Optimist or problem solver? | Bleader

Optimist or problem solver?

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One of the odd things about Bill James's "Manager in a Box" format I used to compare the Cubs' Lou Piniella and the White Sox' Ozzie Guillen last week is the question, "Is he more of an optimist or more of a problem solver?" It should be optimist or pessimist, right? Yet the question as James originally framed it casts Guillen, in particular, in relief. Guillen has been an optimist this season, in that he has expected his players to perform up to their past history. That's made him reluctant to address problems, such as the club's poor offensive performance, which has festered. In general, having too much faith in one's players is a problem many managers face, especially those who have enjoyed success early on, as has Guillen, but at some point, as Earl Weaver has insisted, a manager has to be ruthless -- for the benefit of the team -- and the players know it. Midway through last week, after a particularly brutal loss to the Florida Marlins, Guillen showed signs of realizing this. "The talent is there. We're just wasting our talent. Believe me, I'm tired of being positive," he said. But by the weekend, amid the sweep at the hands of the Cubs, Guillen was back to blaming fate, calling it "a crazy year" and pointing out how many players they sent to last year's All-Star Game, and how this year, "I don't know who we're gonna send." He talked openly of Williams making trades, and seemed to be waiting for the purge to come to sort out the pieces afterward. Only that would seem to kick him into problem-solver mode. Showing faith in his players has been Guillen's greatest strength, but it turns out it's potentially his greatest weakness as well.

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