Cabrera puts controversy to rest
Embattled Sox shortstop defends relationship with Guillen
ST. PETERSBURG -- Orlando Cabrera clearly wanted to talk following Thursday's 5-1 White Sox victory over the Rays.
The veteran shortstop spoke to the media about the game and his two hits from the leadoff spot, which moved him one short of 1,500 for his career. He spoke about the strong effort turned in by starter John Danks, who matched a career high with eight strikeouts.
Cabrera also spoke about himself, specifically his relationship with manager Ozzie Guillen and the team. Cabrera's comment on Guillen came before the question could even be asked.
"By the way, Ozzie and I are cool," Cabrera said. "We've always been cool, and we're always going to be cool."
Guillen and Cabrera go all the way back to their one year together in Montreal, where Guillen was a third-base coach in 2001 season and Cabrera played all 162 games and drove in 96 runs. Cliff Floyd also knew Cabrera during their Montreal days.
Floyd played just part of the 2002 campaign as Cabrera's teammate. Nonetheless, the veteran outfielder, now suiting up for the American League East-leading Rays, still formed a strong opinion in regard to the demeanor and character of the White Sox shortstop.
It's quite a bit different from the picture being painted of Cabrera over the past few days, one of a player who was perceived to have a bit of a "me-first" attitude.
"You guys should be lucky to have him over there," said Floyd of Cabrera, talking in the Rays clubhouse prior to the series opener. "You can always talk to him. He could always relate to everyone.
"He just has positive energy, positive thoughts. Every time you talk to him, you see a positive come out of it. It doesn't happen too often because this game will wear you out. He stays positive and upbeat every day."
Floyd's comments came a mere 15-20 minutes after Guillen's pregame media session, during which he was once again asked about the week-long controversy involving his shortstop. Guillen hadn't met with Cabrera and didn't plan any future meetings, once again stating that his door was open if Cabrera wanted to talk.
The crux of the issue centered on Cabrera's making two calls to have errors against him changed and Guillen's sounding a mild warning through the media for Cabrera to be careful of how such actions look among his teammates and in print. Through talks with Sox general manager Ken Williams, Guillen said that he would take care of the problem himself.
"I said, 'Let me handle this situation, and everything's going to be back to normal,'" Guillen said. "And it is right now. Like I say, 'Keep playing like you're playing and don't worry about what happened anyplace.'
"Just show up and play your game. The last thing I want to bring Kenny is a clubhouse problem. He doesn't need that, and [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf], he doesn't need that. That's why I'm managing, to handle that.
"If Orlando wants to talk to me, he can talk to me as a friend -- he doesn't have to talk to me as a manager," Guillen added. "I'm the manager when I have to make decisions. But when I don't have to make decisions, I'm their friend. My job is to be there for the players. The players don't have to be my employees."
With his two hits, Cabrera raised his average to .245 and has 12 hits in his last 27 at-bats. His production doesn't seem to be suffering through the media glare. Floyd talked to Cabrera briefly during batting practice and said that Cabrera hasn't changed from the upbeat individual the Rays DH remembers.
Guillen also believes he knows the real Cabrera from their days in Montreal, making the recent controversy a moot point. The White Sox manager was happy to hear Cabrera's comments on top of another victory.
"I've known Cabby for a long time, and that's why that thing doesn't bother me," Guillen said. "That's why I said yesterday, 'Just be careful with your teammates because they don't know you. I know you.' Hopefully, everything is square."
"I'm definitely surprised, but sometimes things happen that you have no clue about," Floyd added. "It makes you think, 'What's going on?' At the same time, everyone has issues and you deal with them and keep it moving. Sometimes things are blown way out of proportion and you have to eliminate stuff and do your job. That is what's important. At the end of the day, the rest is just words."
Those words from Floyd rang true for Cabrera, who preached the same mantra following the White Sox 12th win in 15 games.
"As long as we're winning, a smile is going to be on my face every day," said Cabrera, who mentioned he had a talk with Jim Thome prior to Thursday's game. "Show up for the game and help the team win games. That's most important for me.
"I've got the respect of my teammates. They've got my respect. I'm really comfortable. We're winning games. That's the only thing that matters to us, is winning games. And this team has such great players. They're gamers -- guys who have been around for a long time, and I admire all those guys."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.