For White Sox's Guillen, race too hard to swallow

Al Notebook

MLB Week

Baseball

September 25, 2005

For most of the year, the Chicago White Sox's Ozzie Guillen has been considered the favorite for American League Manager of the Year.

Now, some are labeling Guillen and his team with another title: chokers.

It's not something the fiery Guillen is taking lightly.

"Choking is when you have seven kids and no job," he said. "That's choking. This is baseball."

On Aug. 1, the White Sox held a 15-game lead in the American League Central. They've gone 23-25 since, while the upstart Cleveland Indians went 34-12 and cut the White Sox's lead to 1 1/2 games entering Friday.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, only two other teams have seen a 15-game lead drop below five games at any point in a season. The 1912 New York Giants saw a 16 1/2 -game lead over the Chicago Cubs shrink to four, and the 1976 Philadelphia Phillies let the Pittsburgh Pirates get within three after a 15-game lead.

The worst collapse from Aug. 1 was in 1995, when the California Angels had an 11-game lead only to lose a one-game playoff to the Seattle Mariners, Elias said.

Chicago fans are letting Guillen hear their dissatisfaction, and it is getting to the second-year skipper who was a fan favorite during his playing days with the White Sox.

"It makes me sad when they boo me," he said. "Sometimes I think they don't appreciate me. They should, because I played my [butt] off for them and now I'm managing my [butt] off for them."

If he wins the World Series, Guillen, 41, said he would seriously consider stepping down. It's shocking talk from a guy who won 83 games his first year and 90-plus this season.

"My kids are here at the ballpark and they ask me later why I'm getting booed," he said. "I say it's part of my job, but deep down inside, it hurts."

Crosby shows class

Bubba Crosby, the New York Yankees outfielder who collided at first base with the Orioles' Brian Roberts while running out a bunt Tuesday night, visited the second baseman the next day at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

Roberts needs surgery to re-attach a tendon to his left elbow and likely won't play again for six months, and Crosby needed to speak with him.

"I wanted him to know there was no intent in any of it," said Crosby, who played with Roberts on Team USA in 1997. "Of course he knew that, but I had to let him know that."

Piniella's out

After five months of speculation and denials, Lou Piniella and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays agreed to a buyout of the final season of Piniella's four-year, $13 million deal that would have expired in 2006. Piniella was due $4.4 million, and instead will receive $2.2 million.

Piniella, 62, wants one more chance at returning to a World Series and could take a year off before he finds the right fit.

Don't expect that to be in Baltimore, however. One Orioles source said Piniella is expected to want more money than owner Peter Angelos would consider offering a manager.

Quick hits

Seattle catcher Dan Wilson, whose knee injuries have forced him to retire this season, will catch one more big league inning before hanging up his shin guards. ... In their first 19 September games, the Indians hit 39 homers. ... Kansas City outfielder Matt Diaz is considering switching to catcher, a position his godfather, Matt Nokes, played in the majors.

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