Equity is the fuel that powers players and managers. Equity buys time. For players, managers, even General Managers, equity keeps contracts alive and forgives shortcomings. Success, however brief or fleeting, can build that equity. Carlos Zambrano had it. A.J. Burnett had it. Now, when the equity has been burnt up, Zambrano is standing on the side of the road waiving an empty fuel can. Burnett is coasting in the slow lane, just hoping to make it to his exit. And Ozzie Guillen is running on fumes.
In an ESPNChicago article, Ozzie Guillen talked about his desire for a contract extension this off-season. Personal feelings aside, I don’t deny the fact that Guillen has been one of the better White Sox managers. Not great, but better than average. I don’t even dispute the fact that Guillen has a right to want an extension before going into the final year of his contract. However, the Chicago White Sox are in a pennant race, or at least the closest thing to a pennant race the A.L. Central has to offer. His focus should be elsewhere.
Jim Riggleman was building a team from the ground up and succeeding with Washington. He was not in the middle of a pennant race. He was also not coming to the end of a multi-year contract. Unlike Guillen’s threat to walk out on his team next season if he does not get a new contract, Riggleman had justification. In September of 2007, Guillen’s contract was extended through the 2012 season. Earlier than that, he had a contract extension in 2005 that was to carry him through 2009. Guillen hasn’t had job security issues in the past. He has never operated as a “lame-duck manager” as he put it in the ESPNChicago article. And the timing of Guillen’s comments make the situation worse than it should have been.
Ozzie Guillen guided the Chicago White Sox to a World Championship in 2005. He guided the team to another play-off berth in 2008. Since then, he’s been running on equity. He may have even been running on equity since the 2005 season considering the White Sox were bounced in the first round of the 2008 play-offs. Yet, the equity from a World Series title can only last so long. Especially in a city like Chicago. Two play-off appearances in eight years is great for a small market club. It’s good for a mid-market club. It’s pretty bad for a big market club like the White Sox.
It seems as if Ozzie Guillen has built a larger than life image of himself in his head. He has not won multiple World Series titles. He has not been a perennial play-off team. Removing 2005 and 2008 from the equation, Guillen has gone 479-463. That’s only a .508 winning percentage. Hardly the type of numbers justifying mid-season contract talks and threats. His volatile temper, his relationship with General Manager Kenny Williams, and his comments to media have burned through his the fuel of his equity faster than a eight-mile-per-gallon Hummer H2.
Guillen will probably get his contract extension. He will probably be the White Sox manager for years to come. But much of this depends on his ability to build more equity. Demanding a new contract with 29 games left to go in a season where you have had to fight and scrap to remain above .500 does not go a long ways toward remaining with the club. Guillen will probably realize this and back off a bit. If not, he could be in trouble.
Owners and General Managers don’t usually like it when you pour fuel out the window while already running on fumes.