THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Guillen's gaffe: Revenge vow can backfire big time
In The Godfather, when Michael Corleone decides to whack Carlo, he doesn't say, "Watch out, we're gonna whack you." Instead, Michael tells Carlo he'll call his wife, puts him in a car, then has Clemenza garrote him– this all after Michael assures him they won't kill him.
Like anyone with any sense, when Michael Corleone had a dirty job to do, he didn't give the game away beforehand.
When Ozzie Guillen made the decision to retaliate against pitchers who hit White Sox batters, if he had wanted to be smart about it, he probably would have kept it to himself. Instead, Guillen decided to lay his cards on the table.
"If I see someone hit my player, and I know they hit him on purpose, it's two guys going down. I don't care if I get suspended," Guillen said.
Not exactly subtle.
Guillen's animosity is understandable, considering Cleveland pitchers hit three Sox players last Saturday. And it was the fourth time in eight games Paul Konerko had been beaned. But to come right out and vow retaliation?
Who does Guillen think he is, Inigo Montoya? One can't go around spouting revenge and expect any good to come of it, especially over a pitch.
Being hit by a pitch is nothing new. Hugh Jennings holds the all-time record for being hit by a pitch. How many? Try 287 pitches between 1891 and 1903.
Getting hit is so common that baseball rule-makers actually figured out four instances in which taking a base isn't called for. In fact, there are so many subtleties in pitching that most times it's nearly impossible to determine when a pitcher is intentionally hitting a batter, no matter how time-honored the tradition may be.
It may not seem fair, but chin music is as legal as stealing a base. Pitchers can purposely throw balls high and tight, nearly brushing the batter's chin, with zero repercussions. Pitchers use chin music to keep batters from crowding the plate. But the distinction between a brush back and a bean ball is slim to none. What's the difference between grazing a batter's stubble or catching him on the chin? Centimeters? Millimeters?
Even a plunker, a pitch that hits a batter's back, is up for debate. Getting hit by a ball like that could be intentional on the part the batter rather than the pitcher, thereby falling into one of the categories in which a base isn't taken– if a batter's back is in the strike zone when it gets hit by the pitch, it's just too bad for him.
The thing is, it's up to the umpire to determine what does and doesn't constitute intent– it's not Guillen's job to establish whether a pitcher is vicious. And even if a pitcher does mean to hit one of Guillen's players, what is there to do about it? Storm the opponents' locker room like Prince Fielder? Hurl a Molotov cocktail toward the other dugout?
In the American League, there's no fair way to get back at a pitcher. For those who have wondered if the designated hitter rule has a downside, there it is. Pitchers never bat for themselves in the American League like they do in the National (a reason there isn't as much plunking going on in the NL). So the only thing Guillen could do, barring anticipatory action, is take out his vengeance on an innocent player.
Apparently that's Guillen's plan. Taking revenge on an innocent is done all the time (hitting another pitcher with a ball is bad manners– it almost never happens), but not in such a vocally preemptive way. With Guillen's threat on the table, imagine what will happen if Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle accidentally tags somebody on the elbow. He'll be benched in a heartbeat. What if Guillen wants to argue a call at home plate? Good luck with that one.
There's no way Guillen's big mouth won't cause his team more grief than they already have. It's one thing to confront an umpire once in a while, but it's quite another to threaten and bite one's thumb at every team in the league, the umpires union, and Major League Baseball.
By issuing a vendetta, Guillen made himself and his team look like thugs– and believe me, the White Sox better watch their backs. After all, like the old proverb says, "He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself."