CHICAGO -- During the first day of SoxFest '11 in late January, the White Sox picked up the 2012 contract option for Ozzie Guillen.
Yes, the organization was all-in with its outspoken but successful manager for next year before the present season even began. That moment at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago has thus far turned out to be the highlight of this underachieving season for Guillen.
As the White Sox fade further from .500 and fall into a deeper deficit behind the American League Central-leading Tigers, more blame gets heaped upon Guillen. It's blame Guillen readily accepts, and even encourages, during tough times for his team.
With that contract set for 2012, there should be little talk as to Guillen's future. But before Thursday's game, Guillen told MLB.com that if White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Ken Williams decided he's not the man to guide the team in the future, he's ready for the change.
"If they think I'm the problem, I resolve that problem," said a calm Guillen, leaning against the home dugout rail at U.S. Cellular Field. "I don't want to get fired. I don't want to leave this town. But if I'm the one who doesn't make this team work, hey, listen, you can change.
"I don't know how it's going to be better or worse or how the organization is going to work. Maybe some people, maybe they are tired to see me here. They are tired to hear what I talk. They are tired of whatever it is. I don't disrespect that. I respect that opinion."
Just 10 minutes or so before this one-on-one conversation, Guillen was more fired up when talking during his daily media session about how he has handled his 2011 squad. Alex Rios was the focus of this talk, specifically how Guillen continues to use him despite Rios' .207 average and 24 RBIs.
After sitting out the last game of last week's Tigers series, where Minor League callup Alejandro De Aza hit the game-winning home run, and the first game of the weekend Boston set, Rios played five straight games before returning to the bench for Thursday's series finale against the Yankees. Rios finished 3-for-17 with one RBI in that stretch, which saw the White Sox lose all five games.
To solely blame Rios for this failure seems preposterous, and to think Guillen is overlooking Rios' disastrous season or his lack of hustle, at times, is equally off the mark. It was Guillen who benched Rios in Colorado for lack of hustle on the basepaths.
Guillen took on those critics questioning Rios' usage in his own, straightforward manner.
"Rios is going to be playing when I play him. I'm not going to bench Rios because of what people think or what the people want," Guillen said. "I'm going to make the lineup I think is the best lineup out there.
"Let me explain to the idiots out there, the genius. They say I no bench Rios, but the only player I bench because he no hustle, it was Rios, for two days, OK. Second, when we bring De Aza, the next three pitchers were lefties. and then [Paul Konerko] got hurt.
"Tell these people out there, they think they know baseball more than I am, then send me the lineup that was better without Rios in the lineup," Guillen said. "Is Rios not playing well? Of course he's not. He's brutal everywhere. People think I know. Yes, I know. People think Rios know. Of course he knows."
It's this candor that rubs the White Sox fan base wrong on occasion. It's especially true when a team with a franchise-record $127 million payroll sits in third place and six games out of first at the outset of the evening.
So Guillen stands ready for whatever change may occur. The White Sox job might not be his forever, but his deep-rooted love for the organization won't change.
"One thing nobody is going to take away from me is the love for the White Sox," Guillen said. "I might manage another team in the next 10 years or next week, but I still have the desire. I still have the passion for this organization and this city.
"The other day I told my wife I should be a third-base coach. I have no decision to make, I'm happy, I'll be in the game, say hi to everyone and don't have to deal with media. But I love managing. I love to compete. I love to be in the game and be part of the game. I love to be on the field.
"Every day when I walk around, you think a couple of times, 'Is this the best for me?'" Guillen said. "I know my wife and my family are going to be behind me and support me no matter what my decision is going to be. Like I say, my decision is not my decision. It's a family decision. And we are going to see how things work."