Guillen ready to get back in the game of baseball
CHICAGO -- Ozzie Guillen was an accomplished manager.
That portion of his near-decade in the dugout often gets forgotten in connection to the Venezuelan native, even when looking at his list of achievements.
• Managed one of Major League Baseball's more dominant World Series title runs, with his 2005 White Sox leading from season start to finish and posting an 11-1 postseason mark.
• Guided the Sox to the 2008 American League Central title, during which their injury-riddled squad had to defeat three different opponents on three consecutive potential season-ending days just to get to the playoffs.
• Five winning seasons out of nine, and a 747-710 overall record.
But the first Guillen topic almost always brought up is his pure entertainment value and controversial nature. He was raw, real, as funny at times as many accomplished comedians -- while being honest to a fault.
This honesty and no-holds-barred approach might explain in part why Guillen's managerial plaudits remain in the past, ever since a forgettable 69-93 season with the Marlins in 2012. He occasionally gets informal feelers about openings but no formal interviews. He wants to manage again, but certainly can live without managing again.
"I hope so. I want to, yes. I mean, that's my life. That's what I like to do," Guillen told MLB.com during a recent interview. "Am I waiting, sitting by the phone, waiting for a phone call? No. I will be lying to you [if I say], 'Oh, my god. My phone is not ringing.' If somebody [thinks] I can help, of course I want to do it. If that comes, that would be awesome. But if not, my life right now is pretty healthy."
"He wants to get back in the game and I think he can be an asset to someone," said White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams. "How? When? What that's going to be? I don't know. It's not something that I've given a lot of thought to. But you know, the things that he has accomplished in the game, very few people have accomplished. So that's got to mean something."
It never was an act with Guillen. It's just honestly and passionately who he is.
People joked with the White Sox that the organization should put tables around the home dugout at U.S. Cellular Field and sell tickets for Guillen's pregame press conferences. Paul Konerko, whom Guillen named as captain prior to the 2006 campaign, said his manager probably was pretty much the same when he woke up in the morning or even in his sleep as he was around the game.
Even if the White Sox lost, fans wondered if that was the day where Guillen would kick a catcher's mask during an argument with the umpire as he did with Geovany Soto in a 2011 game against the Cubs. Those sorts of personality managers don't really seem to exist much in the game nowadays.
Then again, often lost in the comedic value was Guillen's deep understanding of the sport.
"He's an excellent, very knowledgeable baseball guy," said Williams.
"There's an entertainment value to it, but he's a smart baseball guy. His instincts are great," said Robin Ventura, a teammate and longtime friend of Guillen's who replaced him as White Sox manager. "That's first and foremost is he knows what he's doing and personality wise, he's just fun to have. You know he doesn't necessarily have a filter but that's part of the charm, too."
When Guillen first wanted to start a Twitter account among his social media endeavors in Spring Training 2010, it wasn't exactly met with joy by Williams, given Guillen's unfiltered track record. Now Guillen jokes that he goes to White Sox games and everything promoted on the scoreboard has a hashtag or Twitter handle attached.
Yes, times have changed. Now every slip up or misstep -- such as Guillen's tumultuous end with Williams and the White Sox or his comments about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in his lone year with the Marlins -- now gets magnified immediately on social media.
"Over the years, it started a little bit and then now it has gotten to a point where he's brutally honest in a lot of ways that I think you can be jealous of, to be truthful about it," Ventura said. "He's always been brutally honest.
"He'll say it right to your face. Sometimes you might not like it, sometimes it will be off-color, the total wrong thing to say, but it makes sense the way he says it. And that's kind of becoming harder to do as years go on and just the access and the media stuff that's there. It becomes a little more difficult."
That unfiltered honesty gives teams reason to believe Guillen is simply too much of a risk in today's social media climate. Guillen, now age 50, knows this and says he has adjusted his overall thinking while keeping his style the same -- a style he believes still works.
"I don't need [Twitter] or Facebook to say what I think," Guillen said. "Listen, when you are managing, you talk to the media 384 times a year. Plus the one-on-ones, plus the radio, plus TV interviews. You are talking about 500 interviews and you get upset five times? People don't understand that. I'm not going to tell the fans 'Look at this player, how good he is' when he's not.
"Besides that, I blame myself a lot of times, too. And that's hard to do. No manager blames himself. I say, 'Hey, it was my fault. I did it wrong,' because I know baseball. I'm a winner. I find a way to win, and to me that's what matters.
"I worry about my players. A lot of people say, GMs, owners, 'I don't know about Ozzie.' Well, just ask my players. You don't have to interview me. Just go there and ask my players."
Not every player who suited up for Guillen loved him, a fact Guillen readily acknowledges. But they pretty much knew what to expect.
"Paul Konerko said one thing: He said that we don't know anything different from Ozzie," Guillen said. "He said that Ozzie was the same guy from the first day to the last day with everyone. Not with superstars. He treats everybody the same. He never changes. He never was a hypocrite. He'll tell you to your face what you need to hear. I never did change. I was the same guy, day-in and day-out. Sometimes I get in trouble, but now you learn."
"With regards to dealing with his players, or coaching staff, there was nothing 'shoot from the hip' about him," Williams said. "He managed each individual player as they needed to be managed. He gave tough love to some guys and he gave a more measured pat on the back to others depending on what motivated them. And sometimes, you know, somewhere in between."
Williams watched the "shoot from the hip" style Guillen fostered with the media and thinks Guillen now understands how damaging and hurtful that approach can be. Guillen says he wouldn't alter the way he answers questions, but feels he would be more selective or careful with his availability.
But the reality is that there is little chance a team is going to roll the dice on Guillen before they see evidence that he has changed. It is likely that Guillen will have to take a job in the Minors or as a third base coach to get back into baseball. For his part, Guillen is willing to take any baseball job and has talked about coaching third, but would prefer to do the job in Chicago, where he lives.
Guillen stays in touch with baseball through his work with ESPN, which he says he really enjoys, and he will be paid one final year by the Marlins from his original four-year, $10-million deal. He has a good life with his wife, Ibis, and three sons in Ozzie, Oney and Ozney, who is playing baseball professionally. Managing stands as his one vacancy, but Guillen understands how the managerial role has changed.
"They are hiring a lot of kids, and I feel like I have to wait and see what happens in the future," Guillen said. "You see managers having success without experience. You have to adapt to the new game, the way they look at stuff now. You have to adapt to those situations.
"I'm so honest with myself that I never second-guess myself. But when I got fired from the Marlins, I said, 'You are hurting my career.' They said, 'Why?' I said, 'Because you pay me to not manage. That means I'm that bad.' And they don't have the answer. But I know I'm good."
Whether Guillen gets another chance to prove it remains to be seen.
"Players love him and loved to play for him," said Jermaine Dye, who played for Guillen from 2005 until his retirement after the 2009 season. "He understands what players go through from playing the game. When a team is in a lull or in a slump, he knows how to take the pressure off the players and sometimes say something that will bring the attention on him and then let the players go out there and play and get back on track."
"Having been around him, it was pretty amazing of what he's aware of, even though you might not notice it at first," Ventura said. "He's keenly aware of what's going on around him. Even though his mouth might be open, his eyes are open, too."