Archive for Sunday, May 11, 2008

Commentary: Silence isn’t golden for Guillen

May 11, 2008


It may be too late for the White Sox to get a refund for the sensitivity training they were ordered to put manager Ozzie Guillen through two summers ago. The man seems more determined than ever to talk his way out of a job.

"Those people are gonna make me a lot of money later. Because as soon as I'm done," Guillen said Thursday, referring to reporters, "I'll be the only manager they remember."

"Who's the manager they remember the most?" he asked a moment later, not waiting for an answer. "Billy Martin. They don't remember Sparky Anderson. They remember Billy Martin because he was the crazy one."

In the news business, we call this becoming the ally of your gravedigger. If most of us had a stretch on the job like the one Guillen is in the midst of, the last thing we'd do is call attention to it. Not the Wizard of Oz.

While his ballclub was plummeting in the American League Central, Guillen was complaining about the Cubs always being the darlings of the Chicago media. While his sorry hitters were deflating faster than the blow-up dolls they posed in the locker room to break the slump, Guillen defended the stunt.

"Some people like stuff," he said one more time, "some don't."

If the White Sox were a college program instead of a pro baseball team, the organization would already be on double-secret probation for what the NCAA calls "a lack of institutional control." Instead of apologizing for any of it, Guillen resorted to an old ruse, suggesting one more time there is a method to his madness.

"Who cares about Britney Spears? But she's on TV every day. That sells," Guillen said.

It also ends careers prematurely, something that seems to have been on Guillen's mind almost since the beginning of his tenure in charge of the White Sox. Every manager knows he's hired to be fired, but few get their first shot in a town so ready to embrace them.

A crowd of almost 38,000 sprung to its feet when Guillen was introduced on April 13, 2004, for his first home game as manager. Many of them no doubt remembered the mercurial, slick-fielding shortstop who had made his debut there as a player nearly 20 seasons earlier and went on to become Rookie of the Year.

Back then, Guillen could be every bit as entertaining with his mouth as he was with a glove. He grew up in Venezuela dreaming about the day he would follow in the footsteps of two previous White Sox shortstops, Chico Carrasquel and Luis Aparicio, who became legends back home. And just like them, Guillen arrived on these shores as a teenager, trying to learn English in the sometimes-crude environs of a locker room.

The shame is that like a lot of class clowns, Guillen isn't just fearless, he's smart. The same impulsive qualities that made him a headline writer's dream also made him look like a pretty shrewd manager - once.

He's feuded with players, cursed reporters and forced the White Sox brass to explain away one embarrassment after another. How much of a toll it's taken already is something only Guillen or owner Jerry Reinsdorf know.

What they seem to have forgotten, though, is that laughing at the hijinks, insults and all that foul language would be a lot easier if it wasn't for all that losing.


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