Ozzie can bring new dimension to Marlins
Outspoken skipper what Florida needs to create buzz for 2012
MIAMI -- Logan Morrison stood in front of his locker on Tuesday afternoon, answering question after question about a new Marlins manager who hadn't been officially named and one he hardly knows. Then the interview turned toward social media, and how Ozzie Guillen is not only active on Twitter, but he also tweets in two languages and has his own blog.
"I didn't even know that," Morrison said. "Now I need a blog, probably two."
All of a sudden, @LoMoMarlins will no longer be the most active social-media member on his own team.
That honor will be held by the extroverted Ozzie, whenever the Marlins announce what multiple reports are calling a done deal -- that Florida has acquired Guillen from the White Sox for Jhan Martinez and Ozzie Marinez, signing him to a multiyear contract to be their manager heading into their new ballpark.
The Marlins wanted to create a splash before moving into the retractable-roof ballpark that will open in the Little Havana section of Miami for the start of the 2012 season.
Now it seems they're on the verge of creating a monsoon.
It's the outlandish, quick-witted and demonstrative Ozzie -- a man who represents the antithesis of any man the Marlins have tried to bring into their organization -- who will reportedly steer them toward a new beginning.
It's a risk, no doubt, but it's a risk worth taking. The Marlins are all about creating a buzz, generating interest and ultimately selling tickets in this stage of the franchise's existence.
And Ozzie, more so than any other manager, can help do all that.
"I don't know if it's going to sell tickets or not, but I think it is going to get Miami excited," said first baseman Gaby Sanchez, a lifelong South Floridian who knows the community better than anyone on this team. "I think the fans are believing that the Marlins are doing whatever they feel like is best to get the best pieces to try to build a winning ballclub. He's a big piece. He's a piece that everything goes around."
The Marlins have to win games, of course, and the only way to do that is to improve the roster. So what's most important at this point is that they figure out what they have in ailing superstars Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez, and find a way to put quality veterans around a talented young core that includes Morrison, Sanchez and Mike Stanton.
But creating momentum heading into a new park is important, and a season that currently has them 18 games below .500 has been detrimental to that. The Marlins need a spark, something to get this community excited about baseball in a way it never really has.
If nothing else, Guillen can do that -- and maybe he can light some needed fire under Hanley.
"I think that's probably one of the objectives of getting him," Marlins catcher John Buck said, speaking in generalities. "I think he has a record for doing that for certain players, so hopefully so, because if it's true, it can be good for all of us."
Like current 80-year-old Marlins skipper Jack McKeon -- who will retire once again after Wednesday's season finale -- Ozzie speaks honestly, isn't afraid to confront players and has a unique way of bringing energy. The only difference is he's louder, younger and bilingual.
McKeon knows Guillen very well. He signed him to the Padres as a 16-year-old shortstop from Venezuela in 1980, traded him to the White Sox five years later, then had him as his third-base coach when the Marlins won the 2003 World Series championship.
"I did tell him one time," McKeon said of that '03 season, "I said, 'Hey, if you want to be a big league manager, cut it down just a shade.'"
Ozzie, of course, hasn't cut it down a shade. If anything, he has ramped it up a little bit. It's who he is, for better or worse.
"I was very honest with [the media], very clear, and to be honest with you and be clear with you [it] has created me a lot of problems," Guillen told Chicago reporters on Monday, when the White Sox announced they had released him from his contract. "One thing about it, the White Sox are not going to change me, [my wife] Ibis is not going to change me, my kids are not going to change me. I am who I am. Whoever likes it, likes it. If not, you don't have to deal with me."
That's where the biggest doubts about this acquisition stems, and rightfully so. The Marlins' front office has shown little patience for outspokenness in the past, whether it's from former skipper Joe Girardi or current player Morrison.
But there's no way the Marlins are bringing in Guillen to restrain him. They know it's not possible, and they know just as well as anybody how Ozzie is. The fact they're bringing him in on a reported four-year contract and dealing two young players to get him means they're willing to accept that.
Now the age-old question is how much impact a manager can actually have on a team, and whether he has a tangible effect on winning and losing.
Some, like reliever Burke Badenhop, think they do.
"The guys that have Major League talent," Badenhop said, "a lot of the things that separate some of the real good ones from guys that are just average is really just mentality, having mental edge and having a leader that can create that."
Others, like LoMo, don't.
"People that know what the game's about [know] managers don't win you too many games," he said. "They can lose you some games, but they don't win you too many. Players play and players win games, and they lose games; no question."
Morrison may think that way, but he already welcomed Guillen early Tuesday afternoon by tweeting: Bienvenido a Miami, @OzzieGuillen?
The Marlins just got a lot more interesting -- and that statement doesn't need a question mark.
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.