By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The man hasn’t managed in three seasons, but it’s time Ozzie Guillen gets back into a dugout as the skipper of a major league ball club.
Guillen managed the White Sox for eight seasons, including the world championship team of 2005. That was the first championship in Chicago in 88 years. A 51-year-old baseball lifer, Guillen became the first Latin American manager to win a World Series.
After a dwindling success and continued near misses in 2006 and 2008, the time came for the popular manager to leave after the 2011 campaign. A major disconnect with then-general manager Kenny Williams led to Guillen leaving, and he received a four-year, $10.8-million contract with the Miami Marlins.
One year into that contract, he was fired by owner Jeffrey Loria after a disappointing season and a misunderstood comment about Fidel Castro that alienated some Cuban residents of the greater Miami area.
Since leaving the dugout, Guillen has been in demand as a commentator for ESPN and other media outlets. Traveling with his wife, Ibis, has been a wonderful part of his freedom from the grueling 200 game baseball schedule.
“When I was in the game, many people wanted me to get the (heck) out of the game. Now that I have been out, people keep saying nice things about how I should be back in it,” Guillen told CBSChicago.com. “We probably won the championship too quickly (his second year). After that expectations where always higher. Winning is not easy in this game. The good problem was I could not do better, because we already won it.”
The kinetic energy of Guillen was impossible to ignore. After Guillen coached third base on the 2003 world champion Marlins, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf encouraged Williams to interview Guillen for the open manager job after Jerry Manuel was fired after the 2003 season. Williams, who had no intention of talking to his former teammate, was blown away by Guillen’s vision and prepared ideas for what he would do as the manager.
Relationships with Reinsdorf and Williams have now been repaired after three years of hard feelings and disappointment for all three men.
“I can sleep better at night now,” Guillen said about the two most influential men in his pre- and post-playing career. “Ozzie Guillen has been successful on and off the field because of Jerry Reinsdorf. He gave me more first chance to be a major league player. He gave me my first big contract. He made me a champion. Kenny was the only one who envisioned me as a manager of a team. Kenny wanted to compete every year like I did to win. I will always look back and appreciate that. We cannot throw all the great things we did and what we have just over a couple of negative things. We all had a lot of happiness our careers together. A lot of happiness. ”
Multiple manager openings will be available after the 2015 season. Guillen didn’t want to even go there, because of his sensitivity for those on the bubble.
“I have been in that position, and it’s not comfortable or easy to run your club and listen to that every day,” he said. “The thing I miss most is the competition. Managing is not an easy job, but competing to win is the big thing. I have really missed that and although life is great, I am a baseball man. I grew up on a baseball field and although my life is great, I miss it.”
White Sox pitcher John Danks played for Guillen for six seasons.
“He was a very direct man,” Danks said. “He also was the favorite person of just about every kid and wife of the players. He always was the kids’ favorite uncle. He always held you accountable but was very easy to play for. He has a great baseball mind and knows what he is doing. Ozzie made mistakes like we all do. He has paid for those mistakes. He would be a fine manager for any team that would choose him.”
Guillen sees thing about himself and senses some maturity that didn’t exist a few years ago.
“I took some things for granted,” Guillen said. “I think the game was so easy for me that I missed some of the things I see now. I learned a lot about myself and some things about the game from away from the field. I was 39 years old when I first managed. Chicago is a great city, but it is a tough city. I have learned about talking too much about things and trusting everyone. The Chicago media was good to me, but sometimes I spoke in front of people I did not know and that cost me. The other thing is I never lied to anyone when they talked to me. They will find out sooner or later if you are honest or not. I was an old-school man, raised by old-school managers. These days you have to handle the players in a different way and the media as well. I am prepared for that.”
Guillen is good for the game and deserves another shot at managing. The love he has for the sport is real, and the game needs all the real baseball men and colorful personalities they can get.
“He was wonderful to me,” White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham said. “He took some pressure off of us because he talked to the media at length. Sometime we had to comment about what he said, but that is what he is. He brings a lot of life and brings a lot of energy. That is a very positive thing. He is definitely a very charismatic guy.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.