Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has become the biggest creep in baseball -- at least on the days Barry Bonds takes off -- but he was far from the biggest villain in that ridiculous beanball incident Wednesday night in Texas.
In case you missed it, Guillen sent in rookie pitcher Sean Tracey in the seventh inning with apparent instructions to hit the Rangers' Hank Blalock. This was to be retaliation for White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski being hit twice earlier in the game by Rangers starter Vicente Padilla. Tracey, 25, making his third big-league appearance since his call-up a week earlier, threw two lame pitches inside to Blalock that didn't come close to hitting him, then got him to bounce out to second base. Guillen, incensed that Tracey didn't follow his orders, took Tracey out of the game and screamed at him in the dugout. Tracey, who was last seen with his jersey over his head, apparently in tears, then was told he was being sent back to the minors.
Was Guillen wrong to send a kid to do a man's job?
Absolutely. It's tough to ask a rookie to step into that situation. A veteran clearly was needed.
Was Guillen an idiot for berating Tracey in the dugout?
Absolutely. Guillen is known as a fiery, tell-it-like-it-is manager who was smart enough to win the World Series last season. But there are few reasons for showing up a player and this wasn't one. Guillen could have made his point just as well in the privacy of his office after the game. He didn't have to do it front of America and humiliate Tracey.
Should Guillen be held accountable by his bosses for ruining a pitching prospect?
Absolutely. Here's hoping White Sox management screamed at Guillen the same way he did at Tracey. The team thought enough of Tracey to give him a shot in the big leagues. Now the kid almost certainly won't pitch for the White Sox again, at least not for Guillen. He'll have a hard time pitching for any team. It's tough enough getting out hitters without having to deal with the reputation -- fair or otherwise -- of being soft.
So can we all agree Guillen is a creep?
But Guillen was not wrong for expecting retribution for the Pierzynski beanings. Any manager would have demanded it. He has to protect his hitters. Pitching inside is one thing. Hitting a batter intentionally is another. Guillen had no doubt Padilla, who otherwise had impeccable control, hit Pierzynski on purpose. Something had to be done. That's been a part of baseball forever.
Guillen also had a right to be angry when Tracey didn't carry out his instructions. He probably doesn't want to see Tracey again. If the kid doesn't have the heart to stand tall in that situation, he probably won't have the heart to make a big pitch with a game on the line.
That's why it's hard to feel much sympathy for Tracey. He made a bad career decision. No, it wasn't going to be easy for him to hit Blalock. Maybe Blalock would have charged the mound, although it's easy to think an appreciative Pierzynski would have stopped Blalock from getting there. But even if Blalock had pummeled Tracey, the pain wouldn't hurt as much as what Tracey is feeling today. No one wants to be known as a wimp to his teammates and baseball people.
But, like Guillen, Tracey isn't the big villain here.
Nor is he the softest figure.
How about Pierzynski? He gets drilled twice and does nothing about it? Sometimes, it's justified when a batter charges the mound, possible injury and certain suspension be damned. As Guillen noted the next day, "If Padilla hit me twice, right now I'd be in the hospital or I'd be dead. But I will fight ... "
And how about White Sox starter Javier Vazquez? Pierzynski was hit in the second and fourth innings. Vazquez pitched through the sixth. Why didn't he take care of the White Sox's business? Guillen shouldn't have had to tell him to do it. Vazquez is no kid. He's 29, in his ninth big-league season.
It's funny, on this same night, the Cleveland Indians' Jason Johnson threw a pitch high and tight to the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter in the fifth inning, then hit Jorge Posada in the sixth. When the Indians batted in the next half-inning, Yankees starter Randy Johnson threw a pitch way inside to Eduardo Perez. Johnson was ejected and suspended for five games the next day.
That's called taking one for the team and doing the right thing.
That's what Vazquez should have done.
Of course, Guillen didn't embarrass Vazquez the way he did Tracey. Guillen needs Vazquez to win another World Series. Guillen also defended Pierzynski -- a postseason hero for him a year ago -- for not going to the mound. "Everybody has a different way of going about their business."
Talk about a hypocrite.
Defend the veterans and blast the rookie.
It's enough to make me have second thoughts.
Maybe Guillen is the biggest villain in this story.
And the soft one.
Ron Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1525.