It gets lost far too frequently, often in the soundbites that draw the most headlines, but underneath nearly every loose tangent that Ozzie Guillen has ever followed through on with a functioning microphone set in front of his face lies a very real sense of earnestness. It's a personality trait that has helped Guillen forever endear himself to his team's working class fanbase, yet one that finds his employers with flushed faces countless times each season. Guillen can be accused of being a lot of things -- and he has been -- but no one can argue that the White Sox manager lacks the fortitude to say and act upon sentiments he believes are very real. Ozzie Guillen is stubborn, and it's a quality that won't change any time soon.
This has worked both for and against his White Sox during his eventful tenure on the south side, creating crescendos of high and lows that often seem to alternate at a 1:1 ratio. There are times, however, when enlightened baseball people have to wonder whether Guillen lets his own inflexibility get in the way of cold, hard logic, even with overwhelming data staring him straight in the eyes. Guillen's refusal to take back the affordable, productive, and gregarious Jim Thome may have cost his Sox a trip to the post-season a year ago. Now, Guillen has his hands all over another decision that could play out far too similarly. As Cuban slugger Dayan Viciedo has mashed his way through his first two games with the big league club this season, Guillen appears less and less fit to be a prominent decision maker in the organization.
The story of Dayan Viciedo's 2011 is one that could only happen with tyrant like Guillen captaining the ship, one that has been sinking hopelessly from the moment it began voyage.
Viciedo, you see, is the crown jewel of a listless Chicago farm system, and perhaps its only real hope for salvation. The player hit from the beginning, and he hit furiously -- even after a thumb injury slowed him down a tad, Viciedo still headed to Chicago this week with a .297/.365/.492 line at AAA Charlotte. All the while, prized free agent signing Adam Dunn was sliding deeper and deeper into the type of historical ineptitude that would be funny if it weren't so damn sad.
The solution for Guillen couldn't have been any more clear: call up the Cuban, and use him as insurance in case Dunn really was set on following through on the worst season for a hitter since the Dead Ball Era. Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it seems, a truism that can be multiplied by infinity when combined with Guillen's hardheadedness.
We'll concede this much: Ozzie, and Kenny Williams, the GM who gives him so much power, would have had to make a tough decision for Viciedo to find his place in the majors. There wasn't an easy answer until Carlos Quentin was recently sent to the disabled list. Yes, the manager valued an extra bullpen arm. Sure, Juan Pierre started hitting the way Juan Pierre has been known to hit -- softly, without ripple -- just as it seemed he was destined to be DFA'd. You know, Omer Vizquel isn't an easy cut either, not with that No. 1 Dad t-shirt he wears after every game, probably. Even so, lest we forget, Guillen and Williams are paid to make decisions like this one. Instead, they took the easy way out: they left an underachieving team status quo, and let the current players coast at the fans' expense.
Perhaps worst of all was the way Viciedo was mocked by his manager upon arrival. Fed up with months worth of questions from reporters about when the slugger would be called up, Guillen sarcastically exclaimed "we're in the pennant race!" when it finally happened.
Dayan Viciedo has now been up for two games, and he has been the team's best hitter in each of them. He's 4-for-6 with two walks, a homer, and a pair of RBI. A microscoptic sample size, sure, but this transcends results. Even if he doesn't get another hit the rest of the season, it doesn't mask how poorly the situation was handled. Ozzie and Kenny were keeping around a LeBaron with money in the bank because of sentimentality. They failed to act upon other options because they didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. It's no way to run a baseball team, especially one that's all-in.