Last year, when he was excused from his contract with the White Sox on the third-to-last game of the season, I found myself feeling sad to see Ozzie Guillen go.
There were qualifications to that feeling–It was the last game I would attend on the season with my sister, and I still felt strongly that Guillen needed to be terminated even if assigning blame for the 2011 White Sox season was like the “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” episode (so many suspects).
But Guillen delivered the greatest stretch of White Sox baseball of my lifetime,was known to manage the hell out of some ballgames in his heyday, and probably had his fair share of good reasons to be cross with Kenny Williams. Perhaps his volatile nature made a smooth end to his tenure impossible, but it was still a shame to see the man who delivered the franchise its first World Series in 88 years exit in ignominy.
His tenure with the Marlins was removed of all such sentiment, or connection. It was almost like a control sample of the ‘Ozzie as manager’ experiment. He was courted by an organization that wanted him, granted the contractual security that he regularly claimed to desire, and was handed a big-budget roster that included an overpay for his favorite pitcher.
And yet Guillen still failed spectacularly, while continuing to be as unabashedly nonchalant about his lack of effort and preparation, and gleefully removed of tact in his player relations as his final season in Chicago suggested he was capable of.
Oh, there were injuries, and a horrible owner that seems to think of firing managers the way most of us think of dusting ceiling fans, but there was also no trace of an engaged and invested Guillen. He even ended his season in Miami the same way he ended his previous season working for his supposed mortal enemy–by bragging about how little he cared and asking when his vacation started.
It’s generally in poor taste to pick at a man’s record as he faces unemployment, even when they lost their position deservedly. It’s a time where they face hard realities both about themselves and their situation in life. The latter element is removed by Guillen having $7.5 million owed to him over the next three years, the former has been mitigated by…Guillen himself, by remorselessly putting the same rubber stamp on two disastrous seasons, with two different teams.
Matt said in his quick analysis that the firing confirms that the White Sox won the trade, since they still have Jhan Marinez and the small pile of cash they turned Ozzie Martinez into lying around while Miami is paying Guillen to leave town. But simply removing themselves from the devolution of Guillen’s career and managerial reputation was enough of a victory.
ESPN Chicago’s Bruce Levine was to quick to jump out and declare that Ozzie Guillen wasn’t done in baseball. It included a suggestion of Guillen in the Sox broadcast booth that seems nutty as long as Kenny Williams is present, but also promised that “Ozzie Guillen is not too old to learn from his mistakes.”
That sounds plausible enough.
But it’s certainly not anything Guillen has to do. He’s made a fortune off of his managerial successes, has a World Series ring to wave in the faces of the critics, and signed pictures of himself hanging in all of his favorite restaurants around town. 2005 will live longer than any of this nonsense. It’s hard to know what would motivate Guillen again, but the White Sox should be thankful that they’re no longer waiting for it.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan