Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ozzie Guillen On Dealing With a Martinet:
A Needle Works Better Than a Hammer

I've been getting mail asking for Ozzie Guillen management insights, and I'm working one some new material that requires combing through play-by-play logs...very exhaustive, but exhausting, research. In the meantime, I pulled this out of the archives for your edutainmentificationizing

Good management shouldn't have to involve office politics, but in most organizations, it does. In unhealthy organizations, a manager will spend more time actively planning and executing political ploys, as well as work shaped to support those political ploys, than she will work that's aimed at the organization's mission.

That's overhead. And specifically, that particular form of overhead is one of the key Diseconomies of Scale. The general (not universal) trend is the larger the organization, the larger the percentage of resources dedicated to internal political aims rather than the mission.

There's a certain kind of political weasel I particularly dislike, that just triggers a chemical reaction that probably is worse because I went to military school and spent more time than I should have in the Army: The Martinet. The know-it-all, perfectly-dressed, precision-worshipping, sharp-tongued hyper-critic. Someone like Buck Showalter.

Now I don't exactly dislike Showalter, nor do I think he's a poor manager. But if I was in his organization or an opposing manager, his drill-master act would get on my nerves. And if he was playing a zero-sum political game with me, I'd be tempted to really get into it with him -- when he came after me, I'd just want to go mano-a-mano with him.

There's a much much more effective way. One can't use the technique as a consultant, but it's a great one to use when the martinet is in the same or a collaborating organization. That's needling. Not overtly hostile. Sarcastic, ironic, sardonic, or some mix of the aforementioned flavors. The way Ozzie Guillen does it.

Guillen is in his rookie year as a major league manager. He's pretty stressed as his Chicago White Sox, expected to be really competitive, have lost their two best offensive players (Frank Thomas & Magglio Ordoñez) to injuries, and at this point are playing .500 ball and have no rational shot at the wild card. And in a town like Chicago, he won't get much slack from the press or fans. Earlier this month, he took a verbal hammer to an ump who had a poor day with his calls, and paid a fine for the privilege. The fine may have awakened his more creative needling side.

According to the Daily Southdown (courtesy of Baseball Think Factory):

Guillen took exception to comments Showalter made after the Sox beat the Rangers 7-3 on Thursday night. Showalter's comments stemmed from an incident that occurred during the game.

Guillen noticed in the first inning of Thursday's game that Rangers roving pitching instructor John Wetteland was coaching first base. Steve Smith, the Rangers' regular third-base coach, was serving a suspension for arguing with an umpire in an Aug. 25 game, and Rangers first-base coach DeMarlo Hale moved over to coach third.

Guillen asked the umpires if Wetteland was allowed to coach first base, citing a rule that a replacement coach on the field has to be part of the big-league staff. When the umpires told Guillen that Texas had received permission to make the move, Guillen said he simply said "no problem" and left it at that.

Showalter didn't leave it at that during his postgame media session. "I guess he didn't know you could carry seven coaches in September or an extra coach in September," Showalter said. Showalter then said something about Sox general manager Kenny Williams needing to let Guillen know about that rule.

Guillen saw that as an unwarranted jab. So he chose to throw a haymaker Friday. "The comments he made, I think they were unprofessional, because I was doing my job," Guillen said. "The only reason I did it is because he would do the same if he was on my side. And I didn't make it a big deal because it was Mr. Wetteland coaching first base. If it was somebody else coaching first, I will make a big deal about it because that's the rules. I think you can call up people to be on your coaching staff, but you can't have them on the field.

"Even after the game, I forgot about it. Now all a sudden they come up with his comments and I think it's unprofessional. But when the 'best manager' in the history of baseball talks about you, that means you're on somebody's mind. And when you're beating the crap out of the best manager in baseball, and we beat the (bleep) out of them, it makes me feel a lot better.

[snip] Guillen continued. "To compete against the guy (Showalter) that invented baseball, and beat him, that's something you should feel good about as a rookie manager."

Guillen said the reason Showalter keeps one hand in his pocket when he makes a pitching change is "so he doesn't lose the key to baseball that he keeps there when he runs on the field."

The feud between the two skippers has been building for some time. Guillen claimed Showalter showed him some attitude when the Rangers and Sox met in a Cactus League game in spring training. When the Sox went to Texas for a two-game series in July, Showalter didn't like the fact that third-base coach Joey Cora made up a lineup card that included head shots of each of the Sox players, as well as their e-mail addresses, mocking Showalter's well-known obsession for details.

According to Guillen, someone who works for Showalter informed the Sox skipper that Showalter felt Guillen had no respect for the game because he was having too much fun.

"I could have made a big deal about it, but I was professional enough because I respect the guy that was coaching first base," Guillen said about Thursday's incident. "Wetteland did something in the big leagues. (Showalter) never even smelled a jock in the big leagues. He didn't even know how the clubhouse in the big leagues was when he got his first job. ... 'Mr. Baseball' never even got a hit in Triple-A. He was a backup catcher or a first baseman all his career. Now all of the sudden he's the best ever in baseball.

Guillen said he'd like to trade spring training facilities with the Kansas City Royals, who share their facility in Surprise, Ariz., with the Rangers. That way Guillen could torment the Texas skipper more often.

"When you talk about anybody in baseball you've got to be careful what you say," Guillen said, "because he made my general manager look like an idiot, like he doesn't know anything about the game. And he made me look like I'm just another one wearing a uniform.

"It's too bad I didn't have to go to the minor leagues to get this job like he did. I was coaching straight up in the big leagues. I was a big-league coach and I went straight to big-league manager. Ozzie Guillen had to do something to take those steps. I only played two, three years in the minor leagues and played 14 years with the same team.

"There are so many different things he might be jealous (of)," Guillen added. "I was a better player than him, I've got more money than him and I'm better looking than him."

On first reading, one might think he was being serious, but he made sure to make some jibes that were clearly over-the-top and impossible to take as anything but teasing. Martinets hate teasing, because they work so hard to put themselves in an unassailable position by playing a zero-sum game of "who's the most authoritative". Martinets equate seriousness with success, so when you undermine the seriousness of the mood, you undermine the entire foundation of their game. Rather than meet the zero-sum gamer head on in a beanball war, you change the game completely.

Here's how you apply the Guillen Venezuelan Acupuncture technique yourself. If you're in a public meeting both with peers and people to whom you report, you have natural allies, and the perfect audience to needle the martinet. Many other people will share your dislike of the martinet. Rather than flaming him or her, pay homage to the martinet's historically-significant greatness...while pointing out their limitations. Polite, but sardonic. Playful but cutting. Only one in five hundred of these types have the ability to use humor or respond it it gracefully. If he blows up or she storms out of the room, you've won. Or if he gets sullen, you've won.

Ozzie Guillen may never have been a good hitter...but he sure can deliver some timely hits.

Discussion here.

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