With a 272-214 record in hand, Ozzie Guillen sat down with MLB.com for 15 minutes to talk about the upcoming 2007 season. He addressed wide-ranging topics from his personal disappointment of 2006 to Barry Bonds' quest for the all-time home run record and Sammy Sosa's return to baseball.
MLB.com: People look at the White Sox last season and often use the word underachieving. How do you react when you hear a team who won 90 games described in that manner?
Guillen: Well, you talk about underachieving and that means I was not satisfied. We should have won more games because I think we gave a lot of games away. But in the meanwhile, I think the team did a great job with the type of bullpen we have.
When you win 90 games, your expectations are a little higher. Unfortunately, we played in a division where you have to win 90-plus games to be in the playoffs. Was I happy with the way we ended? No. Was I satisfied? Yes, because I know those guys show up every day and did everything they were supposed to do. But my expectation was not to win 90. My expectation was to win the division.
MLB.com: Is that a culture of success you've tried to push around here since taking over as manager of the White Sox in 2004? It's not just OK to have a good season. You want to win it all.
Guillen: In the past, when I was playing, if we made the playoffs, it was a satisfying year. Wow, great, we had a tremendous year. Making the playoffs should be everyone's goal. I think that's the attitude every team should have.
We have to be in the playoffs. We have to make the playoffs. If you don't do it, then it's a losing season.
MLB.com: What element was missing last year in the team's quest to repeat its World Series championship? Was there more than one missing element?
Guillen: There were two things. Our bullpen was, you know, unfortunately Neal [Cotts] and Cliff [Politte], they didn't do the job they did in 2005. But I don't think I'm going to point fingers at those guys. Besides that, I don't think the little guys helped the big boys play the game, play baseball. The expectation was higher than what we did. We did not play the way we should play, and we had a situation that was pretty bad.
MLB.com: How do you handle those increased expectations in the season following a World Series title and make it through with a repeat performance?
Guillen: I just take it year-by-year. I'm getting paid as a manager to win every year. I'm not the type of guy who believes, 'Well, I won in 2005, so I don't have to win for the next 10 years.' I have to win last year. I have to win this year. That's how I push myself. I don't live in the past. I don't live on what I did. I live on what we are going to do next.
What's the next step we are going to take? Every day, I take it the same way. Nobody is going to tell me about living in the past because I don't believe in it.
MLB.com: Did you do a good job of managing last year?
Guillen: You are never a good manager. You are always as good as your players are. I think it was hard for me to manage last year because we were missing a couple of tools. But I learned a lot from last year about how to make the team a success when you don't have all the opportunities.
Every day you learn something. Every day you learn about the game. Every day you learn about what you are going to do with your job. But like I say, I had a great ballclub to manage. I have great guys, guys who are hungry to play. They respect their teammates and myself. Every day going through it, that was easy to manage those guys. The execution and strategy about it, I was satisfied with what we did.
MLB.com: What did you learn about yourself as a manager in 2006?
Guillen: You're not that good until you're good. You win one year. So, don't put yourself too high. Yeah, we won [in 2005] and I was the Manager of the Year, but I think you learn how to survive when you don't have the ammunition, and we did.
MLB.com: What's the greatest piece of advice you have received as a manager?
Guillen: Believe in yourself. Don't please everybody. Please your players and yourself. When you start second-guessing people and start thinking, 'If I do this, Kenny is going to be mad,' 'If I do this, the fans are going to boo me,' 'If I do this, the media is going to be all over me,' you forget the things you have to do. Make sure you take care of the players.
MLB.com: How draining has this current spring been for you personally, with some of the tough personnel decisions to be made at fifth starter, in the bullpen and for the 25th roster spot among very qualified candidates?
Guillen: This year has been the worst. In 2004, whoever showed up, we got him. In 2005, we had El Duque and hoped he could make it. We had a lot of ifs. In 2006, I think we needed a lefty and Boone Logan showed up. This year, we have a lot of guys who should be on the ballclub, but unfortunately we only have a 25-man roster.
Believe me, these two weeks, and especially the next couple of days, has been real hard for us. We have to make decisions. When you like your players, it's hard for me to make decisions without hurting anyone's feelings.
MLB.com: Is it at least encouraging to know you have a great deal of talent and depth to rely on at the Minor League level if things don't work out exactly as planned at this level?
Guillen: Kenny did a tremendous job from one year to another. Maybe the fans don't believe it. Maybe people in baseball don't believe what a great job he did. We go from, 'What kind of ballclub are we going to have in 2008 or 2009?' to meanwhile we have a club to win this year. People have to understand that. I think we have players now in the system who you can count on during the season.
Anyone we send down right now, he easily could help us during the season.
MLB.com: Answer, if you could, a few stories or rumors coming out surrounding the two big offseason trades. For starters, Freddy Garcia was dealt as a way to cut salary.
Guillen: No. Freddy Garcia was traded because we needed to get better in the bullpen. When we went to [the Winter Meetings in] Orlando, everybody was asking about the pitching staff. All of a sudden, Freddy was the bite to get better. When we traded Brandon McCarthy, we got much better. But it was not a salary thing.
MLB.com: You were upset over Garcia, your friend, being traded.
Guillen: No, not really. He's my friend, but it's part of the game. I talked to Freddy last night. I talk to Freddy every other day. Our relationship is still the same. He knows it's part of the business. He knows we have to get better.
MLB.com: Finally, Brandon McCarthy was traded because his personality didn't mesh with the staff.
Guillen: No. Brandon McCarthy got traded because we brought a couple of guys here who can help us right now and later. Besides that, if we didn't make the trade, Brandon McCarthy would be our fifth starter. But I think we found a couple of pitchers, [John] Danks and [Nick] Masset, they will be on the ballclub. Now, we find a fifth starter, and we've got two players for one. That's the only reason we did it. We find better guys to help us in the bullpen and the starting rotation.
MLB.com: Let me give you a few 2007 baseball scenarios and you give me a one- or two-sentence response as to what you think. Start with Lou Piniella managing the Cubs.
Guillen: A great guy to handle that ballclub.
MLB.com: Ron Gardenhire continuing to find success with a smaller market team in Minnesota.
Guillen: He's the most underrated manager in baseball.
MLB.com: Bobby Cox, one of your mentors, managing his 18th straight year with Atlanta.
Guillen: The greatest. Hopefully, he manages another 100.
MLB.com: Alex Rodriguez constantly being scrutinized playing for the Yankees.
Guillen: I feel bad for him because people forget how good of a player he really is. Everything that happens in the Yankees organization, they blame on him.
MLB.com: Barry Bonds potentially breaking Hank Aaron's career home run record.
Guillen: I love it. People might disagree with me, but it's good for baseball.
MLB.com: Why is it good for baseball?
Guillen: That's going to be one of the hardest and toughest things to do in the history of sports. You can say, 'Who is the guy who has won more championships in the world?' Muhammad Ali. I think Barry is going to be compared with Ali as one of the greatest athletes ever in sports.
MLB.com: Sammy Sosa making a comeback with the Rangers.
Guillen: Good for him. People forgot what Sammy did for baseball. I think he's handling it real well and I wish him the best of luck.
MLB.com: Joey Cora, your current bench coach, as a future Major League manager.
Guillen: Yes, definitely. I think he has a great opportunity to do it. He's a well-educated guy. I wish he would be a little looser with the players because he's going to need that, but he has all the tools to be a pretty good manager.
MLB.com: Jim Thome hitting his 500th career home run in 2007.
Guillen: I love it because I'm going to be there. I look at myself and say, 'Wow. One day I managed Roberto Alomar. I managed Frank Thomas. I managed Freddy Garcia and Paul Konerko.' I managed future Hall of Famers. When Jim hits his 500th home run, I'll just thank God because I'm going to be there.
MLB.com: How about Jerry Reinsdorf as an owner?
Guillen: The best. I think he's way underrated. When you are good, they always find a couple of things. People in Chicago, they should respect and love Jerry Reinsdorf more than anyone in Chicago. People should remember this guy brought seven championships to the city, and I don't think he gets the credit he deserves.
MLB.com: The biggest misconception about Ozzie Guillen.
Guillen: Ozzie Guillen is crazy. Ozzie Guillen has no common sense when he talks. Another thing is people think my players hate to play for me, and that's not true.
MLB.com: Do you get upset when people focus on your value as an entertainer and as a great quote and don't recognize your knowledge of the game?
Guillen: I grew up with this game. I learned every day. When you have a passion for the game and respect the game ... You can go out there and say anything, but when you compete against me, you'd better bring your best stuff. Every day I bring my best, for me and the ballclub. Sometimes I put myself in that situation and people forget how good you are. They always remember the bad things and not the good things. That's a part of life.
MLB.com: This question was asked of you last year in our talk before the season, so let's see if the answer has changed. What will you be doing 10 years from now?
Guillen: Ten years from now? Hopefully, I will still be managing the White Sox.
MLB.com: And 20 years from now?
Guillen: Twenty years? Hopefully, I'm still alive.
MLB.com: Are you still having fun managing?
Guillen: Yes. Sometimes you hate it and sometimes you say it's the worst job that ever happened. But there's nothing better than getting up in the morning, putting the uniform on and running the ballclub you like. I don't see myself with another ballclub or wearing another uniform. You never know, I might get fired here and obviously I would want to keep being in baseball.
But hopefully I have enough success where the White Sox can keep me for a long time.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.