Ozzie Guillen can’t help but make himself comfortable in whatever situation he finds himself in. Guillen’s affable and bubbly personality affects those he associates with, and this time it was the chef in the Championship Club at Busch Stadium.
While the grill was heating up hours before Game 5 of the World Series, the chef indicated that he knew exactly what Guillen wanted. The former White Sox and Marlins manager was working for Spanish-language television and radio during the World Series, and he looked comfortable but still misplaced in the role of commentator.
Guillen’s managerial stock dropped considerably after his disastrous 2012 season with the Marlins that began with pro-Fidel Castro remarks that sparked a firestorm among Cubans in South Florida and concluded with team management holding a fire sale of its highly paid players at midseason.
The Marlins fired Guillen after that one season, a difficult ending to what was supposed to be a baseball resurrection in Miami. Guillen’s reputation took a major hit.
It has been 14 months since Guillen was dismissed, seemingly enough time for teams to forgive him and reconsider him as a viable managerial candidate, but so far, that hasn’t been the case. There have been four hires so far this offseason, and three are first-time managers: Brad Ausmus (Tigers), Matt Williams (Nationals), and Rich Renteria (Cubs).
The Mariners made the bizarre hire of Lloyd McClendon, who has a record of 336-446 with no playoff appearances in five seasons in Pittsburgh (2001-05). Guillen won a World Series with the White Sox and was the AL Manager of the Year in 2005.
His credentials are impressive, but his boisterous personality and brutal honesty have been his biggest drawbacks. Yet, as cool as he looks in a suit and as astute as he is offering TV analysis, Guillen wants to manage again.
“I’m having fun and liking what I’m doing, but in the meanwhile, being in the field, being in the action, that’s what I always love,” he said. “I’ve been doing [television] for a little while and I kind of like what I’m doing, but I wish I just do one thing and not have managerial thinking. Because stuff happens downstairs, we don’t know exactly what players are available, who’s not, who’s sick, you assume nothing happened down there.
“When you’re broadcasting, you’re not a manager, you’re not a coach, that’s why you have to be careful what you say, what you do, and when you say it.”
Self-control hasn’t always been Guillen’s strength. He speaks his mind, even when it’s to his detriment, but that’s also what made him a darling with the media and a staple on sports wrapup shows. We embrace his openness but cringe at his honesty, and that’s unfair, but Guillen relishes the attention.
He felt he was on stable ground in Florida. The Marlins were going through their once-a-decade resurgence, acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell, and Carlos Zambrano before the 2012 season to make a pennant run, but they failed miserably in a 69-93 season. Guillen was blamed for his arrogance, for his handling of the pitching staff, and for failing to connect with Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, and other Latino players who needed motivation.
Guillen said management failed to support its own rebuilding efforts.
“They lied to everyone and they don’t give me opportunity for me and my coaching staff to do what we do best,” he said. “It was only a few months of work because they started trading everybody in June.
“They traded eight players during the season. Obviously you’re going to finish last when you don’t have those eight players on the field.
“Obviously they did it for a reason. I don’t know why. But you learn with experience. But, yes, I want to come back and prove to people how good I can be.”
He deserves another chance, and perhaps that stop in Miami can serve as a learning tool. Terry Francona, John Farrell, Fredi Gonzalez, Buck Showalter, Clint Hurdle, and Bob Melvin are examples of managers who flourished the second or third time around. And only the first two on that list are World Series winners like Guillen.
Perhaps he will have to wait for another offseason to get his opportunity, but Guillen is among the best 30 managers today, there’s no question about that. And he has the personality to match, even if it sometimes overshadows his managerial skills. Getting Ozzie to keep it down is nearly an impossible task, but asking Ozzie to watch his words is more feasible.
“Everybody gets fired,” he said. “You just take a little time, you have to be patient, and if it’s coming, it’s coming. If it isn’t, I got my chance.
“I enjoyed my chance. I’m looking forward to managing again. Besides winning the World Series, the record in Chicago, we played pretty good baseball.
“Sometimes people need a break, and you want to stay away from something you love to see how much you love it. I want to be back on the field.”