NOW OR NEVER

WATCH­ING A WAVE OF OLD-SCHOOL MAN­AGERS GET A SEC­OND CHANCE, OZZIE GUILLEN WANTS ONE MORE SHOT BE­FORE TIME PASSES HIM BY

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOE COW­LEY

The tongue is still sharp at age 56.

But it’s now more se­lec­tive about when and whom to sting. Maybe it’s ma­tu­rity. Maybe a sec­ond grand­child has cen­tered a per­son many in­ac­cu­rately per­ceived to be un-cen­ter­able. Maybe Ozzie Guillen is just tired.

Tired of check­ing his cell­phone for that mes­sage. Tired of ma­jor-league man­age­rial jobs be­ing handed out to un­qual­i­fied can­di­dates. Tired of de­fend­ing his legacy.

Go­ing on eight sea­sons now, base­ball is ly­ing to it­self.

The sport preaches num­bers. It hires the bright­est and smartest out of Har­vard to come up with new for­mu­las to fig­ure out wind vs. spin rate on a base­ball when a team is wear­ing its home whites on Wed­nes­days. Yet, it wants to di­min­ish the num­bers Guillen put up when he sat in the man­ager’s seat.

A World Se­ries ti­tle, a .524 win­ning per­cent­age with the White Sox and a 12-4 post­sea­son record. In Guillen’s eight sea­sons as skip­per on the South Side, the team he grew up with and bled for as a player fin­ished .500 or bet­ter five times and made the play­offs twice. Since his de­par­ture at the end of the 2011 sea­son, the Sox have fin­ished above .500 once, and they haven’t sniffed the play­offs.

“Yes, it both­ers me,” Guillen told the Sun­Times this week. “Gardy [Ron Gar­den­hire] is back in the game, Dusty [Baker] is back in the game, Joe [Mad­don] is still man­ag­ing, so my hope is that wave [of old-school man­agers] is com­ing back and they ask me to come back.

“Do I miss the game? Yes. Some­times I wake up in the morn­ing and say, ‘Thank God I don’t man­age.’ But there are more times I wake up in the morn­ing and I’m sad, up­set, pissed. ‘How come this guy is here and not me?’ ”

How come?

A sim­ple ques­tion with no sim­ple an­swers, and the longer it re­mains unan­swered, the more likely the sands in Guillen’s man­age­rial hour­glass will run out.

EIGHT MEN IN

Eight peo­ple in a meet­ing room at the start of spring train­ing.

That’s the num­ber Guillen has in his head to make sure ev­ery­one in an or­ga­ni­za­tion is on the same page. Far too of­ten these days, it doesn’t ap­pear some or­ga­ni­za­tions are.

Saber­met­rics, “the num­bers guys,” they are not the en­emy to Guillen, but they have been al­lowed to cheapen the man­age­rial po­si­tion.

One of the crit­i­cisms of Guillen is that he is a “feel” man­ager, of­ten ig­nor­ing scout­ing re­ports and num­bers. The idea that front-of­fice types could con­trol his line­ups day-to-day like they seem­ingly do with many unproven pup­pets moon­light­ing as man­agers is laugh­able.

That doesn’t mean Guillen doesn’t be­lieve in num­bers to help dic­tate matchups. They’re just not his bi­ble.

“I have no idea if base­ball is get­ting bet­ter be­cause to me, you have to com­bine the an­a­lyt­ics with a high base­ball IQ [as man­ager],” Guillen said. “You have to have good play­ers, or you’re not go­ing to win. That’s ob­vi­ous. But you need to be able to get to­gether with the front of­fice, num­bers peo­ple, and say this is what we all want, and as man­ager this is what I like to do. You put all those in­gre­di­ents to­gether? That’s a pretty good threat to go out and do spe­cial things.

“You have maybe eight peo­ple in a room in spring train­ing, and when that meet­ing leaves the room, every­body has to be on the same page. You’re go­ing to tell me that man­agers in the league like be­ing told, ‘This is the lineup?’ No, no, bro. They just say, ‘Yes, sir,’ to keep their job. You think you can tell the me­dia, ‘Hey, it’s not my fault, the peo­ple up­stairs make the lineup for me.’ You’ll get fired. That’s my point of hav­ing that meet­ing and get­ting ev­ery­thing out on the ta­ble.”

What he has learned from be­ing out of the

game is that the num­bers can be an im­por­tant tool. How­ever, the tool works best in the hands of a crafts­man. Base­ball seem­ingly has for­got­ten that.

“If you have a team . . . White Sox, Bal­ti­more, Pi­rates, the Marlins, and say to me, ‘Lis­ten, this is the prod­uct we have, this is what you have to play,’ I would do it. Just don’t get in my way,” Guillen said. “Peo­ple say, ‘You need to read the scout­ing re­ports.’ I don’t need no [bleepin’] scout­ing re­ports. My IQ with base­ball, I know what I’m sup­posed to do. I read the scout­ing re­ports to see who is hot and also for a new player. But the scout­ing re­port in my head is, I have to com­pete against the man­ager.

“That’s why man­ag­ing against me was hard. Man­ag­ing against Jim Ley­land harder. Man­ag­ing against Joe Mad­don? Geez, harder. You know why? Those guys pull [bleep] out of their ass be­cause they don’t give a [bleep] what the num­bers say. It’s feel for them, and they do what­ever they want. ‘Oh, first in­ning squeeze? What the [bleep].’ You’re al­ways on your toes. That is the prob­lem now. Ev­ery­thing is pre­dictable.

“I watch ev­ery­thing in a ball­park from that dugout. How the [bleep] did more man­agers not know that ev­ery time there’s bang­ing from [the Astros’] dugout, a cer­tain pitch was com­ing? What the [bleep] were you guys watch­ing? The god­damn [an­a­lyt­ics] book they gave you, the tablet, the iPad? Then any­one can man­age. Right now, a lot of play­ers do what­ever they want to do be­cause the coaches are a bunch of kids with no cre­den­tials. I had [a coach­ing staff with] Harold Baines, Tim Raines, Joey Cora, Greg Walker, [Don] Cooper — I don’t think he’s the best pitch­ing coach, but he made you be­lieve you were the best [pitcher] that night. Now, you have play­ers that are like, ‘Who the [bleep] are you? I’m go­ing to call my high school coach or my dad. They’re bet­ter.’ Then what are we even do­ing here?”

HE SAID WHAT?

Guillen can’t es­cape the Fidel Cas­tro com­ment. And more than eight years later, he has all but given up try­ing.

If only the por­trayal of what he said was ac­cu­rate.

In an April 2012 ar­ti­cle for Time, Guillen was quoted as say­ing, “I love Fidel Cas­tro.” But that wasn’t the story.

Ac­cord­ing to Guillen, he talked with the au­thor about many top­ics in that in­ter­view. Bull­fight­ing — one of Guillen’s pas­sions — came up, along with the topic of sur­viv­abil­ity. Then pol­i­tics. With sur­viv­abil­ity still on his mind, Guillen jumped to the Cuban dic­ta­tor and said, “I love Fidel Cas­tro.” English be­ing a sec­ond lan­guage, he quickly back­tracked and said, “I re­spect Fidel Cas­tro. You know why? A lot of peo­ple have wanted to kill Fidel Cas­tro for 60 years, but that mother[bleeper] is still here.”

Even the reporter in the ar­ti­cle said Guillen wanted a do-over af­ter the word “love” was used. This was more than an E6, how­ever.

Guillen’s man­age­rial ca­reer was all but over. The Marlins sus­pended him, even­tu­ally fir­ing him at the end of the 2012 sea­son. He seem­ingly has been black­balled since. Can­cel cul­ture be­fore can­cel cul­ture was a thing.

“I should sue every­body in Mi­ami,” Guillen said. “Get all the money I have right now and sue every­body that says I love Fidel. It’s like no­body read the ar­ti­cle. No one sees I called him a ‘mother[bleeper]’ and peo­ple have tried to kill him.

“I was sorry be­cause I up­set some very good peo­ple, but I never said what peo­ple think I said.”

It wasn’t the only slip-up Guillen had with the me­dia, but con­sid­er­ing the Cuban pop­u­la­tion in Mi­ami, this was the most damn­ing.

If teams have been con­cerned that Guillen is a loose can­non, his track record since has shown oth­er­wise. He has done tele­vi­sion for ESPN and Fox, he has broad­cast the World Se­ries, he has been on hun­dreds of ra­dio shows and now he works for NBC Sports Chicago. Not one slip-up.

“OK, do they look at me like, ‘This guy is very vo­cal.’ OK, but most man­agers in the game were very vo­cal,” Guillen said. “You lis­ten to Jim Ley­land in­ter­view or Lou Piniella, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ Now it’s not. I un­der­stand that. You have to learn, you have to do what they ask. I’m not say­ing I’m go­ing to change the way I am, but there is a way to ex­press your­self to let peo­ple know what is go­ing on.

“What my prob­lem was, I was hon­est. I was hon­est with the me­dia, I was hon­est with the fans, I was hon­est with [chair­man] Jerry [Reins­dorf], [then-gen­eral man­ager] Kenny [Wil­liams]. I think my big­gest en­emy, some­thing they taught me to be, was I was hon­est. Well, hon­esty doesn’t get you nowhere. Just be hon­est with your play­ers, that’s it.”

EX­TRA IN­NING

Can Guillen save base­ball? Who knows? But he can’t hurt it.

Rat­ings and at­ten­dance have dwin­dled for seven con­sec­u­tive sea­sons as front-of­fice ex­ecs want to be the front men for the rock band.

All Guillen wants is an op­por­tu­nity, and while old-school man­agers are start­ing to be re­cy­cled once again, a phone call to see where Guillen’s at would be nice.

Af­ter all, this is a guy who came from Venezuela with­out a word of English in his vo­cab­u­lary, be­came a de­fen­sive wizard at short­stop at the high­est level and then, in 2005, took a team with play­ers from six coun­tries and brought a World Se­ries tro­phy back to a city that for­got what it looked like.

The only color he cared about was on the

uni­form, and as di­vided as things seem in this coun­try right now, it would be the per­fect time to wel­come Guillen back into the game.

For­mer Cubs gen­eral man­ager Jim Hendry sure thinks so. In fact, Hendry, now a spe­cial as­sis­tant to Yan­kees GM Brian Cash­man, was ru­mored to be pur­su­ing Guillen for the Cubs in 2012.

Hendry hopes Guillen stops be­ing a ru­mor and be­comes a hire.

“I thought Ozzie was a re­ally good man­ager, and ob­vi­ously cer­tain things prob­a­bly hap­pened on the in­side when he left Chicago and Florida, but what he did in his time with the White Sox and win­ning it in all, I al­ways thought he was on top of the strat­egy of the game,” Hendry said. “I just re­mem­ber late in that ’05 sea­son, there was that time in Septem­ber where it started to slip a lit­tle bit and I thought the guy on that top step [Guillen] did a great job pulling them to­gether for a dom­i­nant stretch run. He de­serves a lot of credit for that.

“I’d cer­tainly love to see him get an­other shot. I think — like we all would — he would do cer­tain things dif­fer­ent if he got that other shot. As a base­ball guy and a guy that gave his life to the game, you cer­tainly would like to see him be given that chance.”

Guillen would be in fa­vor of that. Af­ter all, ’05 might have been 15 years ago, but the lessons from it ring even more loudly now.

“Every­body on that [2005] team had to re­spect each other as hu­man be­ings,” Guillen said. “There was no color. And we had some mon­ster [per­son­al­i­ties]. I al­ways told the play­ers that when we got to the ball­park, I didn’t care who was blue, Black, white, Ja­panese, Venezue­lan, dif­fer­ent reli­gion. Uni­form on? We’re all one peo­ple.

“Maybe there’s a les­son there for us out­side base­ball that’s miss­ing.”

In­deed. And maybe it’s time for base­ball to re­al­ize what it’s miss­ing. Closer to home, the Sox.

“The White Sox know me bet­ter than any­one,” Guillen said. “They know I’ve changed, they know I’ve grown up. I would love if they would say, ‘Ozzie, we need you do­ing this or help­ing here,’ be­cause I know base­ball. This is just from me, but I would like to do it, but maybe Jerry says, ‘No, if we have Ozzie work­ing in the mi­nor-league sys­tem, fans and me­dia will be say­ing, ‘Why is our best man­ager work­ing down there?’ They don’t want to deal with that.

“Does the rest of the league know me? I don’t know. Don’t pre­sume about me. If you don’t talk to me, then you don’t know me. When you talk to me, af­ter the con­ver­sa­tion, you can judge me how you want. But be­fore that, be­cause of what you read or some­one else told you some­thing, then you’re go­ing to have doubts who Ozzie Guillen is.

“Don’t doubt me. That’s not too much to ask, is it?” ✶

AP

For­mer White Sox man­ager Ozzie Guillen throws out a cer­e­mo­nial pitch with grand­daugh­ter Adela in July 2019.

PRO­VIDED

Ozzie Guillen holds grand­son Ozzie Joseph Guillen, his sec­ond grand­child.

GETTY IM­AGES

Pro­test­ers watch as Ozzie Guillen speaks about com­ments he made about Fidel Cas­tro.

AP

Ozzie Guillen (with Joey Cora at Wrigley Field in 2012) lasted just one sea­son as the Marlins’ man­ager.

AP

Ozzie Guillen talks with out­fielder Jer­maine Dye dur­ing spring train­ing in 2005.

AP PHO­TOS

Ozzie Guillen is in­tro­duced be­fore Game 1 of the 2005 World Se­ries, in which the White Sox swept the Astros. Guillen hoists the tro­phy af­ter Game 4 in Hous­ton.

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