Wisch: If Ozzie Leaves, Who Are The White Sox?

By Dave Wischnowsky –

(CBS) Jerry Manuel managed the Chicago White Sox.

But he wasn’t the Chicago White Sox.

Neither was Terry Bevington, nor was Gene Lamont. Jeff Torborg didn’t embody the entire South Side ballclub’s identity. And you can hardly say that Jim Fregosi or Doug Rader (during his robust two-game stint in 1986) did either.

No, in order to find a White Sox manager with an ego, image and reputation as large as the one that Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen currently carries in the Windy City – and, I’d say, nationwide – you have to hearken back a full quarter-century to the Comiskey Park reign of Tony LaRussa.

But even then, when LaRussa managed the White Sox from 1979 through (most of) 1986, he wasn’t yet TONY LARUSSA, winner of two World Series championships and more than 2,700 games.

Rather, he was just another good manager who led a solid, but unspectacular franchise to a division championship in 1983. And three years later when LaRussa was fired by then-general manager Hawk Harrelson, it was a pretty big deal in Chicago, but hardly an earth-shaking one. The White Sox were essentially still the same organization, sans LaRussa, as they were with him on the bench.

But if Ozzie Guillen loses his longtime power struggle with general manager Kenny Williams and leaves the South Side – which is looking more and more likely with each passing game and press conference – just who are the White Sox?

What exactly is their identity, both locally – and nationally? And what will the impact of Guillen’s departure be?

With Joe Torre several years removed from the Bronx and Bobby Cox now gone from Atlanta, I’d say that, these days, Guillen clearly is more the face of his franchise than any other manager in MLB, save the aforementioned LaRussa dow in St. Louis.

Love him or hate him, Ozzie Guillen is the White Sox. He’s the biggest reason why many people pay attention to the team. And in his column on Wednesday, the Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley made that same point when he wrote:

So by next month, Guillen could indeed be shaking hands with [Florida owner Jeffrey] Loria as the Marlins’ new manager. What does that leave the Sox shaking hands with?

Irrelevancy, meet the White Sox. White Sox, this is irrelevancy. I think you two have already met.

Now, I’ve written earlier this year that the Chicago Cubs, who currently lack a big-time star or a big-name manager, are a faceless organization. Nevertheless, the Cubs will always have an identity thanks (or no thanks) to their “Lovable Losers” tag. They’ll never struggle for a persona until after they actually win a World Series, and then they’d pretty much become the Red Sox.

But if the White Sox lose Guillen, how will it impact the ballclub going forward?

Last summer, for my weekly Wisch List newspaper column, I conducted a comparison of White Sox and Cubs attendance figures for every decade since 1920. Among my findings, I learned, not surprisingly, that in each decade since 1970, the Cubs have drawn a higher percentage of Chicago’s total fans. But, I was surprised to learn that during the 1980s and ’90s the White Sox actually gained ground in the attendance war.

For the ’70s, the Sox drew 44.8 percent of the city’s total fans, followed by 45.6 percent in the ’80s and 46.3 percent in the ’90s.

But then came 2000-09, a decade in which the White Sox won a World Series, yet somehow lost 4.3 percent of the city’s fan base, as the Cubs attracted 58 percent of the city’s 52.3 million total fans, compared to 53.7 percent in the 10 years before.

Even with Guillen’s personality and the White Sox’s winning ways during a successful decade, the South Side franchise still found it difficult to attract fans. This season, the Sox rank a sluggish 20th in attendance out of 30 MLB teams, averaging just 24,871 fans and 65.4 percent capacity per game at U.S. Cellular Field.

And what happens with the attendance – not to mention the amount of media attention given to the Sox – without Guillen, no one knows for sure. But on Aug. 31, before the Sox fell out of the AL Central race, I sent a die-hard White Sox fan friend of mine a text message, asking: “Ozzie vs. Kenny. Who wins?”

“Should be Ozzie,” my buddy wrote back. “Kenny gave him [crap] to work with and he’s in contention. But Kenny will win.”

I agreed and then asked, if that happens, who he’d like to see replace Guillen as manager.

“I’d be fine with [Bob] Brenly,” my friend replied, tossing out an intriguing name.

But intriguing enough to keep the White Sox from shaking hands from irrelevancy? I don’t know. With Guillen appearing to be on the way out, it looks like we may start finding out soon enough.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.

davewisch Wisch: If Ozzie Leaves, Who Are The White Sox?

Dave Wischnowsky

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Based on how disappointing the Sox were in 2011, the face of the franchise ought to have been Adam Dunn.

    Ozzie is sufficiently narcissistic that he will be the “face of the franchise” if he stays or if he goes to the Miami Marlins (new name effective 11/11/11).

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Oh, Ozzie will probably try to compete with LeBron and Wade as the face of all of Miami if he does indeed head to SoFla this winter (which I’ve suspected for a while, he will).

  • Boring

    How original…an article by a Cubs fan about the Sox attendance. Yawn.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Ha. Oh, I’m interested in far more than how Guillen’s absence would impact the White Sox’s attendance.

      Attendance is some sort of barometer of White Sox fans’ interest or disinterest in the team — although I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the true meaning of South Side attendance figures — which you can read more about here, if you’d like: http://wischlist.com/2010/09/for-cubs-and-sox-attendance-its-a-game-of-numbers/

      Perhaps that will be less “Boring ;)

      But far beyond mere attendance, I’m curious just what the local and national identity of an Ozzie-less ballclub would be, and what the ramifications of it would be overall. Really, since Ditka, probably no Chicago sports team has been so closely identified with its manager. Ozzie is more the White Sox, I’d say, than Phil Jackson was ever the Bulls, or Piniella the Cubs, etc.

  • Skip Bartolich

    I don’t need a manager who is the face of the franchise – is Terry Francona the face of the Red Sox franchise? I need a manager to actually manage a ball club – not give up outs the way Ozzie does. I need a manager who holds players accountable for bad fundamentals – who may lazy plays does Rios need to make in CF before he’s benched for good.

    I want a manager not a club spokesperson

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Ozzie is almost at the level of a college hoops coach…..when Booyah or Fox do a commercial about a (rare) upcoming Sox game, the script says something like, “See Ozzie Guillen’s White Sox take on etc. etc..”

  • Boring

    I guess I’ll just never understand Cubs fans’ infatuation with the White Sox attendance. Is it really that hard to understand? The Cubs have way more fans (in Chicago and nationally). More fans = more attendance…right? As a White Sox fan, I go to as many games as I can afford. If I don’t go, there will probably be an empty seat. If a Cubs fan in a similar situation as me does not go, there are a bunch of other Cubs fans that will take his/her place. Why does it make Cubs fans so happy to know that there are more of them?

    The ramifications of Ozzie leaving? The White Sox will be completely ignored by the national media (as opposed to almost completely ignored like they are now). I don’t really care. I remember game 1 of the Boston series in 2005. I thought it was great that Boomer over at the Boo-Yah network was actively rooting for the Red Sox on a national broadcast. It just made winning that game that much sweeter.

  • Oak Park Gman

    I agree to some extent that the White Sox will slip a little more into irrelevancy if Ozzie Goes. Frankly I would much rather be waving bye bye to Kenny on that bumpy bus ride out of town. He’s pillaged the farm system for all his big plans to “win now” and what has it got the White Sox? Multi year high dollar low return contracts like Dunn, Rios and Peavy, while we’ve dealt Hudson, Gonzales and many many more.

    I love the White Sox, as my father before me, as my kids do now, we always will. But it infuriates me that the buffoon behind the curtain, Kenny Williams, might still be there next year to hire the next manager and make somemore brilliant roster moves that will haunt us for years to come.

    Mr. Chairman, if you decide that Ozzie isn’t in your plans for the future, I implore you not to bring back the egomaniacal wrecking ball of a general manager either, lest we suffer the same fate for years to come.


    Would a different manager had a better record this year? I think you can point to losses that were caused by the rift.
    Another playoff run, I think, would’ve moved the needle back towards the Sox.
    Because, you’d get to see them beat the Tigers and vanquish the Twins on their road to a playoff berth.
    Meanwhile, the N.L. Central looks to be going to the Brewers by default. I think there are more baseball fans in Chicago that want to go to good baseball games.

  • FC

    Say what you will about Ozzie Guillen; but he is the only one that has taken the White Sox to win a World Series in the last several decades. I take an ego all day long if he is bringing pennats to the city. It is a whole lot more than what we can say about anyone at the Cubs organization.Love him or hate him, he’s a winner.

  • bob

    It’s time for Ozzie to go. Get som e fresh blood in here and a different approach. We will be just fine, unload some unproductive players and if possible, a new GM too.

  • Joe Santoro

    How about Carlton Fisk as manager? Bring Tony LaRussa back so he could fire Hawk Harrelson. How about hiring John McDonough away from the Hawks and get rid of Kenny? Joey Cora would be a fine manager. How about Frank Thomas as hitting coach? There are a lot of ways the Sox could go. The bottom line is this franchise needs to go in a new direction.

  • Jim Campbell

    Here’s an innovative marketing move that the White Sox would probably never consider: Hire Ryne Sandburg as manager. Imagine how many bandwagon/angry/disillusioned Cubs fans that would jump ship. At the very least, it would definitely sell tix.

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