Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen waves to fans following the Sox 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday September 26, 2011 at U.S. Cellular Field. It was Guillen's final game as manager of the White Sox. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: November 19, 2011 8:51AM
It’s amazing what 16 days of vacation in Spain did for former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
The Miami Marlins’ skipper admittedly was rejuvenated, refreshed and “ready to get back to the game I love,” agreeing to join ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” crew for its World Series coverage, beginning Wednesday night.
But Guillen wasn’t in the mood to put up with a guy he once considered a good friend rewriting history.
Sox pitching coach Don Cooper went on the Score two weeks ago and said the reason he went behind Guillen’s back to work out an extension with general manager Ken Williams was because, “I was told that Ozzie was asked, ‘What about your coaches? Let’s sign your coaches,’ and he said, ‘No, let them sweat.’ ’’
Guillen said Monday that he was thrilled with the hiring of former teammate Robin Ventura as the Sox’ new manager and was happy that chairman Jerry Reinsdorf found the right guy, but what Cooper said was inexcusable in his eyes.
Higher road be damned.
“Cooper needs to look in the mirror,’’ Guillen told the Sun-Times. “He didn’t back-stab me. I know who he is. He back-stabbed his fellow coaches, the guys he worked with for years. You got family? That’s fine. Everyone does. We all knew Coop was Kenny’s b----.
“Look, Coop is not a good coach; he’s a great coach. But Coop is Coop. He doesn’t worry about anyone; he worries about himself. I stuck up for my coaches like a m-----------.
“I told [the Sox] I want to keep my coaching staff, and I never lied to the media. I talked to Jerry Reinsdorf maybe five times [about extending the coaches’ contracts over the years]. The reason I was so comfortable with the Sox was the coaches. Let them sweat it out? Coop was Kenny’s guy, and my staff knew that. We all know what he really is.’’
Williams gave Guillen control of the coaching staff in 2006, and he said he wanted the staff extended once his option was picked up last offseason through 2012. Guillen wanted the staff there as long as he was there, but he also found out about Cooper breaking protocol and going behind his back to get his own deal done with Williams.
Guillen also felt as if Cooper diminished the managerial seat he held for almost eight seasons when he was named the interim manager for the last two games of the season.
“That makes me sad and also made me aware as a person that someone you really like, really back up . . . you didn’t go through the process the right way,’’ Guillen said. “I saw Coop saying after I left [last month], ‘I can manage in the big leagues.’ That sounded like a statement like, ‘I’m better than Ozzie.’ I know I can never be a pitching coach, but when the games mean s--- for two days, it’s easy.
“What I know is I never told Kenny, ‘Let them sweat.’ That’s not true.’’
But Guillen couldn’t have been more excited about Ventura getting the managerial gig.
“To be honest, everyone was shocked and so was I,’’ Guillen said. “But I think they have a great man. He’s different than me, but in my opinion, the Sox picked the right guy. There might be some questions in the air the same way there were questions about me when the Sox hired me, but the fans will love him.’’
If Guillen was shocked about Ventura, Williams’ admission that he actually thought about making Paul Konerko a player/manager was a fall-on-the-floor moment.
“Wow, I guess people think managing is easy,’’ Guillen said. “I read about that a couple of days ago, and Konerko in the future? Yes, he can be a manager. But I don’t think Konerko can handle both. That’s another shock. I don’t even know what to say.
“Kenny has a different opinion than me, and if Kenny thinks managing is easy, well, everyone has a different opinion about baseball. But when I heard that, wow.’’
Once his tour with ESPN ends, it’s all about the Marlins and moving forward with that organization.
Still living in Chicago, however, hasn’t made that transition as simple as it should be.
“I have people on the street, saying to me, ‘I can’t believe you left us,’ ’’ Guillen said. “Look, those guys didn’t want me. I didn’t leave them. They didn’t want me back, and I understand their point. But don’t tell me I left here.
“Since last year, this was about integrity, it was about loyalty, it was about do they want me here. Let me say it my way: The Sox were saying, ‘Yes, we want to f--- you, but we don’t want to marry you.’ ’’
Memo to ESPN: Seven seconds for that delay button? That might not be enough.