Guillen speaks his mind
White Sox manager doesn't seem to filter his thoughts
CHICAGO -- Ozzie Guillen has probably broken every rule on public utterances in the Major League managers' handbook. And none of it has damaged the Chicago White Sox one little bit.
Guillen is a loose verbal cannon, but he is also the manager of the American League team with the best record, the one that opens an American League Division Series Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox.
Where many managers seek to be bland, inoffensive and exceedingly cautious in their public comments, Guillen apparently says whatever comes to mind. It might be bizarre, it might be hilarious, it might be profane, it might even be true. But it certainly doesn't appear to be filtered.
Guillen is a big favorite of the Chicago media, or most of the Chicago media. But even if he were dull as white bread, he should still be a media favorite for bringing the White Sox home in front. But he's the opposite of dull. He "fills up your notebook," as they say in the trade. And your tape recorders. And your sports portion of the 6 p.m. local news.
Guillen has local critics, very vocal critics. But they were going to be vocal critics of somebody, anyway. It's difficult to argue with success, and that's what has come in the second season of Guillen's tenure with the White Sox.
But what is impossible to escape is that this man is off the managerial charts when it comes to his public pronouncements. There are other managers who are witty and candid and genuinely enjoy speaking with reporters. (And let's face it; dealing the media has become an increasingly large part of a manager's duties.) But nobody lets it rip like Ozzie Guillen -- no-holds-barred, let-the-chips-fall, full speed ahead. He says things publicly that no other big-league manager would think of saying. Or, if the other big-league manager thought of saying these things, he would stop before he actually said them out loud.
Here is a small illustrative sampling:
The Cleveland Indians were on fire, having cut the White Sox lead in the AL Central all the way from 15 games to 1 1/2. The Indians had won 38 of their past 50 and 17 of their past 19. With little more than a week to go in the season, Guillen was asked about the Indians' performance:
"I don't think they're going to lose another game." He later amends this to "I don't think they're going to lose another game until we get there [for the last three games of the regular season]."
Wow. This is not only not what a manager typically says; this is the opposite of what a manager typically says. What the manager is supposed to say is something very much like this:
"We can't worry about what the Indians are doing. All we can do is take care of our own business and keep our focus on our next game. If we do that the right way, everything will take care of itself."
Then Guillen suggested that if the White Sox won the World Series, he would retire.
Yikes. This violates the cardinal rule of not making yourself a potential distraction. If a manager feels that he must say something really weird, he should either say it very loudly to an umpire or in a whisper to his bench coach.
Then, during a White Sox slump, Guillen said that the team was playing so badly it was making him "vomit."
Oh, man. A lot of managers can lose seven straight games and never admit that anything is amiss with their lads. You appreciate a guy who will say: "Yeah, we stunk tonight." But it's a long way from there to "My players are making me vomit."
If his team is playing badly in a critical stretch, a manager usually says something very much like:
"I've been pleased with our effort. Our execution just needs to get a little more consistent."
What you don't give the media or your players, for that matter, is any indication that you are in any way deeply troubled by the crummy baseball they are producing. You are a picture of undiluted, long-term confidence. You are an island of serenity in a sea of doubt. If your team is playing so badly that you are throwing up, this is a matter between you and your team physician, whose professional oath swears him to secrecy.
This list could go on for several days, but the picture is emerging. Ozzie Guillen will say anything. Also, the stuff that Ozzie says turns out to be a lot more interesting than the typical managerial verbiage. But that's why the other managers are saying what they are saying, because it really isn't supposed to be interesting.
On the other side of it, Guillen may be proving that a century of long-held beliefs about what a manager should or shouldn't say is all a bunch of garbage.
He has made potentially distracting statements. He has said that his team has made him sick to his stomach. He has painted the main division opponent as an unbeatable juggernaut. And, at the end, so what?
After all this, the White Sox ended their skid, regrouped, won their division and posted the AL's best record. It is distinctly possible that we may have to rewrite the unwritten rules about managerial comments. Too bad the rules are unwritten, because otherwise Guillen could erase them.
A lot of people have raised questions about things Guillen has said this season, attacking his motives, his lack of political correctness and sometimes even his sanity. On Monday, as the two teams worked out before the start of the postseason and the managers spoke to the media, Guillen's comments were very routine and certainly not inflammatory. Some people were really sort of disappointed.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.