EDITORS: Will update after White Sox-Yankees game.
The weather? Really, Oz?
Given the criticism he receives for his lineups, game strategy, wacky proclamations and loyalty to World Series heroes, it seems imprudent for Ozzie Guillen to venture into the even more second-guessable realm of forecasting storm surges, warm air masses and low pressure areas.
Then again, prudence isn't one of the White Sox manager's traits.
"This year, I predict, it's gonna be a tough summer for baseball because the weather is kind of crazy," Guillen said before Thursday night's game against the New York Yankees was delayed by rain. "You watch. El Nino!"
Actually, meteorologists categorized this past winter's anomaly as La Nina. A cooling of Pacific Ocean temperatures, it’s the diametric opposite of El Nino. But hey, those weather people with fancy charts on the evening news don't get everything right, either. And both La Nina and El Nino can wreak havoc on picnics, golf outings, war protests and other fun outdoor events.
After a surprisingly fast start that had them at 9-5, the best record in the American League, the White Sox hadn't been wreaking havoc on the baseball world lately.
Their rough patch dated back to April 17, when Bobby Jenks blew a two-run ninth-inning lead in Baltimore. (Not only did he refuse to talk to beat writers, he also pointed to his oversized rump and suggested they pucker up. Very professional.
(For a wrestler, perhaps.)
Anyway, Jenks certainly hadn't been the problem; that was his only blown save this season. So what's the deal?
Some of my media colleagues say the team is too slow. With only three stolen bases, all by Orlando Cabrera, these aren't exactly the Go-Go Sox. The lineup features plodders Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and Joe Crede. Still, the White Sox do rank high in runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs.
"You guys didn't say we had no speed when we were winning," said Nick Swisher, who's not the swiftest guy but gets on base often, as every leadoff man should.
Sox fans are on Guillen's case for sticking with Juan Uribe, who is batting .167. The shortstop in 2005, when he made two sensational plays to clinch the team's first championship in 88 years, Uribe went to second base when the Sox acquired Cabrera.
"I've got some fans saying Uribe has a picture of me doing something wrong," Guillen said. "He's not hitting? Well, a few players on my team are not hitting. Nobody asks, 'Why you don't bench this guy or that guy?'"
Ozzie didn't mention names, but he made sure we knew they rhymed with Zomee and Zonerko.
"People have to remember: Uribe gave me a ring," Guillen said. "I got frustrated with Uribe last year, when we were losing and he was giving up at-bats. But this year, this kid is doing everything we ask him to do. Give the kid a break."
Ozzie gave Uribe a break Thursday, starting Alexei Ramirez and his .143 average.
"I just benched Uribe to make the fans real happy," Guillen said. "No. I wanted to get some at-bats for Ramirez. But I'm gonna play Uribe as long as I want to. He's my starting second baseman. We are where we are because of Uribe's defense. If we have to worry about Uribe hitting to win, we don't have a good ballclub."
Sorry, but I'm not convinced Uribe's glove work was the main reason the White Sox went into Thursday leading the AL Central with an 11-9 record. I'm not convinced the Sox are good yet, either. Even Guillen knows they were fortunate to catch Detroit early, when the Tigers were hapless.
Well, here come the Tigers. The Indians, too. Does anybody really believe those teams aren't the class of the division?
Asked to name areas in which the White Sox needed improvement, Guillen abruptly relocated from Illinois to the state of denial: "We don't need to improve anything because we're in first place. You think we need improvement? Where?"
When the team's league-low .244 batting average was mentioned, Guillen responded: "But we're in first place. We're not at the point to say we need this, we need that."
Ozzie should know. After all, he did predict that earthquake last week.
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.