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No Holds Barred

Some may seethe, others may grin, but no one has to guess what Guillen thinks

October 04, 2005|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

For a moment, anyway, life was a bowl of alphabet soup for Ozzie Guillen. He was enraged about the criticism he heard on one of those ESPN shout-a-thons.

Which one? The one with the letters. Which letters?

"PIT, TPI, whatever," Guillen said.

This was Friday, the day after the Chicago White Sox had clinched the American League Central championship. To Guillen, it was bad enough that ESPN has apparently divided the majors into two -- the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees in the Premier League, Everybody Else relegated to the second division.

But it was worse that the talking heads questioned his integrity. In accordance with baseball protocol, Guillen rested most of his regulars for Friday's game against the Cleveland Indians, even as the Red Sox and Yankees jousted with the Indians for the final two AL playoff spots.

"On national TV, people are killing me, saying I don't respect the game," Guillen said. "They only worry about New York and Boston.

"I did what every other manager in baseball would. When you clinch, whether it's the division or whatever, you're always going to play the bench guys. But Ozzie Guillen did it? He's stupid, ignorant and doesn't know anything about baseball. Bobby Cox did it? He's a genius. ... Did you see the lineup [Mike] Scioscia put out the other day?"

In his second season as Chicago's manager, Guillen led the White Sox to 99 victories, the best record in the league and today's playoff opener against the Red Sox. On the drive to October, he took the road less traveled, the one along which he took on his players, opposing players, managers, fans and the almighty ESPN.

Such candor would startle Southland fans accustomed to poking fun at the generally polite blandness of Scioscia, the Angel manager, and Jim Tracy, the ex-Dodger manager. In Chicago, where Guillen won rookie-of-the-year honors as a 21-year-old shortstop in 1985, it's just Ozzie being Ozzie.

"If another manager tried to be like Ozzie, he might be gone within a month," first baseman Paul Konerko said. "He might rub people the wrong way.

"But he was like that as a player. He was like that 20 years ago. It's not a big surprise."

When the White Sox lost six of seven games last month, including three in a row to the dreadful Kansas City Royals, Guillen said, "We really flat-out stink." He called out White Sox fans for not packing U.S. Cellular Field for a weekend showdown against the Angels and mocked fans of the rival Cubs by saying, "You know, there's no such thing as curses, only [lousy] teams."

"Ozzie says whatever Ozzie says. We read it and we laugh at it," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said, "sometimes."

After Detroit Tiger outfielder Magglio Ordonez blamed him for subverting his chance to sign a new contract with the White Sox last winter, Guillen launched a return volley loaded with expletives.

And, in the second game of a doubleheader in Texas, the Rangers hit Jermaine Dye with a pitch after he had hit two home runs. Guillen said the pitch was "on purpose." Texas Manager Buck Showalter then removed Mark Teixeira, who had homered twice in the first game, for a pinch-hitter.

"That's a Tony La Russa move," Guillen said then, and not with admiration. "That's a smart move."

Said Guillen: "My problem with Magglio? My problem with Showalter? I never throw the first punch. My second punch is not the polite one. I say it my way."

In violation of 21st century baseball etiquette, in which seldom is heard a discouraging word from the manager, Guillen rips his own players. He called long-time franchise star Frank Thomas "a big part of the bad attitude" that surrounded the White Sox in previous years, and he briefly kicked reliever Damaso Marte off the team after questioning whether Marte was as hurt as the pitcher claimed.

"I'm not going to say my players are playing good when they're playing [terribly]," Guillen said.

"I think the guys in this clubhouse respond to that," infielder Geoff Blum said. "In this day and age, when guys don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, he comes out and tells you when you do a good job and when you do a bad job. Sometimes a little honesty never hurts."

So long as any criticism is presented to the player first and to the media second -- and the players say it is -- Chicago General Manager Ken Williams stands solidly behind Guillen. The two were teammates on the White Sox, so Williams is well aware of Guillen's candor.

"Before we bring somebody in, we make sure they have the makeup to handle Chicago, and that they're man enough to handle somebody such as Ozzie or myself," Williams said. "They're going to get a straight answer to a straight question. If you can't do that here, we'll find another home for you."

Still, there are days when owner Jerry Reinsdorf picks up a newspaper and winces at the latest barb from Guillen.

"All the time," said Dennis Gilbert, the former agent and now the special assistant to Reinsdorf. "But you know what? We expected it. We knew exactly what we were getting."

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