October 29, 2003
With Ozzie Guillen coming to town Wednesday to interview for the job of manager of the Chicago White Sox, I hope Sox boss Jerry Reinsdorf remembers what he owes me.
Reinsdorf has taken a lot of money from me over the years and an equal amount from my cousin George.
Every winter our wives remind us that our families have bills and that the kids eat like horses and need new shoes about every six minutes. But George and I are also crazed White Sox fans. So we do what all responsible and mature parents would do in our situation.
We splurge on full-season White Sox tickets and tell those hungry kids to load up on the potatoes and bread and quit whining. And if they just walk on their heels through the snowdrifts on the way to school, the holes in the shoes won't bother them much and their toes won't fall off.
So I'm thinking it's time Jerry does me a favor. Jerry, I'm a public Sox fan working for the Cubs-owning Tribune Co. It gets cold in Tribune Tower, Jer.
And Jer? You can save us all a lot of time and announce that you've found a new manager.
You can name Ozzie the manager of the Sox.
Guillen, the former Sox All-Star shortstop and current third-base coach of the Florida Marlins, deserves this chance. He deserves it because he played Sox baseball with his brain and his heart--not just his back and legs. He has already proved he's not afraid to confront big-name players like Frank Thomas used to be.
He also has proved he can confront the fans, and we respect that in him too, because we know the important thing about Ozzie.
He respects the game.
And it's time somebody taught the Sox about respecting the game, especially when there's a man on second and no outs in September.
"I'm ready to take on the responsibility," Guillen told the Tribune's Teddy Greenstein, who covers the Sox. "I know it's a big responsibility because the White Sox have a great organization and a great group of guys there. It's a matter of getting them to perform the way they're capable of performing."
The baseball experts--the sportswriters and insiders--have properly noted that Guillen has no experience as a manager. The writers know more about baseball. They watch it for a living. I watch it for fun. But fun is what Guillen will bring to the Sox, something that's been missing on the South Side for years.
The favorite for the Sox job appears to be former Toronto manager Cito Gaston. He has experience. But he's old and reserved. The Sox have had years of quiet from their manager.
Old and feisty is fine. But old and quiet is room-temperature Jell-O. Geezers say you can leave your teeth in or take them out and it still chews just the same.
Joe Torre of the Yankees has experience and may be sick enough of boss George Steinbrenner's tantrums to leave New York. But Torre managed a ball club with the largest payroll in baseball--a payroll three times that of some teams--and still didn't beat the Marlins. Torre's great challenge was in managing Steinbrenner.
Other Sox fans pine for St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa to return to Chicago. I'd like to see LaRussa back managing the Sox. But Reinsdorf would first have to arrange a cage match between LaRussa and Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson.
The victor could jump in a chariot and drag the body of the vanquished along the warning track on Opening Day.
George Bova is the editor of White Sox Interactive, a totally biased pro-Sox Web site, which is just the thing for crazed Sox fans who deny their hungry kids new shoes.
"These are the White Sox. LaRussa isn't coming to Chicago, so we're debating over the bridesmaid, Cito or Ozzie?" Bova said. "We've had three rookie managers and look what happened. So it's time to get someone with dirt of managerial experience under their fingernails. I'm going with Cito."
I asked Al Solomon about this. Al is a Tribune travel writer. But he was a great baseball beat writer and covered the Sox when they were the Sox.
That was in the early '90s, when they played defense and could run the bases, when Ozzie was the boss of the clubhouse, unafraid to get into Frank Thomas' face when Frank got pouty.
"I can't think of a player who didn't respect Ozzie," Solomon said. "In the clubhouse, players usually hang out with their own nationality or race or position. In baseball you have the Latin players here, the black players there, white players over there. Ozzie was able to go from cluster to cluster. He's a leader."
Dusty Baker of the Cubs moves through clubhouse cliques. It's what the White Sox need.
Ozzie never tolerated losing. He knows and respects the game. The fans love him. He's been in the big leagues for 20 years, and he's been a leader since he was a rookie.
So, Jer? How does this sound?
Ozzie Guillen: Sox manager.
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