Girardi, Ozzie are baseball's 'yin and yang'
Two managers bring different styles to dugout, clubhouse
CHICAGO -- Only a few feet separated Joe Girardi and Ozzie Guillen as they sat in their respective dugouts for a four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field this week.
Figuratively, though, the two sat on opposite ends of the spectrum.
In fact, when it comes to the intricacies of a big league skipper -- from building a lineup to structuring a bullpen, from juggling off-days to managing personalities -- two more different people simply don't exist in today's game.
Girardi is the drill sergeant. A Northwestern University alumnus and the product of a disciplinarian father, his hair is always neatly trimmed, and, even at 46, barely an ounce of fat resides in his body. He is meticulous, bordering on anal, and holds just about everything in that trusty binder he keeps by his side.
Ozzie knows no such binder, for he is the gunslinger. He manages with his gut -- some would say on a whim -- and doesn't really put too much stock in numbers. He's loud, dynamic, full of surprises and not really into analytics. A former shortstop who was never shy about speaking his mind, he says and does what he feels is right -- and if you don't like it, too bad.
Girardi and Guillen are the yin and yang of baseball managers. And the beauty of it is neither of them is right or wrong.
Sure, it's clear to see which manager has gotten the most out of his high-payroll team this year (Girardi's Yankees have won six in a row and have an eight-game lead in the American League Wild Card race; Ozzie's White Sox have dropped five straight and now find themselves 6 1/2 games back of first place in the AL Central).
But both won World Series titles early in their managing careers -- Ozzie in his second year, Girardi in his third -- and both would have little trouble finding work if they found themselves out of a job today.
Contrasting styles aside, the two hold one very similar belief: No matter what your personality and how you go about managing a clubhouse, it all boils down to whether you have the trust of your players.
"Personalities are going to be different," Girardi said. "So maybe the way I do it and the way he does it is going to be different. But it comes down, bottom line, to the players trusting you.
"The one thing about it, players have to know I'm for them, 100 percent," Guillen added.
Ozzie -- who previously told Yahoo! Sports he's "the Charlie Sheen of baseball" -- has the toughest route to trust, but he attains it by way of communication.
He sure is good at that.
You never know what you're going to get at an Ozzie news conference. Unless he's upset. Then you know you'll get plenty of cursing and little holding back. After a 18-7 loss last night, Guillen called the situation in the South Side "embarrassing," and that's putting it very lightly for him.
"What he feels, he says," current Yankees and former White Sox starter Freddy Garcia said. "He doesn't hide it."
Some players, like Boone Logan and Nick Swisher of the Yankees, had their run-ins with Guillen while playing in Chicago. And others, like Garcia and Andruw Jones, simply love the guy. You tend to get two distinct viewpoints when you're this polarizing.
Like him or not, though, there's one thing Ozzie says he'll never do.
"I talk to the media 390 times, maybe 400 times a year," he said. "I get upset with the players, they're the first ones to know it. The first people that are going to know it is them, before I go and talk to the media. They're not going to be surprised, saying, 'Hey, Ozzie said this about the team.' No, he already said it before he talked to [the media]."
That's not something Girardi really has to clear up. He'll never say anything negative with the notepads out and the cameras rolling -- even if the situation would call for it.
Girardi is the kind who prefers to offer encouragement. Not that he's a pushover. He'll get in a player's face behind closed doors if it's absolutely necessary. But he'll always take the cautious route publicly.
Just Wednesday night, when A.J. Burnett failed to qualify for the win despite being spotted a 12-run lead, Girardi backed his starter -- chalking it up to one bad night while saying his rotation spot isn't in question -- and brushed off the possibility of being shown up when he took Burnett out in the fifth.
"Joe played the game for a long time, and he knows how hard it is to play the game," Yankees bench coach Tony Pena said. "And sometimes you have to go away from your route to do the things you need to do; to help a guy, to help a ballclub and to help the player. And he just finds a way to do it."
There is no book on how to manage 25 so-distinct personalities all at once, and each manager goes about it a different way. It's all about success, yes. But success can only be fostered if you have the support of your players.
To do that, there is no right or wrong approach. It's like hitting. You can hold the bat and stand whichever way you want, because "as long as you get to a certain point at a certain time, it's OK," Girardi said.
If Guillen's managing style were a batting stance, it'd be a hybrid of Craig Counsell, Tony Batista and Gary Sheffield. But at the point of contact, it's all the same.
"Listen, I don't know if my style works, but at the end of the day, 90 percent of my players, when they leave here, they come here and say hi to me and hug me," Guillen said. "I don't expect everybody to do it. Not everybody is the same way. But I played the game. I know how to treat players. I never tried to kick the guy when they're down. I always give them the chance to fail and succeed."
Girardi does, too. Just in a very, very different way.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.