Book Review: Ozzie’s School of Management


Chicago Sun-Times writer Rick Morrissey waited until Ozzie Guillen left Chicago to write a book about him. Well, that’s not true. Morrissey began writing Ozzie’s School of Management: Lessons from the Dugout, the Clubhouse, and the Doghouse, and then Ozzie Guillen left. I’m sure it’s not the way he planned it, but it’s probably for the best. Sox fans will have an easier time reading about their outspoken former manager now that he’s gone. If he were still here, we’d be less intrigued, less interested, less in need of Ozzie Guillen material. When he’s in town, you know it. You hear him every day before and after every game. Who needs a book?

But he’s gone now, and though he still makes headlines with his mouth, that same access isn’t there. The city is a little less entertaining without him. Miami may have not yet reached their saturation level on Ozzie. At least I hope not, there’s a long way to go before he makes his departure. A prediction comes forth in the book, which was written prior to Ozzie’s much talked about comments to Time magazine:

"A person or group will feel insulted by something Guillen says. The mayor of Miami. Marine Biologists. Cuban Americans. Somebody."

Well, Nostradamus he’s not. That prediction takes little more prognostic skill than standing at the edge of a pier and declaring, “when I jump into the water, my hair will get wet.” But therein lies the beauty of a controversial character. You know you’re going to get that controversy. You know fans and media are going to be talking. Ozzie Guillen is an entertainer.

Ozzie Guillen is many things, and though he may tell you differently, shy he is not. Then, after he’s explained his shyness, he will tell you about how he won’t back down from anybody, he’s not afraid to talk to anybody, if he has a problem he’ll let you know. Controversial and contradicting. As Sox fans we’ve heard him go back and forth on all sorts of subjects. One day he’ll explain that all he wants to do is win and the next he’ll go on a tirade about how money is all that matters. Did I say tirade? I meant expletive-laden tirade. At points, you have to wonder if it’s real. Does one man really say “f— you,” to people that much? In public? On record? “f— them,” referring to fans, media and players of a certain line of thought? We all know the way he speaks, but the book gives you a more candid look at some of Ozzie’s rants and thoughts. The well publicized rants, sure, they are full of F bombs, but lined up together it just seemed more excessive than I had remembered. Where does a man that didn’t speak English until coming to the United States learn to speak like that?

From John Kruk, that’s where. Obviously Ozzie’s School of Management is going to revolve heavily around Ozzie as manager, but it does not completely ignore his roots. A little time is spent exploring his introduction to professional ball, to the White Sox and even his upbringing in Venezuela is touched upon. When Ozzie first started as a fast-talking, no tools shortstop in the Padres organization, John Kruk became something of a mentor to him. He taught him many things about living in the United States, the culture and how to get by. He also helped him along in his mastering of the English language, and clearly Kruk didn’t keep it scholarly.

The bulk of the pages are devoted to the Kenny Williams issues, causes and things that stemmed from them. Lots of Oney tweets, lots of Ozney draft bitterness and the general back and forth of that never-was love affair. Perhaps too much, or maybe it’s still just too fresh in my mind. How Ozzie dealt with all of the issues that lead to the end of his tenure with the White Sox help to get us to a better understanding of the man. There are plenty of great elements surrounding it, from mercurial Ozzie moments as a player to insights into what makes him the Ozzie that we’ve all come to know, and it’s not all as obvious as it seems.

Ozzie Guillen was big on trust and respect. He wanted to trust his players to hustle every day, because that showed respect to him and the game. He wanted his players to trust that he would be there to defend them, or deflect attention from them when necessary. He wanted Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams to respect him by making sure he didn’t have to wonder about his contract, to know that he was wanted. Respect was a big Ozzie thing. It takes a long time to build trust, to earn respect, but it can come crashing down with just a quick incident or two. Ozzie spent 13 years as player and 8 as a manager gaining Chicago’s trust, earning their respect. With that, and a World Championship, he had it for a great while. After all of the KW drama, Oney and Twitter-gate, and of course leaving the team with 2 games left in the 2011 season, many of us have forgotten that. Ozzie’s School of Management reminds us what Guillen once meant to us. And yes, maybe even makes us breathe a little sigh of relief that we don’t have to worry about managerial distractions anymore…not under the Ventura regime, anyway.