A method to his greatness
Guillen does it his way, which turns out to be the winning way
HOUSTON -- Ozzie Guillen did it his way, which is to say differently from any other manager in the history of baseball had ever done it.
He smashed convention, he offended the occasional passerby, he didn't seem to care what he said, or who was listening when he said it. But he never lost the most important part of his audience, the 25 people who played for him.
And now, nobody can take from Ozzie and his guys the central fact: He is the manager of the 2005 World Series champion Chicago White Sox.
He was still laughing about his personal style Wednesday night, after the Sox had finished sweeping the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Plus, or minus, Guillen had always been dead-on honest about the way he felt about the way the Sox were playing at a given moment.
"I lead the league in throwing my players under the bus," Guillen said, and about 30 reporters laughed along with him, seeing both the humor and the truth.
But these players responded to him in the best way they knew how, by playing their best for him. OK, some times they ignored some of his more outrageous remarks. But they liked him, they respected him, they never quit giving it their best shot for him.
He was a relentless presence in the clubhouse, spreading good cheer and encouragement. He joked that he was in the clubhouse all the time to make sure that the players weren't talking about him. He believed he had a good shot at discovering any anti-manager undertones, because he spoke two languages. Only the Japanese second baseman, Tadahito Iguchi, could get anything past him, Guillen said with a chuckle.
"I think his personality rubbed off on everybody," said Jermaine Dye, the MVP of the 2005 World Series. "He'll say whatever is on his mind and he keeps everybody loose. He wants you to go out and have fun, stay positive, no matter if you're down. And he just knows how to win. He's been around a lot of winning teams and he's in the dugout rooting us on, getting us up, trying to keep us going."
Guillen is often portrayed as an over-the-top personality. But he has his restrained moments, not to mention his thoughtful moments. You might have noticed Wednesday night when the Sox players were celebrating their victory in the middle of the Minute Maid diamond, the manager was apart from the crowd, over in foul territory.
"Because of the way I am, people thought I was going to be jumping around on my players," Guillen said. But no, he purposely stood apart from the celebration, Guillen said, out of respect for the Astros and their manager, Phil Garner.
And there was something else. "I was thinking about my country," Guillen said. "I say: 'Wow, I wish I'd be in Venezuela right now, to see how they're celebrating right now.'
"With all due respect to Chicago fans, I know in my country they're going crazy. I think I finally do something real nice to make Venezuela real happy."
If you want to get a genuinely emotional response from Guillen, a question about Venezuela will do. He left one postseason interview choking back emotion after a question about the pioneering Venezuelan shortstop Chico Carrasquel. Guillen now becomes the first Latin manager to win the World Series. In his own way, he has done some pioneering, too.
In the end, Ozzie Guillen, who has this reputation of gathering attention to himself, made one of the most modest comments in the history of managing. After a lengthy comment giving general manager Ken Williams considerable credit for getting him the kind of team players he could win with, Guillen was asked what he did this year that made a difference.
"Nothing," he said.
And he then went into a discussion of how he and his players were in this together and how they had sometimes had a tough time, responding to comments that he had made.
"They trust me and I trust them," Guillen said. "We're here together. We do this for one reason, that's to win or lose together. And Kenny gave me the best. I'm not saying this because we win. I'm saying it because I mean it."
Guillen is a singular character in the history of managing and that statement goes way beyond his ethnic background. Nobody has managed a club in public the way he did. In some ways he was a breath of fresh air. He said things that managers were not supposed to think, much less say out loud. And none of it ever harmed his team.
There can be little argument: He should be selected as the American League Manager of the Year. And there is this other matter: He is now indisputably the genuine article, the manager of a World Series champion.
And Ozzie Guillen did it his way. The Major League managing profession may never be the same.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.