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Ozzie wants to manage and someone should let him

John Kass

May 30, 2013

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In a perfect universe, with the White Sox and the Cubs playing a crosstown series, Ozzie Guillen would be sitting on the top of a dugout bench.

He'd be looking out at batting practice, scratching, wisecracking, saying those ridiculous things to sports reporters that always seem to get him into trouble.

So Guillen should have been making out a lineup card Wednesday, not sitting with me and Lauren Cohn in the WLS-AM studio on Lake Street where we host our 9-11 a.m. show.

But I'm glad he did.

He wants to manage again.

"If I want to? Yes. Of course I want to," Guillen said. "This is my life. I love what I'm doing. Right now. I'm living different life right now and having fun. But yes, of course, I want to do it. And hopefully an opportunity will come up and we'll see what happens."

What about the rumors he'd manage in Los Angeles for the Dodgers?

"I don't know. I wish I know where it's going to be. At this stage you don't have the privilege to say where you want to go, how you want to go and when you want to go. I think whoever needs my services, I'm willing to help and hopefully soon."

He stopped, just for a split second.

His son Oney sat in the corner, fiddling with a cellphone, perhaps tweeting. There were microphones and mic stands between us, but I got a look in Ozzie's eyes when he said it:

"Yes, I miss the game."

Just five quick words, but they were heavy enough, and I couldn't help but flash back across years: to when he first returned to the White Sox, this time as manager, and later winning the 2005 World Series, and Guillen's handling of reporters during that pressure stretch, taking heat off his Sox and eating the pressure himself.

Then the bad breakup with the Sox and his ill-fated contract as skipper of the Miami Marlins, the overblown great Castro controversy — all he said was that he respected the Cuban dictator because Castro survived with all those trying to kill him — and his firing from that dysfunctional franchise.

During a station break, I asked him about a Sox player who disappeared: a golden boy advertised as a rare five-tool kid, a player who could run, throw, hit for average, hit for power and field.

"Yeah, that's what they all said," Guillen said about the young outfielder."They said he had the five tools."

So what was the problem?

"The problem? Oh, just one problem. He sucked."

How can you not like that in a guy, who just calls a thing for what it is?

Guillen made a story for reporters earlier in the week when he joked that he wouldn't mind taking a Cubs coaching job. But if he were ever hired as coach, he'd become manager, and Sox fans would be compelled to wear black bags over our heads.

"My family makes it easy for me to live a life without my (baseball) life. You know, and I think you're missing the national anthem, you're missing the action, the competition," he said.

"You do not miss a lot of stuff that comes with the package. But being in uniform, being in the ballpark, being around my players, I think that's something, you know what I mean, that's priceless."

So if you could do it over, would you do anything different?

"No. Not really. No, look at me: I'm like this in 1985 when I got to the big leagues. I'll be the same guy. The difference is, when you're winning, (people say) you're a great pro, 'Look at the way he (positions) that guy,' look at how he takes the best out of his players.' Oh yeah. But when you start losing, it's 'Ozzie's just gone crazy.'"

I don't think he'll ever get another chance with the Sox. Franchise boss Jerry Reinsdorf doesn't forget. But even a joking reference to a Cubs coaching job bothers me.

"I don't know why people come up with that question," Guillen said about the Cubs. "That's the first question I get in the street. People come up with that question."

He wouldn't turn down a Cubs job. But he says he's not actively pursuing one. And that's good because it's hard to type with a black bag on your head.

When Guillen first came to Chicago as a player in the 1980s, he moved to west suburban Berwyn. Guys who knew him from the neighborhood said they liked him immediately because he didn't act like some big shot.

He'd hang out, sit on a porch and have a beer, and watch the neighborhood kids play street games.

"I lived in Berwyn for almost three years," he said. "I'd go to Orlando's to get my haircut. It was a $2 haircut. And I'd ride my bike, see people play softball."

So Lauren wanted to know about his life in the city proper and his favorite hot spot — which he says is Lucia's in Wicker Park. She joked it would make it easier for us to stalk him.

"You can stalk me," Guillen said. "I can tell you where I live, I don't worry about it. I don't have no bodyguards, no gated community. You're walking down the street, you can touch my house."

Guillen belongs to baseball. And baseball should let him back in.

The man's a manager. Let him run a team.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass