Thursday, September 22, 2005, 4:30 pm
Ozuna, LF … Iguchi, 2B … Everett, DH … PK, 1B … Rowand, CF … Dye, RF … Uribe, SS … Widger, C … Crede, 3B … McCarthy, RHP.
Stress and Managers
Ozzie Guillen was quoted by one suburban columnist this morning as saying that if the White Sox won the World Series, he just might walk away. He talked about stress and that it sometimes leads to him to the point of vomiting after tough losses. He talked about how booing from fans affects him.
Many of us in the front office have heard Ozzie make comments like this about walking away countless times this year and we generally just shrugged it off. But Ozzie’s comments in print today led to a morning full of speculation on the radio about whether the stress was getting to him, was he blaming fans and would he really quit …
Before batting practice Ozzie explained his comments (and I paraphrase here):
He would consider leaving because it would mean he accomplished everything he could. He would leave with his head up and as a winner. I would be like (Mike) Ditka in this town, he said, making money 20 years after I won something. He then mentioned the video of Ditka being carried off after winning the Superbowl.
He does sometimes get ill because of the stress and strain of managing a team, bit his family shouldn’t worry about his health. Managing is tough, he said, and he often spends time after a game thinking about what the team needs to work on, what could have been done differently, etc.
Fans have the right to boo and he isn’t bothered by media coverage. I like talking to the media because it is my job to explain what happened to the fans, he said. When we are playing badly, I expect to have tough things written. But when we are playing well, I also expect to read good things. This team has won 91 games.
He said more, but that was the gist.
In my time here, I have worked with managers Jeff Torborg, Gene Lamont, Terry Bevington, Jerry Manuel and now Ozzie. The stress of this job is amazing. People often assume it is from the strategy of the game, the media and fans, because that is so public. From what I have seen, there is even more stress in dealing with 25 different people and trying to get those 25 guys to buy into a plan that puts the focus on team ahead of themselves.
Every manager I have known has his own way of dealing with the stress (food, drink, religion, etc), and just about every one has exploded in his own way at sometime or the other (usually in private). It just comes with the job. As a teenager/20-something, I used to think being a major league manager would be the greatest job in the world. Now, having seen it up close and seeing the toll it has on a person, you could not pay me enough to manage a team (and include GM in that as well).
Ups and Downs
As stressful as anything the last two weeks (and arguably even longer) have been the ups and downs. Sunday was up. Monday was down. Tuesday an incredible high. Last night a blah down.
I can’t ever speak for fans, but I find it so agonizing and frustrating to feel so powerless. The only thing that matters occurs from 7-10 pm and we all are spectators. I have always thought that fans booing (and cheering) is often the only way fans can express passionate emotions given the position they are in (section, row and seat). It certainly is understandable to express exasperation or frustration. At times for the player, it is very personal, and that is when the two collide.
Some readers have told me what they like best about this blog are my attempts to make the players seem like human beings, not statistics or robots. I wrote the other day about how guys rely so much on routine and don’t allow ups and downs to affect them much. That’s true, but they still react with human emotions like joy (Crede and AJ Tuesday night), anger and frustration. The reactions aren’t always public, but they are there.
Jay Mariotti, a long-time and fervent pro-White Sox columnist in the Chicago Sun-Times, took a rest break in the middle of his column today to accuse the team of "fibbing" by calling last night’s game a sell out when our attendance was 36,543 (capacity is 40,615).
Jay apparently didn’t check the facts before the accusation, but the explanation is this: before the season starts, several games are selected in advance as exchange dates for season ticket holders. This is a perk for making an 81-game commitment to the team. STH can exchange unused tickets for tickets to one of these pre-selected games. Therefore, the tickets have already been sold once. The exchange tickets are comp. Last night was one of those games, obviously a pretty attractive one. So, we sold every available seat for last night’s game (i.e. a "sell-out") but had several thousand "comp" tickets distrubuted as part of this program to help our season ticket holders. That’s the explanation, but for all those budding journalists at home, it is always more important to first accuse an organization in print of lying. Then ask for an explanation.
A good friend of mine in the PR world (and a reader of this blog, which is saying a lot since he went to school at LSU … which is a cheap shot, but then you all have read that I went to Iowa. Our football team beat theirs on New Year’s Day so I’m allowed a little rubbing it in even if it is months later) called me this morning to see how we were doing.
I moped a little on the phone, complaining about last night’s game, and then remembered he had gone back to New Orleans (where he was from) to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I asked how all his family had fared and how things were going …
"OK," he said, "but my father passed away this weekend."
He skipped over it quickly and went on to the devastation, and the difficult rebuilding process, and now, the scary approach of another storm.
"Wait a minute," I said, stunned. "I am really, really sorry about your father."
Now, I have to tell you that I felt about as small as you can imagine, complaining to a guy who saw his beloved hometown devastated (he was a great recommender of restaurant/bars like Napoleon House), has been living who-knows-where for the past month, works 14 hour days trying to help Louisianans, and then lost his dad in the last week.
"The first thing we do each morning is check the standings," he said. "Good luck."
Baseball games are vitally important to all of us for many reasons. But at the same time, little conversations like this help provide perspective.
September baseball games often provide heroes of epic note, but last night, the real hero was the pilot who safely landed that JetBlue plane at LAX.
I was on a team flight from Anaheim in 1992 that blew an engine over the Rocky Mountains late at night. After a terrifying hour, our jet landed safely in Des Moines (again, thank God for Iowa). As we climbed off, we all thanked the pilot.
"Oh, it was nothing," he said. "I’ve done it plenty of times … in a simulator."