Things less fun without Ozzie Guillen
Still, it was time for the White Sox and their outspoken manager to part ways
CHICAGO -- The first clue that Monday night's game was Ozzie Guillen's last as Chicago White Sox manager came hours earlier.
Sitting on a padded bench in the home dugout of U.S. Cellular Field, Guillen was asked about his Monday meeting with team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
"You met with Jerry today?"
"Yes," said Guillen.
"Will you be managing here next year?"
"That's none of your business."
Huh? What? With Guillen, everything is our business -- whether we want to hear it or not. Guillen never puts a coat of primer on any sentence. He talks loud. He swears loud. He offers his opinion on any topic loud.
So for Guillen to lower the cone of silence on something as newsworthy as his meeting with Reinsdorf was borderline unprecedented. It was also useless.
Not long after September call-up Dylan Axelrod threw the first pitch Monday evening, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Guillen was making his final appearance as the Sox manager. And moments after catcher A.J. Pierzynski stepped on home plate to give the Sox a game-ending force play -- and 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays -- team employees handed out a news release officially announcing Guillen's departure.
"We shared the greatest moments together and wish him nothing but future success in baseball and in life," Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in the announcement.
What Reinsdorf didn't wish him was a contract extension. Guillen demanded one, Reinsdorf said no. And that's why Guillen is expected to soon be named the next manager of the Florida Marlins.
"Jerry know it was a decision I had to make," Guillen said after the game. "He respect my decision."
Guillen leaves here with a 2005 World Series ring, a 2008 AL Central title and a 668-617 record. Those are the numbers. But it is hard to imagine there will ever be another manager in this town like Oswaldo Guillen.
My digital recorder and notebook will miss him, but I'm not sure Chicago will. It liked him -- a lot. But did it love him? Maybe. Maybe not.
"A lot of people, other people out there they hate me," Guillen said. "Now they're happy. A lot of people like me, hanging in there."
Guillen won't be forgotten in Chicago. He gave Reinsdorf the franchise's first World Series championship since 1917. He mocked Wrigley Field. He gave Sox fans a defiant, screw-you voice. He gave the organization an identity.
But he also embarrassed the organization with that playful, commanding voice. There were instances of homophobia, of political incorrectness so profound that you physically cringed sometimes when he spoke. Guillen's defense: He is who he is -- deal with it.
He knew his Sox tenure was done, but he couldn't help himself. The more he talked in the dugout before the game, the more obvious it became that he felt underappreciated and underpaid. His heart might have preferred staying in Chicago, but his wallet had other ideas.
"F--- more years," said Guillen. "I want more money. I don't work here for years. No, I want more money. Years -- what, I'm going to die poor with the White Sox? Hell, no."
Guillen wanted an extension and a significant raise from the $2 million or so the Sox were believed to be paying him. With the Marlins, who move into a new stadium next season, Ozzie will get both: more years AND more money. Lots of it. And with it, he said, will come happiness.
Probably safe to say no one's going to have the personality that he has. I'll take the under on that. Ozzie's Ozzie. It's been a wild eight years." -- White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko
"Life is about money," Guillen said. "People don't believe that. People are happy after they make money. F--- it."
Reinsdorf was smart to agree to a divorce now -- not because Guillen has forgotten how to manage and win (he hasn't), but because a year of Guillen is like dog years. He can't help but wear out his welcome.
That isn't a criticism but a truth, which is something Guillen can appreciate. He isn't always the easiest manager to play for. He and general manager Kenny Williams, whose high-profile, big-money moves in recent seasons have failed spectacularly, became adversaries instead of partners. That's death in baseball. And maybe Reinsdorf had become weary of all the dysfunction. Or maybe he wants to hire his other baseball son, Tony La Russa, who might be ready to rotate out of St. Louis.
"I, for one, am not walking out of this building come Wednesday with my head held high," Williams said afterward. "Because I'm embarrassed at this year."
On Monday, the White Sox won only their 78th game. Guillen's team and Williams' bloated payroll have done a belly flop in the standings. The Sox are going to finish below .500 for the third time in the past five seasons.
"It never got to the point where we [played] inspired," Sox captain Paul Konerko said shortly before the clubhouse was closed to the media late Monday afternoon so, as it turned out, Guillen could tell his players the news. "That happens. It was kind of a lost year. As far as just getting through the season, it just seemed like from early on there was a black cloud that we couldn't shake."
Later, after the game, Konerko said he wasn't stunned by Guillen's departure. But that clubhouse will never be the same.
"Probably safe to say no one's going to have the personality that he has," Konerko said. "I'll take the under on that. Ozzie's Ozzie. It's been a wild eight years."
Of course, Guillen was part of that black cloud at times. Now he's gone. And in a weird way, he's OK with that.
"They should f---ing fire me," he had said earlier in the day. "Look at what I did. I got a great team that play like s---. Why not? I take the responsibility."
It will be a little saner and much quieter at 333 W. 35th Street next season. It will also be much, much less interesting.
"I know they're not going to forget me," said Guillen, who promised his wife that he wouldn't cry during his postgame interview. "They can't. Even if they want to, they can't. They walk through the ballpark, my picture going to be up there. [Pause] I hope they not take it down."
But it was time. Time for Guillen to leave. Time for the White Sox to let him go.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.
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