White Sox top manager: Merkin's take

June 15th, 2020

CHICAGO -- Two managers have more victories than Ozzie Guillen (678) in White Sox history, with Jimmy Dykes checking in at 899 and Al Lopez at 840.

Dykes (1,850) and Lopez (1,495) also are the only ones to manage more games for the White Sox than Guillen (1,295). And Clarence "Pants" Rowland and Fielder Jones have presided over World Series championships as Guillen did in 2005.

So what makes Guillen the No. 1 manager in franchise history? It’s centered upon his ability to help end an 88-year title drought and bring the South Siders to national prominence as the highlight of his eight-year-tenure.

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“No doubt about it, Ozzie had a knack for bringing out the best in people,” said Scott Podsednik, who played left field and was the leadoff hitter on the 2005 championship squad. “He had a knack of taking the pressure off of his players and kind of putting them in the right situations.

“That’s kind of the job of a manager is to understand your personalities and know what buttons to push to try to bring the best out of players. It seemed like with the personalities we had on that club, it worked well with the way Ozzie went about his business.”

Guillen took over as manager prior to the 2004 season, following a well-documented and spirited interview with then-general manager Ken Williams. Some believe this job was the one Guillen was destined to hold, having played shortstop for the White Sox for 13 years and exhibiting managerial leadership skills as a player.

The 2004 White Sox finished 83-79, nine games behind the Twins in the American League Central, but they actually sat atop the division as late as July 24, following a Joe Crede walk-off homer. Injuries to Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez hampered that particular team’s playoff push.

A different team returned for 2005: right fielder Jermaine Dye, right-handed reliever Dustin Hermanson, right-handed starter Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, catcher A.J. Pierzynski, second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, utility player Pablo Ozuna (via free agency) and closer Bobby Jenks (claimed off waivers), plus Podsednik and right-handed reliever Luis Vizcaino were brought over from Milwaukee in a trade for Carlos Lee.

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It was up to Guillen to mold this team into a winner. His managerial style featured an entertaining and sometimes controversial personality-driven approach not seen as much among managers in current baseball. But it worked to the tune of 99 victories, a wire-to-wire stint in first place and an 11-1 postseason run.

“This guy really wanted to hang out and do things that I’d never seen a manager do, and it was great,” Pierzynski said. “He’d be out there every day joking and goofing around with us, going to dinner and just doing things I had never seen a manager do.

“He kept that going the entire year, and that was kind of a big thing for a lot of the players. We were like, ‘Our manager is hanging out with us, so he must like us on some level.’ Plus, you get a feeling this guy really wants us to succeed, because he’s with us in everything we do. That was rare back then.

“Ozzie was the first guy I ever had that was like -- he was there. He was always around. He had his kids around. Like I said, that was fun and that was different, and it was good for the team we had and the atmosphere he wanted.”

Jones had the best winning percentage of any White Sox manager at .592, ahead of Clark Griffith (.581) and Rowland (.578). Guillen’s .524 winning percentage (678-617) placed him ninth among the 19 White Sox managers who finished at .500 or above if Don Cooper (2011) and Doug Rader (1986) are both included at 1-1 records.

Along with the previously mentioned managers, Tony La Russa (1983), Gene Lamont ('93) and Jerry Manuel (2000) deserve plaudits for leading White Sox teams to division titles. Guillen also propelled the '08 squad into the playoffs, needing a tiebreaker victory over the Twins during the famous home Blackout Game to claim the AL Central in a managerial effort possibly better than ’05.

“I think Ozzie did a great job in that [2005] Spring Training of, right off the bat, welcoming the new faces that were in the locker room,” said Aaron Rowand, the '05 center fielder. “Then he brought those guys into the fold and tried to help us get to that point of when we broke camp, we were a family.”