Tale of two cities
Chicago, Houston have handled misery differently
Posted: Friday August 31, 2007 12:43PM; Updated: Friday August 31, 2007 11:52PM
Both 2005 World Series participants -- the Astros and White Sox -- have gone from the Fall Classic to classic falls. The difference is in how the respective club owners are confronting disappointment and responding to their precipitous declines. One is dishing out blame, the other dishing baloney.
Astros owner Drayton McLane fired manager Phil Garner and GM Tim Purpura less than two years after they took Houston to its only World Series. McLane apparently wanted them out so badly that he didn't even have replacements lined up, as he now has an "interim'' manager (Cecil Cooper) and "interim'' general manager (Tal Smith).
And while the South Siders' slide has been the more drastic of the two -- they won that '05 Series in a sweep and currently have a worse record than Houston (and everyone else but Tampa, too) -- White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is not only retaining his manager and GM but curiously praising them. Reinsdorf recently said on Chicago airwaves that he is giving manager Ozzie Guillen and GM Ken Williams each an "A'' for their performances.
Reinsdorf didn't stop there. He went on to credit Guillen for keeping his team playing hard in the face of all evidence to the contrary. "This team never packed it in, and I give Ozzie credit,'' Reinsdorf said on the recent interview on The Score, 670 AM.
In reality, the Sox packed it in long ago, as they've now lost 16 of their last 19 games. Punctuating their dreadful drop, not long after Reinsdorf commended Guillen's team for fighting hard, the Sox suffered the largest combined margin of defeats of any home team in a four-game series ever; according to Elias, their 46-7 margin of defeat to the Red Sox last weekend at U.S. Cellular was that historic.
If McLane overreacted, and I think he did, Reinsdorf appears to be covering his misery with jibberish. Given the choice, I'd still take Reinsdorf's route. His harmless mistruths were likely only intended to take the heat off.
Neither top Sox decisionmaker deserves the slack that Reinsdorf gave him, yet neither deserves to suffer the fate of the Houston duo, either. Neither Guillen nor Williams has had a good year -- and certainly not an "A'' year -- but both remain excellent baseball people.
Reinsdorf is a progressive owner who has been rewarded for emphasizing diversity in his front office. But his own decision not to expand the payroll didn't help here, and perhaps he understands that. Neither did a couple miscalculations on the part of the front office (one obvious one being the belief that Brian Anderson would be a better center fielder than Aaron Rowand and Chris Young), and he's understandably excusing a couple mistakes two years after a championship season.
Reinsdorf is a decent man who appears to be cutting his guys a major break at a difficult time, and I can't fault him too much for that. Both Guillen and Williams did a tremendous job in bringing the first World Series to Chicago in decades, and both are good at their jobs. Although in Guillen's case, considering the team's obvious tank job (Reinsdorf's words, notwithstanding), he should enter next year as a lame duck and have to prove this season was an aberration. With his laughably off-base words, Reinsdorf appeared to be possibly laying the foundation for an extension when none is warranted.