Monday night was a shot of sweet revenge for the Indians. The Indians were able to crush the last vestiges of hope within the White Sox's clubhouse, eliminating them from the postseason, ensuring that there will be no repeats on Chicago's South Side this year.
During Monday's 14-1 romp, Cleveland fans delighted in returning White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's famous choke sign given them during Chicago's final-nail victory over the Indians on the last day of the 2005 season.
Glorious payback, wasn't it?
Believe that if you want. I don't.
Cleveland's elimination of Chicago this year and Chicago's elimination of Cleveland a year ago are two completely different stories, and reflect a great deal on each team's manager.
Last year, Guillen's club knocked the Indians out when the two teams were jostling for a postseason berth. This year, Eric Wedge's club merely completed a formality when neither team was going anywhere.
Guillen won when it counted. Wedge, as has been the case for most of his tenure, is counting his biggest victories when the pressure is off.
It's at the heart of why, when you need to win a big game, you want someone like Guillen managing, and you want just about anybody besides Wedge.
All last season, Guillen agitated, annoyed and insulted while Wedge kept everything vanilla. The White Sox jumped out to a 15-game lead that served them well come September, when the Indians made up 14 of those games but couldn't get over the hump. The White Sox faded a bit in the second half, but had built up such a large lead in the standings, they were able to outlast the Indians' charge.
Granted, there are other reasons why the Indians missed the playoffs and the White Sox went on to win their first championship in 88 years, among them a large payroll discrepancy. But even as it was happening, I could sense that Guillen was getting more out of his team than Wedge was getting out of his team.
Guillen is outspoken and abrasive. The same qualities that lead him to say stupid things that get printed in the paper are the same qualities that keep his players on their toes.
Wedge is the kind of guy who'd rather be tinkering with the stove than cooking the stew. He's an organizational-innards kind of guy. The same qualities that make him a good manager for nuturing young talent make him a bad manager for winning.
By the time Wedge and the Indians got out of bed last year, stretched, read the paper and had some coffee, it was June. By then, the White Sox were already at the office closing deals. Guillen had his team sharp from the get-go, while the Indians approached the season like they do every season: sluggishly. That, to me, is a direct cause-and-effect of Guillen versus Wedge.
This year, same story. The Indians stumbled out of the gate and never really recovered. The White Sox played competitive baseball for four months before fading.
Pin the fade on Guillen if it satisfies you. But at least the White Sox were competitive, which is more than you can say for your 2006 Indians.
You can laugh all you want at loudmouth Ozzie and his merry band of underachievers. You can gloat at the fact that the Indians played a direct role in making sure that Chicago won't be able to defend their championship next month. You can return Guillen's famous choke sign en masse for the rest of the week.
But I know this much: Guillen will have his team ready to play again next spring. Will Wedge? History says no.