Guillen: Hancock's death a 'wake-up call'
Skipper cautions players about dangers of drinking and driving
ANAHEIM -- Ozzie Guillen referred to the tragic death of St. Louis pitcher Josh Hancock as "a wake-up call" after police announced Friday that Hancock was driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of his fatal crash. Hancock's condition played a part in the accident.
But while Guillen believes all individuals, and not just Major League players, coaches and managers, have to be aware of the perils brought about by drinking and driving, it's not a sentiment he had to preach to his charges. Not after talking to them about the exact topic during Spring Training.
"I already had a meeting with my players for that," Guillen said. "One thing about my meetings, I'm not going to tell you guys to do it or don't. I just say be careful what you're doing.
"You don't want that to happen to anyone. But in the meanwhile, people think like it's the clubhouse's fault or baseball's fault about this accident. This accident happened a long time after the game was over. I don't know why people keep saying the clubhouse drink, that people are drunk in the clubhouse.
"Players have to be careful if they're going to drink or when they're going to drink," Guillen added.
Guillen bristled at a column that ran two days ago in the Chicago Tribune, indirectly criticizing the White Sox manager as someone who "mocked" the A's and general manager Billy Beane because of his alcohol ban in the clubhouse during the 2006 season, instituted shortly after pitcher Esteban Loaiza was stopped for drunken driving after leaving the ballpark. Guillen's sardonic comments basically followed a tough loss in Oakland, part of a three-game sweep that all but knocked the White Sox out of playoff contention and were not so much about the ban as they were about having the ability usurped to control his own clubhouse.
Prior to Friday's series opener in Anaheim, Guillen clarified his point made last September in Oakland.
"Unfortunately, my name is always brought up for no reason and it's not fair for people to read in papers that I was against that," Guillen said. "I'm against people drinking and driving. You run the club and Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf say you're not going to have a drink, that's fine. But that happened [to Hancock] not because of drinking in the clubhouse.
"I take care of my clubhouse. We have rules. When we fly, we have one hour [before they land] where we're not drinking on the plane. When we're on the road, we're not driving. That's fine. When I talk to the guys, I tell them I don't want them to do that."
When Guillen was a player, he mentioned how then general manager Larry Himes banned alcohol in the clubhouse. He also pointed out how he had a problem with a player two years ago, talking to him every day about how he didn't want him "to go out there and feel that way" in regard to drinking.
That talk made it seem as if Guillen never had a drink, which he readily admits he has. Guillen's biggest concern stands with drinking and driving.
In the ultimate solution, though, the players are all adults -- many with families. They have to take responsibility for their own actions, according to Guillen.
"Now, the St. Louis organization has to explain to people. That's why I told the players, 'Don't put me in that spot,'" Guillen said. "It's not an easy spot. You're not going to win. No matter what you say, what you do, people are always going to look a different way.
"Not because you're drinking. It's because it's dangerous for everyone else. We have to be careful about what we do. In the meanwhile, you can't tell players, 'You can't do this or that,' because they're not 16. They should take care of themselves.
"We don't have kids here. We have grown people," Guillen added. "Don't blame the clubhouse, don't blame baseball, don't blame Bud Selig, don't blame [Cardinals general manager Walt] Jocketty, don't blame Tony La Russa. Don't blame any of those guys. Just blame the people who don't have common sense or do stuff they're not supposed to do."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.