CHICAGO -- There was one word that Paul Konerko kept coming back to to describe the general feeling around the clubhouse following the announcement of manager Ozzie Guillen's departure.
Konerko wasn't talking on a personal level and certainly wasn't implying that this is something he wanted to see happen. Instead, the White Sox captain -- and continuous voice of reason -- said it had simply come to a point where this is what was best for everyone involved.
"I don't think anybody's more relieved than kind of the principle people involved -- himself and the people that have to make those decisions -- that they're finally getting on with something and starting fresh on something," Konerko said. "But same thing with us, this has been kind of a thing hanging over the organization for awhile. If we would have come out this year and performed well on the field and done well, this could have maybe been avoided ... but even if we had won, maybe this would have happened, who knows?
"I think relief is probably the best word to describe everybody's feeling."
Guillen informed his players about an hour before first pitch that Monday's contest would be his final game at the helm. There had been rumblings both within and outside of the organization for weeks that Guillen might not return for 2012 -- the final year of his contract -- but Konerko said "no one" expected the announcement to come tonight when they arrived at the ballpark.
For Konerko, who was here for all eight years of Guillen's reign, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski, here for seven, the decision left them in a tough position. Both admitted they were sad to see Guillen go as a manager -- the one who led them to a World Series title in 2005 -- but at the same time, they both know that it was best for him on a personal level.
"It wasn't my decision or whatever," Pierzynski said. "I love Ozzie, love the fact that I won a World Series with him. He had to make a decision and he made the decision that he thought was best for him and his family. I'll miss him and I wish him the best."
For all of the rants and off-the-field antics that people had become accustomed to seeing during his time in Chicago, Guillen had still certainly earned the respect of his players in the clubhouse.
Veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel quietly strolled in moments before Guillen's final news conference and took in the skipper's farewell from a seat in the back of the room. Konerko always appreciated the way Guillen looked out for him, right up through Monday's contest when he gave the All-Star a night off to rest. Pierzynski said his entire family will miss Guillen's presence.
"Just his enthusiasm, the way he treated people, especially my kids," Pierznyski said. "Every day he was happy to see them, put a smile on their face and you have to respect someone like that. He never let the job get to him. It didn't change him and he had a good run."
As for where Guillen's next run will be or when exactly it will start and who will fill out the White Sox lineup card next season, that's still up in the air. But Konerko, again offering that voice of reason, reminded everyone that those two things will happen by the time Spring Training rolls around.
"Everybody in here is still a human being -- Ozzie, Kenny, Jerry, players in here -- everybody's a human being," Konerko said. "So when it comes to your job, there's only so much you can take of just every day, the stress level and everything else. I think when something like this happens, everybody kind of feels a little relieved and everybody realizes this isn't life and death.
"Ozzie's going to be fine, Kenny's going to be fine, everybody's going to be fine. And we're going to move on."
Paul Casella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.