Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is a Manager Like Ozzie Guillen Worth the Trouble?

Hard to believe, but Ozzie Guillen has already stirred up some controversy in his first year as Marlins manager. First, he claimed that he likes to drunk on every road game and has done it for over 25 years. Guillen would hardly be the first manager to do that. Billy Martin was a big drinker and got into fights with his players on a couple of occasions. Hall of Fame manager Joe McCarthy was a heavy drinker as well according to Ted Williams. Tony La Russa fell asleep drunk at a stop light once. I don't think his drinking is that big of a deal unless he starts drinking in the dugout.  His comments over the weekend praising Cuban president Fidel Castro are a big deal though. Maybe if he was still in Chicago he could of got by with that. But when you are managing in Miami were there is a large Cuban population, it is a problem. I'm not sure why he's commenting on Latin American politics in the first place, but its not the first time he's expressed admiration for Castro. The Marlins slapped him with a five game suspension, so he might refrain from praising dictators in the future.

As manager of the White Sox, Guillen was no stranger to controversy. He sparred with reporters, opposing players, management, and his own team. I would think this would wear a team down after awhile. His antics were a sideshow at times and drew unnecessary attention to his teams. The White Sox did have some success during his run, though. In his second season as manager the Sox won their first World Series in 88 years and he won a division title in 2008. But the last couple of seasons were dissapointing for the Sox.

Winning the World Series in 2005 gave Guillen alot of leeway. However, its unfair to the players to give Guillen all the credit. Without guys like Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, and AJ Pierzynski they never would of won. The 05 Sox also won 99 games and went on a 11-1 run in the postseason. In the last few seasons there, Guillen and GM Kenny Williams relationship became strained. Its possible that atmosphere could of had a negative impact on the team as well.

Managers aren't as important as a head coach in football. There is no scheme that can make a bad ballclub into a good one. They do have an impact, but if they start tinkering too much it can be a negative one. I don't think it serves your ballclub well to stir up controversy and distract your team. Granted, more successful managers than Guillen have done that. La Russa was bad for antagonizing his opponents, although his teams were successful despite the drama. But even with La Russa, if his teams didn't have the talent they didn't win. Bobby Valentine is another manager who creates alot of drama, although he doesn't have the winning pedigree that La Russa or even Guillen had. I think a team is better off with a low key manager who communicates with his players well and has their respect like a Joe Torre or a Bobby Cox.

Guillen might be a type of manager that wears out his welcome after a few years in the Billy Martin/Dick Williams tradition. Martin was hired and fired five different times by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, he also had brief stops in Minnesota, Detroit, Texas, and Oakland. He made the postseason with four of those teams, but his mouth got him fired from those jobs. Larry Bowa is a more recent example of a Guillen type manager I can think of. He has a chance to be successful in Miami because they have a talented ballclub. Sometimes, a team needs to have a fire lit under it. But, eventually that wears on a team and that manager will go elsewhere. I'm just glad that Guillen isn't the manager of the Cardinals.

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