TELANDER: Ozzie Guillen can come back when he’s a big boy
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org October 23, 2012 10:32PM
FILE - OCTOBER 23: According to reports, the Marlins, who finished in last place, have fired Ozzie Guillen after one year as manager. MIAMI, FL - JUNE 26: Ozzie Guillen #13 of the Miami Marlins is thrown out of a game against the St. Louis Cardinals by home plate umpire Danny Bellino#2 during a game at Marlins Park on June 26, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Updated: November 25, 2012 11:53AM
When Ozzie Guillen was fired by Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria on Tuesday, there were two messages delivered by the boss:
1. Take your 69-93 season, $7.5 million, three remaining contract years and leave.
2. Grow up.
It’s the second message that former White Sox manager Guillen needs to think about. Managers get fired all the time. But not like this, not for a body of work in just 11 months. Loria himself may be a loose bolt. He gets rid of managers the way the rest of us discard gum wrappers.
But this wasn’t just a firing. This was a statement from a life coach. At age 46, Guillen needs to take that second suggestion and turn it in his mind, embrace it, use it to reinvent himself.
Because if he doesn’t, he’s through.
What did he always say? Fire me and I’ll just ride around on my yacht. I don’t need this. I don’t need anything. I’m gonna be who I am.
That’s baby talk. That’s the kind of chatter you expect from a hormonal teen.
What serious organization would hire a hand grenade like Guillen for a manager? What manager would want Ornery Ozzie on his bench? What player would trust Guillen not to trash him someday, the way he trashed Frank Thomas, Bobby Jenks and Magglio Ordonez in Chicago and Heath Bell in Miami?
Ozzie must move from puberty to adulthood, no matter how strung out that process has been. His next birthday cake should have 18 candles on it. The one after that, 35. In time, with introspection and education, his maturity could catch up with his self.
If it doesn’t, he’s a novelty act. A rich one, yes, but one with the aroma of Dennis Rodman wafting about him.
In many ways, Ozzie Guillen has lived a charmed life. He came out of Venezuela as a skinny 17-year-old, was named Rookie of the Year at age 21, started a franchise-record 13 Opening Days for the White Sox and played 16 years in the majors. He still holds the Sox record for assists by a shortstop.
He was always a tad hyperactive, always ready to chat, to goof around, to spout opinions. But he played hard, and he was a favorite of us sportswriters. Still, during his playing days, there was nobody who thought Guillen would be a big-time manager.
But he got on with the Marlins as a third-base coach not long after retiring as a player in 2000, and lo and behold, the Marlins won a shocking World Series in 2003. Whiz-bang, the Sox took a wild chance on the now-hot Ozzie in 2004, and in 2005 he led the championship-starved franchise to a World Series title.
If you recall, that postseason ride to the crown was not an edge-of-the-seat event. It was an annihilation. It was a steamroller. It was something White Sox fans had never seen. Ozzie’s perfectly peaked team beat the Red Sox, Angels and Astros 11 games to one.
And the Wizard of Oz’s career was guaranteed.
The momentum and pizzazz of his earlier work is over. The Marlins had a new ballpark, a huge payroll, uniforms like Las Vegas pool boys and the highest of expectations. Ozzie, with his Latino heritage, would be the perfect leader in the Little Havana neighborhood.
Ozzie was Ozzie. Nothing worked. Feuding began. The immature manager had no way to quell the immaturity around him. And that nonsense about Fidel Castro that alienated all ex-Cubans? He’d said the same thing to me two years earlier. And it was printed. And did Jeff Loria or anybody in South Beach read it? Apparently not.
We all remember Ozzie’s inane tweeting, his constant bickering with White Sox general manager Ken Williams, his silly comments about homosexuals, Hugo Chavez, Sean Penn, rats at Wrigley, on and on and on.
The blather and the profanity never ceased. And all it did was hide the fact that Guillen actually knows baseball damn well. The victory march in 2005 didn’t happen by accident. But it was reminiscent of Mike Ditka’s cruise to the Super Bowl title with the Bears in 1985. There was no staying power. There was no lesson learned. There was no growing up.
That time is here now for Ozzie.
He could be relegated at a young age to the heap of one-hit wonders.
Or he could chill on that yacht for a year or so and come back a new man. A real man. Grown and thoughtful and reflective and verbally repaired.
He could do that.
He does have a yacht, right?