Speak up, Jim Thome. You, too, Jermaine Dye. You're shy, Mark Buehrle, but that only will make your words more meaningful. OzzieBall wasn't about bunting and stealing bases. It wasn't "smallball." It was an attitude. And if OzzieBall - circa 2005 - is to return for the White Sox, the manager can't be the only vocal leader on the field and in the clubhouse.
Speak up, Jim Thome. You, too, Jermaine Dye. You're shy, Mark Buehrle, but that only will make your words more meaningful.
OzzieBall wasn't about bunting and stealing bases. It wasn't "smallball." It was an attitude. And if OzzieBall - circa 2005 - is to return for the White Sox, the manager can't be the only vocal leader on the field and in the clubhouse.
Just two years after winning the World Series, Ozzie Guillen's team went 72-90 last season. As the Sox begin Cactus League exhibition play today, captain Paul Konerko's goal this spring - and this season - is to do everything possible to ensure they won't be laughingstocks again in 2008.
"I go in with this thought: I'm not gonna lose 90 games again," Konerko said. "Between me, Jermaine, Jimmy, Buehrle and a few of the other guys who have been around, we need to be more vocal. If it looks, sounds, feels, or smells like last year, in any way, we need to do a 180 and go the other direction."
Agreed. Guillen can't be the only person holding players accountable.
"The manager can only do so much," he said. "We have plenty of guys here to take care of their business and, if they have to, to take care of somebody else's business. It means more coming from them."
Indeed, imagine the impact if Thome or Buehrle call out a teammate who isn't hustling.
"I'm not the kind of guy to stand up in a meeting and say something," Buehrle said. "That's not my character."
That's my point, and Konerko's point, too. If the veteran left-hander did speak from his heart, it would resonate.
The day Thome arrived in camp, he said he has a "meanness" few people see. Well, if his teammates fall back into bad habits, Gentleman Jim should display that side.
Thome dumping over the post-game buffet wouldn't have turned the 2007 White Sox into champions because problems were many: rotten relief pitching, poor clutch batting, lousy leadoff hitting, injuries. But it couldn't have hurt. Ever since the '06 All-Star break, the Sox have lacked fire - and success.
OzzieBall has been confused with smallball, but it was more than Scott Podsednik's baserunning, Tadahito Iguchi's ability to do little things and Aaron Rowand's defensive prowess.
It was a swagger, an attention to detail, a focus, a way of life. It continued into the first half of 2006, after Thome replaced Rowand in a power-packed lineup and after injuries rendered Podsednik ineffective. Where did it go?
"We just kind of lost our way," Konerko said. "To me, OzzieBall was preparing to play a 1-0, knock-down, drag-out, 11-inning game every single day. If you end up winning 7-2, well, that's gravy. But the key is to assume you won't, assume that every pitch, every fielding play, every at-bat and every decision by Ozzie will matter.
"Maybe Detroit and Cleveland really are way better than us now, just like all the predictors say, but we owe it to our fans, our organization and each other to play the right way so we at least have a chance."
I'm not sure Ken Williams gave Guillen enough starting pitching, but the GM's two main offseason acquisitions - outfielder Nick Swisher and shortstop Orlando Cabrera - could usher in OzzieBall II. They are vocal players who fit the "grinder" mold of the 2005 White Sox.
"We'll be underdogs, so we can't afford to slack off even one inning," Cabrera said. "If I see someone not doing something I know he's capable of doing, yeah, I'll talk to him."
That's music to the captain's ears.
"I'd never been on a team where we weren't competitive, so I took it for granted ... and then last year happened. We played way too many meaningless games," Konerko said. "That should dial us in more this year, starting right now, in spring training.
"We should be fearful, where we're like: 'If I don't say something or do something or get my act together or get this other guy's act together, it's gonna be like last year.' I've never had an 'it could be like last year' worry before. Now I've got one, so I'm afraid like hell to have another."
Mike Nadel (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service. Read his blog, The Baldest Truth, at www.thebaldesttruth.com.