for the issue to fade away – likely when Guillen loses his temper later this week after the bullpen blows another ballgame.

Coming right out and saying, “the White Sox do not agree with the assumptions Ozzie made in his comments” only ensures this has the potential to become a lasting issue.

Now don’t go looking for the statement issued by the White Sox. The team did issue a press release that got turned into stories in various newspapers (and their related websites). Yet the ballclub didn’t feel the need to include that release on the portion of their website devoted to the team press releases.

THE WEBSITE SKIPS from the Saturday release headlined “White Sox send Teahan on rehab assignment” to Tuesday’s “Threets placed on 15-day disabled list.”

In fact, the only mention of the whole affair I could find at the website was on a weblog included on the site written by one-time Chicago Tribune sportswriter Scott Merkin. The piece summarizes Guillen’s comments, which were inspired by questions about the language skills of Cuban exile ballplayer Dayan Viciedo.

It also says that the White Sox provide cultural assimilation classes for their young minor league prospects, which include some English language training, along with skills such as how to manage a bank account. Which for a 16-year-old from another country could be useful.

Many people are focusing their attention on the part where Guillen said he thinks Japanese ballplayers coming to Major League Baseball get more support and understanding for the cultural adjustment they must make to survive in this country – even if it is just for the seasons they play in the United States so they can return to Japan in the off-season and in their after-baseball lives.

YET IT SEEMS the White Sox, in their statement, are more concerned about the fact that their manager came out and said that ballclubs take little interest in telling their foreign-born players about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs.

The team’s statement talks about how there are Spanish-language presentations related to the risks of drug use (not just illegal ones) for those players who English “training” hasn’t fully taken in their minds.

Because the big flaw with baseball’s image these days is the way in which those substances taken by ballplayers who thought they were improving their health by becoming bigger and stronger (rather than risking the long-term fate of their bodies). Baseball has gotten the rap of having turned its head the other way when the “steroid” issue comes up – particularly back in that season of 1998 that fans once wanted to think of as magical for all the home runs that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa hit.

Yet no one thinks of either of those ballplayers as a candidate for membership in the Hall of Fame, even though a few years ago the question would have been how close to a “unanimous” vote McGwire and Sosa would have received.

I SUSPECT THAT Guillen, in saying that he’s the only person in baseball who tells Latin American athletes to not use drugs, is scaring baseball by making it seem they’re not taking the steroid issue seriously. Which would be my guess as to why the team felt the need to take their manager down a notch or two and issue a public statement.

The lasting question is “How will Ozzie take this?” This is a guy who threw a tantrum when the White Sox traded him away as a player, was grateful to be brought back as manager in 2004 and has said he would consider himself loyal to the organization so long as current team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was in charge.

I don’t expect this one incident to be the blow that makes Ozzie want to skip town for the first ballclub that comes along (there are those who speculate he could be happy managing the Florida Marlins in Miami, where he also has a home and was a coach back for the 2003 team that beat the Chicago Cubs for the National League pennant that season).

But when that day comes that Guillen does move along (all managers eventually get fired, no matter how successful), I can’t help but wonder if this statement will be one of many reasons Ozzie will feel glad to move on?


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