White Sox

Guillen out: Ozzie manages last game with Sox

497859.jpg

Guillen out: Ozzie manages last game with Sox

Monday, Sept. 26, 2011Posted: 7:56 p.m. Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2:15 a.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
WATCH: Hawk Harrelson's announcement
WATCH: Bill Melton and Chuck Garfien breakdown
REPLACEMENTS: Who could the next Sox manager be?
READ: White Sox statement on Ozzie Guillen
PHOTOS: Ozzie Guillen throughout the years

Ozzie Guillens career with the White Sox came to a sudden and crashing end, with speed gathering throughout a Chicago win that quickly became an afterthought.

Pregame promise

After a pregame session that seemed to proffer some hope that the team and Guillen may still remain married despite the manager refusing to back down from his demand for more money and years from the White Sox, the divorce proceedings began.

The chronically honest Guillen played a fairly good poker hand in the dugout, joking that players should wear Save Ozzie shirts and discussing his demands to owner Jerry Reinsdorf during their Monday morning meeting calmly and cogently.

WATCH: Ozzie's pregame press conference
But later, after the game, Ozzie admitted that he knew right away that he wouldnt be coming back to the White Sox after meeting with the owner, who he has alternately considered a father and a god.

In-game twists

At midgame, the Chicago Sun-Times broke the story that Guillen would be managing his last game and was on the verge of being dealt to the Florida Marlins, while ESPN reported that Ozzie had told his team before the game that he was managing his last game.

Still, with no confirmed sources or word from the White Sox, there was too much conjecture to take in. Twitter was set ablaze by the news, and Guillen soon was either being traded, quitting or being fired.

Around the seventh-inning stretch, CSNChicago.com got an inkling that something very real was happening, as it confirmed something going down: Per Ozzies request, there would be a postgame news conference addressing the rumors, where both he and general manager Ken Williams would talk. It was a safe bet the time wouldnt be spent announcing a contract extension.

By games end, the remaining fans cheered not the White Sox 4-3 win but Ozzie, as by then it was well sensed he was leaving the U.S. Cellular diamond for the last time. After the last out, the White Sox distributed a press release confirming the divorce, noting that Guillen was released from his contract and that the club was due compensation if Guillen managed elsewhere in 2012.

The team? Sure, the speculation all pointed to the Florida Marlins, but Guillens Ozzie Speaks blog confirmed it while the ninth inning was still being played.
READ: Ozzie to Marlins? Blog, er, book it

Postgame reaction: Ozzie and Kenny

WATCH: Guillen's full press conference Williams' full press conference

Guillen hit the podium first and was at once effusive and contrite. He indicated he had no regrets about his White Sox career, even if the gilded World Series season of 2005 was thrown out of the mix.

He also reacted with reticence rather than bluster when it came to considering his future away from the White Sox, admitting he was unsure whether it would turn out to be a good move and never quite admitting that the break was necessary for him.

Jerry knew it was a decision I had to make, Guillen said. I appreciate that he did.

Guillen repeated his words from the past week, where he insisted fans not blame anyone but those who wore the White Sox uniform for this disappointing season.

There have been a lot of ups and downs, yes, he said. Its not been fun over the last few years. I went though a lot of things, and I handled them very well. I know I can manage anywhere after this.

Later, away from the field, Ozzie sent out several tweets of appreciation, some singling out Omar Vizquel and others directed more generally.

While Guillen felt he could leave U.S. Cellular Field for the last time with his head held high, Williams felt otherwise, admitting that on Wednesday and seasons end he will feel embarrassed for the deflating 2011 season.

It was an introspective and subdued Williams who addressed the media, sure to place the full focus on honoring Guillen and not steering toward the teams managerial search or even discussing the interim manager to end the season (said to be bench coach Joey Cora, who is likely to follow Ozzie to Florida).

Why did it have to come to this? Williams asked rhetorically. I dont have answers. Its hard to pinpoint where we got off track. Winning cures a lot of that. Were very competitive around here and sometimes you can get frustration building and things go awry that way. Theres never been any doubt of what everyones intentions are here: To win and win in a big way.

Williams admitted that he never envisioned the end of he and Ozzies relationship coming under these circumstances, but he did realize Guillen needed a commitment that the team was unprepared to offer.

Unlike the more vague notion of compensation addressed in the White Sox postgame release, Williams was more succinct in saying there would be compensation due the White Sox if Ozzie manages one particular team in 2012.

Clubhouse reaction
WATCH: Pierzynski sad to see Ozzie goWATCH: Konerko feels Ozzie "got the job done"

It was two of the longest-tenured White Sox who stuck around after 30 minutes of conferences to talk with the media about Guillen.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, much more the ice to Ozzies fire over the course of their seven-year itching, was predictably casual in his contemplation.

It was an interesting day, to say the least, a weird way to start and end the day, he said. You never know whats gonna happen, especially with the White Sox. This is what everybody thought was best. Give credit to Jerry for letting Guillen do what he wants to do. But its never a good day when a manager has to leave.

Paul Konerko, with Guillen for the managers entire White Sox tenure, was moved, but philosophical about the parting.

It probably needed to be done, on both sides, he said. Ozzies been kind of burned out on this whole thing, likewise on the other side. But it doesnt have to be 'one sides right and ones wrong.

While the easy shorthand is to call Guillen a tempestuous, even foolhardy jefe, Pierzynski admired his steadfast consistency: He never let the job get to him. It didnt change him. He had a great run.

Konerko went a step farther, repeating several times that Guillen got it done in winning a title with the White Sox.

In the big picture, he got it done, Konerko said. His coaches got it done. Theyll never be able to take that title away from him.

Both players were touched by Guillens parting, pregame words.

To see him talk, it was sad, Pierzynski said of watching Guillen struggle to thank his players. He will be missed.

He was relieved, more than anything, Konerko said. He struggled a little, and tried to joke the emotion away.

The Captain does foresee a quieter final two years of his contract in 2012 and 2013 under a different field manager, but doesnt regret the ride one bit.

This teams been around for more than 100 years, and Ive been right in the middle of its craziest times, he smiled. Its never been boring.
A personal note

It turns out I picked a good day to say my final goodbye to Ozzie for the season, not knowing it was goodbye for good.

Although I have written a book on Ozzie (the pithy and cogent 2006 tome, The Wit and Wisdom of Ozzie Guilen) still I have never shared with him his impact on me as a young player.

When Guillen was traded to the White Sox prior to 1985, I was still growing into myself as a baseball player, an infielder like him. My father seized on a Jerome Holtzman story about the rookie and highlighted passages of it all Ozzie quotes about his dedication to getting better and proving he was a great addition to the White Sox.

I kept that article for a long time as a player, complete with my fathers notes in the margins.

Last year I gave a Roberto Clemente DVD to Ozzie at seasons end, touching enough for such a big fellow fan but not as personal as my story today. Ozzie indeed was an inspiration to me as a player, and in a strange way, as a White Sox writer.

I dont know what impact the story I shared with Ozzie will have on him as he whirlwinds his way to Miami, but Im happy for having told it, for more than just the reason that after tonight, hes gone from the White Sox for good.

Godspeed, Ozzie.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Robinson Cano sees superstar potential in Yoan Moncada

Robinson Cano sees superstar potential in Yoan Moncada

The greats know greatness.

Looking across the field this week at Yoan Moncada, 8-time All-Star Robinson Cano not only saw a lot of himself in the White Sox second baseman, he believes he was witnessing a future baseball star. 

“I can see a guy who’s going to be a superstar in this game,” Cano said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “He can field, he can throw, he can hit. In the first game against us, he was a hit away from the cycle. He can hit right now. Imagine when he’s in the league two or three years and is facing the same guys for the last couple years. Then you have a different approach. The guy that I see, you just got to give it time and keep working hard because I think he’ll be a superstar.”

Cano had heard the comparisons between himself and Moncada, but until this week, he had never seen his protege play baseball in person.

The two of them hadn’t even met until Monday when they encountered each other at of all places—second base. Moncada had just doubled for his second hit of the night. That gave Cano a close look at the swing that happens to be identical to his.

“I was watching that the other day on second base and I was like, ‘Wow, it’s the same swing,’” Cano said.

Growing up in Cuba, Moncada idolized Cano. He didn’t just play the same position and copy his swing, he wore Cano’s jersey number and even named his son after him.

“It’s something you can’t describe because as a player it’s the first time that’s happened where you see a player name their kid after you,” Cano said.

Despite their similarities, Cano admits there are some differences that favor the young Moncada.

Who hits the ball harder?

“I would say him. He’s stronger.”

And speed?

“He’s got something I never have. He can run. I was slow, always.”

Moncada’s biggest problem right now is strikeouts. He has 38 this season, second most in baseball. Cano, who has only 14, provided some advice for Moncada.

“The only thing I can give him for that is making the game simple and try not to swing so hard,” Cano explained. "The thing is when we swing too hard and try to hit a homer, we chase pitches. When you try to stay simple, try to make contact and use the whole field that’s when you can minimize the strikeout.”

Cano was 22 in his rookie season. Moncada is currently 23. A player’s first few seasons in the majors is mainly about learning and maturing, which Moncada is essentially doing every time he comes to the plate. Often times his talent just takes over like it did on Wednesday when he homered in the first pitch he saw against Felix Hernandez. After that, he struck out three times.

Moncada’s offensive game has so far been quite boom or bust. Over time that should level out. When it does, look out. 

In the meantime, more wisdom from Cano:

“Sometimes as a kid, you want to go out and all you think is about putting out numbers compared to playing the game that you know how to play. You need to let the numbers come to themselves, not try to get a hit every time, or I’ve got to hit a homer or want to swing hard. Just go out and try to win a game.”

Cano didn’t learn this on his own. It helped having former Yankees teammates like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield show him not just how to play, but how to win.

“When you have someone who can help you in this game, that’s the best thing to happen to a player,” Cano said. “When someone can be there for you and say, “In this situation I think you’re wrong.’ Someone who can tell you something you don’t want to hear.”

For Moncada, one of those players right now is Jose Abreu.

“Having a guy like (Abreu) who can help is good especially since they’re from the same country.”

At one point during Wednesday’s game, Moncada and Cano crossed paths between innings. They smiled at each other before going their separate ways. Cano to second base where the 35 year-old is in the twilight of his career. Moncada to the White Sox dugout where most of his career awaits.

“He’s going to be great in this game,” Cano said about Moncada. “He just needs to stay healthy and keep working hard. People don’t realize that this game is more about time.”

That was Cano's way of saying: be patient White Sox fans. A "superstar" is here. His time will come.

White Sox record isn't pretty, but Yoan Moncada has provided a shiny silver lining of late

0425-yoan-moncada.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox record isn't pretty, but Yoan Moncada has provided a shiny silver lining of late

The silver linings aren’t always a joy to find during this rebuilding season. “Well, at least …” can become a somewhat tired refrain as the White Sox sit at 5-16.

But that’s the reality for the rebuilding White Sox, for whom brighter days surely lie ahead. The stocked farm system keeps delivering news of prospect achievements, and the young players at the major league level are providing their own positive signs for the years that are coming.

The South Siders wrapped a 1-5 homestand Wednesday afternoon with their second straight one-run defeat to the visiting Seattle Mariners. They only had one hit after the third and saw the last 13 hitters go down in order. James Shields walked four more guys to bring his season total to 17 in six appearances. The White Sox starting staff leads the majors with 65 free passes issued.

Well, at least … 

Wednesday, it was Yoan Moncada’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the first, a ball that was absolutely crushed into the right-field seats. The distance and power were strong signs for a player expected to be at the center of all that future success. But perhaps of greater note to those who have watched his still-nascent big league career was the fact that the homer came on the first pitch Felix Hernandez threw, a departure from the long at-bats Moncada has been famous for working in his first two seasons on the South Side.

But perhaps it’s just as strong a showing of his hitter’s eye that he was able to do what he did with that first pitch.

“I was trying to be aggressive in that at-bat, swing at the first pitch,” Moncada said. “It was a good pitch for me, and I put the barrel on the ball and made good contact. That was it.”

Moncada, to add luster to this silver lining, has been mashing of late. In the last nine games, Moncada is slashing .333/.421/.848 with eight extra-base hits, four home runs, eight RBIs and eight runs scored. His five home runs rank second on the team, behind only Jose Abreu. And he's just two days removed from coming a single short of the cycle in Monday's win. Yes, he’s also struck out 14 times in the nine-game span, a constant concern for a guy who’s right around the major league lead in punch outs. But he’s also drawn five walks and stolen four bases.

Yes, the White Sox went 1-8 in those contests. But if the 2018 campaign is about developing the players who will power future contenders, then this recent surge by Moncada, one of the rebuild’s biggest stars, ought to please the front office and fans alike who have bought in to the rebuild but remain eager for the strategy to translate into big league success.

“As experience and time give him more opportunity to gain more knowledge of himself and the opponent, and what he’s capable of doing, he’s barely scratching the surface of who he is,” manager Rick Renteria said. “There’s no way that any of us believe in any way, shape or form that he’s a finished product. He continues to develop his skill set, continues to learn, make adjustments as do most players, but one as young as he is, with the skill set he brings to the table, you hope that it ultimately winds up playing really big dividends, which I believe we expect that in the near future.”

“I agree with Ricky,” Moncada said. “I also think that I’m just in the learning process. It’s step by step. I think that I have a lot of talent and I can be a much better player overall. I agree with him. It’s just a process. I try to improve and get better every day.”

An interesting question might be how many leadoff home runs Moncada will have a chance to hit when the oft-projected 2020 lineup takes full shape. Moncada was seemingly entrenched in the leadoff spot when this season began, though Renteria has already moved him out of that spot against left-handers, opting instead to put Tim Anderson at the top of the lineup. Moncada’s got just one hit in only four at-bats outside the leadoff spot, more an indication of his struggles against lefties, against whom he’s batting .130 with 12 strikeouts in 23 at-bats.

Though with his increased power display in the last week and a half, it sparks curiosities of Moncada being more of a middle-of-the-order bat than one that is parked at the top for the remainder of his career.

“He has an extremely good eye,” Renteria said. “Right now, as you see, we’ve mixed and matched him with Timmy now the last two or three days maybe to give him the best chance to have the most positive outcomes possible. We know that right now against righties, he’s very, very good. And right now he’s working on improving his approaches against left-handed pitchers. Seems to me the last couple of days he’s shown some pretty good signs against lefties in his at-bats, contact, swings, approach, and so we’re going to try to continue to develop whatever we need to do in order to maximize the confidence he can gain and the opportunities he gets in any situation.

“And then at some point, I’m sure it will be defined as to what he is ultimately from both sides of the plate and if he’s going to be ultimately a leadoff hitter from both sides of the plate against anybody. His eye says to me that he’s capable of doing that. But sometimes you want to give him the best matchup and you also want to, within the construct of the lineup that you have and the guys that you have, maximize what those guys are capable of doing.”

Moncada and the White Sox both have a long way to go until they transform from 5-16 to the planned contender this rebuilding effort is supposed to yield. But if this season is about anything at the big league level, it’s about Moncada’s development. It’s a small sample size, yes, but of late, Moncada has shown some signs of a guy who could be one of the reasons the South Siders are contending one day.