September 30, 2005
You Make The Call
Imagine that you are Ozzie Guillen. Your Chicago White Sox have withstood the late-season surge by the Cleveland Indians to win the American League Central Division, and not even a 3-game sweep by the Tribe in Cleveland this weekend can change that fact. Your team needs one more win to secure home field advantage for the duration of its stay in the AL playoffs. You are 2 games up on the Yankees for the best record in the league, and in the event of a tie with New York for the best record, the tiebreakers would work in your favor.
Only a New York sweep of the final 3 games in Boston, and a complete meltdown against the Indians could keep you from that best record, and a Yankee sweep in Boston doesn't seem likely. Now, a Red Sox sweep of the Yankees coupled with a sweep at the hands of Cleveland could be troublesome-- the tiebreaker would give Boston the best record in the AL. However, the likelihood of a Boston sweep of the Yankees also seems remote. Yes, it happened last year, but this isn't the same Red Sox team as last year.
So the $64,000 question is: how hard do you play against Cleveland?
Guillen has gone on record to say that he plans to play all-out, out of respect for the Yankees and Red Sox. Commissioner Bud Selig is satisfied that the White Sox will put in an effort this weekend in Cleveland. Ronald Blum of the AP reports:
Asked whether he would tell the White Sox to use their starters, Selig said: "I have faith in the clubs. The clubs know what to do. I'm not telling them anything."
But when he was asked what this weekend's series meant after the White Sox had clinched on Thursday, Chigago's ace Mark Buehrle replied, "Nothing." Hmm. Maybe the players know something that Ozzie and Bud don't know.
If Cleveland sweeps, and the Yankees win 2 of 3 to take the AL Eastern Division, the Indians take the wild-card spot, and the Red Sox go home for the season. If Cleveland sweeps, and the Red Sox win 2 of 3 to force a one-game playoff to determine the AL East champ, the loser of the playoff is out. More to the point, anything less than a Cleveland sweep is a mess. For Ozzie and his boys, a Cleveland sweep means the elimination of one of the two best-hitting, playoff-tested teams in all of baseball.
So, all intended high-mindedness aside, if you were Ozzie Guillen, wouldn't you want to see one of those two teams going home? Would it not be in your team's best interests, and, in fact, the manager's job, to rest the regulars-- what is the commissioner really going to say anyway-- and hope that one of the Goliaths takes a tumble in the meantime? (This might be a good place to remind everybody about the integrity of the game, but could the integrity of the game possibly be damaged any more considering all of the extracurricular events of this season?) And in the unlikely event of a Red Sox sweep of New York, the White Sox have one of the best road record in the majors.
Ozzie has to remember that he owes neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees any favors. Better yet, he might try to recall the last time that either of his rich cousins did him any favors.
Posted by Andrew Torres at 9:18 AM