Times Books sent me a copy of Rick Morrissey’s new book Ozzie’s School of Managment last week. I got to tell you, the more I read about skipper Ozzie, the more I thought about Joe Maddon.
A lot of Morrissey’s Ode to Ozzie is what you would expect. Ozzie is foul mouthed, needy, and emotionally unstable. (Best I can tell, he is exactly the same as he was during his final season with the Devil Rays. The good Ozzie days were great days in our clubhouse. The bad Ozzie days were not.) He’s exactly the childish imp you’d expect him to be. But, there is a deeper level to Ozzie that Morrissey makes you appreciate. He broke the Managerial mold, with purpose.
The book is littered with quotes from White Sox players that occasionally roll their eyes at Guillen but always express their love for him. Almost every player seemed to miss Guillen when they left Chicago and expressed a desire to follow him wherever he may manage. They love Guillen, despite the distractions, for two reasons:
1) He makes sure everyone is having fun and being positive; and
2) He trusts in their abilities, to a fault.
These strengths come from Guillen’s overriding philosophy to managing. Managers don’t win games. Players do. So, in Ozzieland, he is primarily responsible for his players’ mental approach and secondarily responsible for strategy. (Ironically, he goes on and on about making sure players have the right mental state during the grind of a season while simultaneously bashing sports psychologists in one of the funniest takedowns in the book: ‘ When I was playing the game nothing was mental. All of a sudden, everything’s mental…Mental? Why isn’t it mental when you go 4-for-4? You got the same brains.’)
This is genius. And I think it is a genius Ozzie shares with Joe Maddon. The short ups-and-downs of a 162-game marathon are expected but, if the team is going to win, the players have to be loose and know they have an advocate in the dugout. They cannot succeed if they are looking over their shoulder at every mistake and they cannot succeed if they are slumping into their lockers after a bad night.
Ozzie and Joe approach this problem in the same way but the end result is the same. Fernando Rodney knew he was going to the get the ball yesterday despite Saturday’s loss just like Bobby Jenks knew he was going to get the ball after a blown save in the World Series. Joe gave Rodney a hug. Ozzie surely didn’t hug Jenks but, he surely did express his unequivocal support. Likewise, Joe plans themed road trips and Ozzie hangs around the clubhouse teasing the guys like he’s the 26th man on the roster.
Ozzie and Joe are a new generation of manager that seem to have turned conventional thinking on its head. They run their clubs in a way a knucklehead like Bobby Valentine could never understand. Watching Boston the last three days it is clear that there isn’t a single person in their dugout having any fun. The skipper is running the club to make sure everyone knows the struggles aren’t his fault and the players are rolling their eyes. That’s why the Rays have lapped Boston.