Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Posted: 4:34 p.m Updated: 6:14 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGOGames like these, they challenge a managers soul.
This afternoon, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was full of sound and fury, and in a rare case of wheel-spinning and foundation-collapsing, he was signifying nothing.
In truth, Guillen doled out one notion with crystal clarity in a brief postgame session that was scarred by ferocity and found him linguistically leaping like a leopard from a bush before physically standing up and storming out of his own press conference, swearing and toppling his chair.
The message to take from the White Soxs dastardly 7-4, fall-from-ahead loss to the Oakland As on Wednesday, wherein Guillen lit the match of a full-blown closer conundrum that threatens to hang over Chicago all season? Its simple.
This aint on me.
Guillen tackled a first, tenuous question about bullpen dj vu, and set off on a rant: When you have a bad bullpen, thats what happens. Thats what happens. Thats the third time a big blown lead has happened. I wish I knew who I could bring in the ninth. I mean, today we tried everyone in one inning. No more excuses.
Guillen then proceeded to throw 21-year-old reliever Chris Sale under the bus, accepting no responsibility for running the lefthander right back out after having thrown 34 pitches in two innings just half a day earlier.
We had a three-run lead, and he said he could go, was Guillens explanation for plugging Sale right back into action.
While on the surface Guillen appeared to be enraged by his media session and furious at his cowardly lion of a bullpen, it was clear he was growing increasingly angry at himself for precipitating the situation.
Asked for his opinion on his wheezing pen, Guillen took a seat in the stands, or press row, rather than the dugout, where he was tossing cups full of water as his team melted before him: I see what you guys see. Next. What the hell am I going to see? I see the same sh-- you guys see.
Drunkenly descending into a spate of postgame madness, Guillen became increasingly blinded by rage, hopping from excusing Sergio Santos from the debacle (ignoring the fact that the righty threw just 24 pitches yesterday vs. Sales 34) to an offhand joke about calling in ex-Sox closing ace Bobby Thigpen now Single-A Winston-Salem pitching coach to help out before a final, ranting meltdown against his own pitchers, a scene almost frightening to witness.
When we play good, they send those guys to this g-damn table and talk to them like heroes, Guillen spat. When we f--- it up, Im the one who has to go-damn sit here and talk to you guys.
With that, Ozzie flew the coop.
Team security offered a pat on the back during the death march back through the tunnel, which Guillen pulled away from, too sensitive to touch.
The White Sox headmaster too often spins vitriol into poetry, keeping the 24-hour sports media industry awash in cash. Today, his daggers were better disguised, surprisingly turning inward.
An off-day, and a trip to Miami to visit youngest son Ozney, await. The timing could not possibly be better.
The dirty details
In truth, it had been a nice run for Guillen early in the season, navigating the Chicago White Sox to a 7-4 record in spite of dealing with a struggling bullpen, Adam Dunns cranky appendix and some chronically-leaky outfield D.
Dropping to 7-5 has never seemed so precipitous.
John Danks threw eight sparkling innings, notching seven strikeouts against five hits and two walks. After a solid first start and a throwaway second, Danks tossed a gem to put himself in line for his first win of the season, giving the White Sox four well above-average starts in their last five.
But in the ninth, Sale came on to relieve Danks after having thrown 34 pitches a half a day earlier, and the rookie lefty threw gasoline on embers, surrendering a double, single, and single to pull Oakland within two. Jesse Crains attempt to rescue Sale was mixed, walking the bases full before striking out Kurt Suzuki.
Closer Matt Thornton came on and quickly Ks Ryan Sweeney, but surrendered a two-run single to Cliff Pennington tie the game. The Pale Hose, surely the most booed and mocked 7-5 team as the 2011 season gets underway, again had to open the umbrellas on a storm of boos.
John Danks left with a 4-1 lead after eight innings of work, but is still in search of his first win this season. (US PRESSWIRE)
Unfortunately for the embattled Thornton, Guillen has already burned two relievers, meaning hed have to ascend the bump for the 10th. Once there, the towering lefty retired Mark Ellis but successively walked Conor Jackson and Josh Willingham, setting the table for safeties from Coco Crisp and Daric Barton. In a sneeze, the As were up for good, 7-4.
It was a first-pitch fastball. I just dropped it in, Thornton said with a muted laugh. After that, I didnt do anything right. I walked two guys. Oh, man. Theres no way to even describe it right now, frustration is pretty high. Just keep on working and battling and get back to what I do best, going out and attacking hitters and making pitches. Right now, Im not making good enough pitches.
Confidence isnt the problem. Its frustration right now. This is the most frustrated Ive been in a long time. I cant remember a run of games like this where I havent gotten the job done this many times in a row. So, Ill get out of here for a day, clear my head and come back strong on Friday, ready to go.
Similarly Danks, despite all he lost in the gameand yeah, this marks three lost opportunities to stack winsstood tall, wearing beard scruff and John Wayne swagger.
Obviously these are games we should win, and we feel like were gonna win, Danks said. With that said, we know were gonna win these games over the course of the season. Were gonna win these games. It sucks now, butWere gonna win these games.
Before this worst ninth inning of the season, the first eight featured all the hallmarks of an ideal Guillen game: terrific starting pitching, solid infield defense, and smallball aggressiveness.
Danks was simply delicious, dancing through eight innings and 108 seemingly effortless pitches.
I felt good, I really did, the lefty said. I made a couple of bad 0-2 pitches early in the game that fortunately B-mo Brent Morel over there at 3rd base made some good plays on and Carlos Quentin made a helluva play in right field in the fourth. But once I got settled into the game, I felt real good.
As Danks alluded, Morel provided outstanding defense, and Chicagos infield turned in two double plays to keep Danks on cruise control late.
After the fans base howled that Mark Buehrle should have been allowed to finish the game on Tuesday night, thereby rendering Alexei Ramirezs heroics unnecessary, the thought that Danks should finish what he started has been raised.
Danks dismissed that without undue delay.
No, no, no, I was done, he said. If I hadnt have gotten the double play in the eighth, I might not have finished the inning. So there wasnt even a thought of me going back out in the ninth.
Another positive for Chicago was its abundant smallball, most significantly in the form of multiple bunt hits and sacrifices, including Morels safety squeeze to plate Chicagos third run. And Juan Pierre committed his third error of the young season on a base hit to left, but reached base all five times in the game with his usual assortment of scrappy, scratchy play.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.