Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Smart Boss. Dumb Ozzie

Before I take some time to visit an old friend, I just wanted to chime in about a topic making its rounds in the mainstream media. As much as I dislike the rounds of “he said, she said,” I was slightly intrigued by Ozzie Guillen’s recent comments about Alex Rodriguez and the WBC. Not really because of what was said – though I do think it is rather harsh to impulsively refer to someone as a hypocrite – but because of the nature of the insult.

It seems the “cool” thing to do nowadays is to take a potshot at A-Rod. And honestly, he did set himself up for that kind of ridicule. He bolted the Mariners for a boatload of cash, but regretted his decision after two consecutive last place finishes. So he tried to get himself moved to a winner, Boston, but that fell through, so he ceded his shortstop position to play for the ultimate winners, the Yankees. But when you add a $25 million per year contract to the team with the highest payroll in the game, you’re going to have to expect some criticism.

So Guillen shot off his hypocrite comment in Sports Illustrated, one of the most highly read sports entities in the country. His words are there, in black and white. There is a hard copy, a published copy of this outburst. Of course, Guillen issued an apology statement a few days later, but that doesn’t erase the words in the near-million copies circulated. Guillen knew this, of course, and was probably rather half-assed in issuing his apology.

One person not fooled by Guillen is George Steinbrenner, who lashed out at Guillen in the wake of his A-Rod bashing. Say what you will about the Boss, but he’s always there to defend his players no matter how harshly he criticizes them at other points. Sure, A-Rod had a terrible playoffs and was likely the target of George’s ire for some time back in November, but when he is taunted, the Boss is there to back him up.

A-Rod didn’t issue much of a reaction, which, despite its connotations of cowardice, is the smart move. Guillen was immature to release his statement, especially to a media outlet the magnitude of SI, and A-Rod was careful not to stoop to his level. He let the Boss do the reacting, which comes across more as backing up his players than an immature retaliation. Smart PR on the Yankees side. Dumb PR from the White Sox.

Now if we can just translate PR tactics into wins…