TELANDER: Ozzie Guillen is nutty, interviewing for the Cubs’ job is not
BY RICK TELANDER October 17, 2013 10:37PM
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Updated: November 19, 2013 9:40AM
Would it be crazy for the Cubs to interview Ozzie Guillen for their vacant manager’s job?
Once upon a time, yes. Not now. Now it’s reasonable. Now it makes sense.
Interview him, take him seriously, and if he understands, has the passion — if he gets it — well, then, hire him.
Yes, as the manager of the Cubs.
Calm down, Ozzie haters!
I know, I know. By the end of his tenure with the Sox, the ‘‘Guillen Family Foibles’’ was the nuttiest sitcom going. Calling Ozzie goofy was like calling a panda furry.
But things have changed; time has moved on. Twitter isn’t a big deal anymore. The Guillen brood of uppity kids has grown up and scattered. Ozzie is almost 50. It’s time for him to be reborn.
Think of it: Ozzie at Wrigley. It’s like Dorothy in Oz.
You’ll recall Guillen went off to manage the Marlins after being let go by the Sox in 2011, was quickly fired by an owner in Miami who might be as nutty as anybody in baseball and has chilled on the back burners of the sport the last year.
He has surfaced a bit, appearing in Comcast SportsNet’s recent documentary on the Cubs’ heartbreaking 2003 season, ‘‘5 Outs…’’ It reminds us all that, by golly, he was there at Wrigley Field that fateful Bartman night, right there as the Marlins’ third-base coach, along the grandstand brick wall, about as close to the terrible unfolding of Cubs history as anyone but Moises Alou.
This may take some brain cleansing to appreciate. To visualize.
First off, let’s get beyond the Ozzie-Ken Williams free-for-all at the end of Guillen’s eight-season run with the Sox. Both of those men had kids in baseball, indeed, right in the Sox organization, both have big egos and both had simply grown sick of the other. Divorces happen every day. Seven-year itch? That these two made it a year beyond the clichéd breaking point is amazing.
Ozzie’s the guy who has sat many times in the Wrigley Field dugout as an opponent, who has joked about rats and crazy fans and the terrible facilities. He knows Cubdom the way only a foreign observer can know it. He knows how the history can destroy the team on the field.
As he says in ‘‘5 Outs…,’’ a Cub must be ‘‘strong physically and mentally.’’ What player doesn’t have to be those things, you ask. Well, ever heard about the curse of the Dodgers or the Blue Jays or the Rockies? No. Because there isn’t one.
And with all the Spanish-speaking prospects soon to be Cubs regulars — Jorge Soler, Javy Baez, Albert Almora — plus the seemingly confused former All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro — the Cubs absolutely need a manager who speaks the language, who understands what it’s like to be a stranger in a new land.
Ozzie’s a good tactician, too. I don’t care what anybody says — the Sox’ run to a World Series crown in 2005 was propelled by his desire, craftsmanship and energy. The Sox blew up everybody in the postseason, sweeping the Houston Astros to claim the team’s first World Series title in 88 years. Accidents don’t happen like that.
Yes, he can be nuts. We know that. He is the only manager I have ever seen who seeks out people in the stands, looking to engage fans in conversation. And his comments about Sean Penn, Hugo Chavez and dictator Fidel Castro — well, let them slide, huh? Is that not part of Ozzie’s appeal — his mouth just motors?
‘‘A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here,” Guillen said in 2011. Yeah, he said the same thing to me a couple of years before for an interview in Men’s Journal. Nobody cared then. Ozzie’s unfiltered point: Survival against all odds is amazing.
He won the city’s first and only World Series championship since 1917, and he knows all about the Cubs’ 105-year drought.
Maybe he doesn’t even want the job. But I’d sure talk to him if I were the Cubs.
Wouldn’t Wrigleyville Ozzie be fun?
The Cubs aren’t going to win anything for years anyway. And how excited can you get about Manny Acta, Rick Renteria, another nobody coming in, waiting to be fired and stagger out of town stunned and broken by the weight of Cubness?
Joe Girardi wouldn’t touch the Cubs.
Maybe Ozzie will.
Please, please ask.