CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen made it quite clear before Saturday’s game that he is losing patience with Juan Pierre’s critics.
“I wish I could say what I think, because I’d be on CNN, the Playboy Channel, everywhere, [if I say] what I really think about this,” Guillen said. “But I’m not going to say it, it’s the first time I’m going to keep it to myself.”
In typical Guillen-fashion, however, it didn’t take him very long to unleash his true feelings.
“I wipe my [expletive] with the critics,” Guillen said emphatically. “I play JP because I think that’s the best guy to help us win. If he’s 0-for-100, you think I don’t know that? But in the meanwhile, when you’re in my spot, when you sit in my chair you will be criticized 99 percent of the time. Because when things are going good, you have good players. When things are going bad, the manager’s [expletive].”
Many have criticized Pierre for his lack of steals on the season (he’s 10-for-19 in that category) – his running ability made him a valuable asset in past seasons. Guillen calmly pointed out that you need to get on base to steal bases. Pierre is currently getting on-base at a career low mark of .310.
Guillen went on to praise Pierre’s toughness and heart.
“I don’t give a [expletive] what people say about me, I don’t,” Guillen said. “As long as I’m manager of this team and JP is here, he’s playing. You don’t want him here, well get him out of here and bring whoever they want to bring.”
One of the options to replace Pierre is minor leaguer Dayan Viciedo, who is hitting .324 with 11 home runs in Triple-A Charlotte. He’s also struck out 56 times and has only drawn 16 walks, though that current walk total is actually high compared to his career averages.
“I’ve said in the past, they want Viciedo here, my door is open, as soon as he’s here I’ll play him every day,” Guillen said. “Now, I make it clear, they gotta make a trade or make a decision to send someone down. I cannot play with a 26 man roster. But as long as JP is here, he’s playing. If people don’t like it….”
Guillen cut himself off before finishing that last sentence, but he made his feelings perfectly clear: he’ll manage the way he wants to and doesn’t care what people outside the organization think about it.
Guillen went on to say that nobody really knows if Viciedo is any better than Pierre in the outfield. Pierre has often been criticized for his terrible throwing arm and made some critical errors in left field early in the season.
While people are hot on the trails of Viciedo at the moment, Guillen pointed out that eventually he’ll hit a rough spot as well.
“Sooner or later Viciedo’s going to be 0-for-10 in Chicago,” Guillen said. “And the same stupid people that talk about JP, they’re gonna talk about Viciedo. That’s the way it is.”
The combination of an unacceptable OBP (especially for a lead-off man with no power), a terrible steal rate, and subpar defense, make Pierre’s value on the field almost negligible.
However, Pierre has always been thought of as a great leader and a catalyst in the clubhouse. He has long been lauded for being the first player at the ballpark and one of the hardest working players in the game. But when the hard work doesn’t translate into strong play on the field, the complaints are sure to arrive.
While Guillen insisted that he wasn’t trying to protect Pierre, his main point seemed to be that there are other players that deserved criticism for the team’s struggles.
“When somebody’s not playing well, obviously . . . you should be criticized,” Guillen said. “But that’s unfair, when somebody’s playing ok, you’re picking on one player. We’re not [four and a half] games behind first place because of JP’s play. Am I defending JP? No, I no defend JP. Because the day I think JP can’t play anymore or I have somebody better than him, then I’ll replace him.”