In a move that shows how most modern-day baseball owners view their broadcasters, the Baltimore Orioles reportedly took play-by-play man Kevin Brown off the air for pointing out the team’s difficulties winning games in Tampa Bay.
The Orioles have gone from laughingstock to one of the game’s best teams since hiring Brandon Hyde as manager to guide a well-executed rebuild. Brown was simply pointing out how far they had come in their rivalry with the Rays, who are chasing the O’s in the American League East.
But the Angelos, who own the team and part of MASN, the network that airs Baltimore’s games, have never been grounded in reality. So Brown quietly was removed from the broadcasts in the heat of the pennant race to serve his penance.
New York Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen was among Brown’s peers who called out the Orioles for the move, which was widely panned across baseball. Brown, who has not commented on his situation, is expected back in the booth Friday, according to the Baltimore Sun.
It’s a very different story on the South Side of Chicago, where Ozzie Guillén, the top studio analyst for White Sox games, has carte blanche to criticize the team and manager — and frequently has done so in this train wreck of a season.
I recently asked Guillén, who is employed by NBC Sports Chicago which is partly owned by the White Sox, if he’s ever had any blowback from the Sox for his often biting commentary.
“They can’t (say anything),” Guillén replied. “And I can’t wait for that to happen. Why? Because I’m not lying and I see the facts. I don’t make stuff up so people watch our show. I don’t have the right to say that. Most of the time I say something, I don’t criticize the White Sox for the moves they make. ‘Why did they bring in this guy? Why did they pinch-hit this guy?’ It’s none of my business.
“But when I see something I don’t think is good, I’m not going to protect myself from the White Sox and not tell the fans what they need to hear. If the White Sox or the player don’t like what I say, too bad. I never say, ‘This guy should be fired,’ or ‘That guy should be hitting there.’
“When I say something, I use facts. I could criticize this team every inning, but I never did that. This is my job. Do I have an easy job? No. But the reason I have it, the reason they picked me to do this job, is because the fans know I will tell the truth. If someone (from the Sox) doesn’t like what I say, well, I’m here. I hope they (say something). I can’t wait for them.”
The only time a Sox player has publicly pushed back on Guillén’s commentary was in May 2022, when Guillén said shortstop Tim Anderson should’ve played in the second game of a doubleheader instead of resting. “Ozzie need(s) to stfu sometimes … talk too much!” Anderson tweeted.
Then-manager Tony La Russa said it was his decision to rest Anderson to preserve his legs for the long season. Guillén brushed off Anderson’s response at the time as part of the job and he’s never wavered since from criticizing Anderson or manager Pedro Grifol, whose postgame press briefings typically turn into a scripted defense of what went wrong.
Guillén pointed out he has never cursed a player out or told fans not to watch Sox games. Those might be fireable offenses by some organizations.
But he has been a steadfast critic, especially during this season of nonstop miseries. Guillen was interviewed by general manager Rick Hahn for the Sox manager’s job last winter, but was never seriously considered. The job went to Grifol, a baseball lifer without major-league managing experience.
Once a firestorm-starter both as player and manager, Guillén is now providing analysis of the 2023 meltdown. Grifol is currently embroiled in the middle of KeyGate, a new controversy surrounding the sagging Sox culture ignited by the “no rules” accusations made by whistleblower Keynan Middleton, a middle reliever traded by Hahn before the trade deadline.
Now with the New York Yankees. Middleton stood his ground about a lack of accountability by the Sox, meaning management, Grifol and the coaching staff. Hahn and Grifol admitted the clubhouse was in dire straits, but pushed back on the specifics of Middleton’s claims, going so far as to reveal he also was a problem.
Both said the removal of alleged leaders who pulled the Sox clubhouse apart and a team meeting in Cleveland were signs of a renewed approach to creating a better clubhouse culture.
One of Guillén’s most oft-used lines after Grifol’s postgame briefings are aired is “White Sox fans are not stupid,” suggesting they weren’t buying into whatever Grifol had just said. Guillén maintains he only cares about what the fans think, not any of the people he is commenting on.
“I’ve never lied to the fans,” he said. “I’ve never said something like ‘How does this guy have a job?’ My business is what I see in the game and what the manager says about it. That’s it. If a player says something stupid, I will say something about it. ‘What? Excuse me?’ Really?’ If I don’t say anything, that means I agree with them. I own the trust of the fans. I’m working for them, I don’t work for the White Sox. They don’t pay me.”
Still, if the Sox wanted Guillén out, it wouldn’t be difficult to pull the guillotine. They also pushed Guillén out as manager in 2011, though his relationship with then-general manager Ken Williams was irreconcilable at that point and Guillen wanted out.
The organization under Reinsdorf also pushed out analyst Jimmy Piersall and let legendary announcer Harry Caray jump to the Cubs before being pushed. Caray and Piersall were the most outspoken announcers in team history and two of the most beloved. After Caray’s exit, the Sox hired team cheerleader Ken Harrelson, whose unapologetic homerism apparently is what the Orioles owners are looking for.
When the Orioles lost play-by-play man Jon Miller to the San Francisco Giants in 1996, owner Peter Angelos said he wanted an “advocate” for the team.
“They’ve got to bleed a little bit for the Orioles,” Angelos said.
Guillén won’t bleed for the Sox. He no longer works there.
He prefers they win because 35th and Shields is where he became a major-league player and manager — and it also makes his job easier on the postgame show.
That hasn’t happened much this year, and the South Side soap opera has two months remaining before the final episode.
Tune out the Sox? Why would anyone do that now?
The end game might be more interesting to watch than the first four months, especially before and after the games.