I am a huge Chicago White Sox fan. Both of my parents are from Chicago; my dad, who grew up in Northbrook and was almost a White Sox batboy, used to sit next to Harry Caray at old Comiskey Park and watch the announcer get bombed on cheap beer (this, of course, was way back before Caray took a broadcasting job with the crosstown Cubs). One of my earliest memories is attending a game at Comiskey in the late 1980s. Some of the Sox players were out beneath the bleachers taking pictures with fans. My cousins and I took a picture with then-shortstop Ozzie Guillen, and as we began to walk away, Ozzie grabbed me, put me on his lap and had the photographer take a couple more pictures. Ozzie's been my favorite player ever since.
Last week, my beloved Sox, managed by Ozzie, swept the defending champion Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series. Ozzie was virtually perfect in making the calls. He was aggressive on the basepaths, fantastic in handling the pitching staff. At one point in the ninth inning of Game 3, he even called for a squeeze play to bring home a runner from third. It was textbook baseball. Just beautiful.
Ozzie only made one mistake. In Game 3, with the White Sox up 4-3 over the Red Sox, Ozzie called in lefty reliever Damaso Marte. Marte's statistics are decent (66 appearances, 3.77 Earned Run Average, 54 strikeouts) and he has nasty stuff, but he also happens to be a complete head case. His motion to the plate makes it look as though he's going to pop his arm out of his socket every time he flings a fastball. When this guy comes into a close ballgame, it's relatively certain that he will never find the catcher's mitt, let alone the strike zone. Chances of holding a one-run lead with Marte on the mound are about the same as the Kansas City Royals winning the World Series next year.
Nevertheless, with a slim 4-3 lead in the clinching game of the ALDS, Ozzie motioned for the southpaw. In came Marte, who proceeded to give up a single to Trot Nixon and two consecutive walks to Bill Mueller and John Olerud. Now the White Sox had a one-run lead with zero outs and the bases loaded. Thankfully, Ozzie's next pitching selection, Orlando Hernandez, brilliantly pitched his way out of the jam and got Marte off the hook for his rotten performance.
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