Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Saturday, March 20, 2010
How Tweet it isn't

By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ozzie Guillen was wrong about one thing. There is no such thing as freedom of speech. Private companies like the Chicago White Sox are not democracies and short of being guilty of racial or sexual harassment -- and try proving that -- bosses can do pretty much whatever they want, including telling you what you can and can't say, tweet, text, e-mail, fax, blast, Facebook, sign or gesture.

And Kenny Williams is Guillen's boss and -- until Friday -- Guillen's son Oney's boss.

Sometimes it takes him a while, but Ozzie does get it.

"When he says 'Sign A.J.,' well, I will say the same stuff," the Sox manager said, referring to Oney's recent tweet about A.J. Pierzynski's contract status. "But that's not his job. He's getting paid by the White Sox and he has to respect the rules of the White Sox. He has to respect [chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf."

And so, Ozzie fired his kid on Friday. Actually, he ordered him to resign -- same thing. But lest anyone make light of this recent little blip on the Guillen-Williams radar, consider one of the things Guillen shared Saturday.

"That's the hardest thing I ever did in my life," Guillen said. "I feel very sick all game because I never thought I was going to be in that situation."

This is why many companies have nepotism rules.

Guillen said the best thing about Friday was that his wife and all three sons were in town together when this went down, the first time in three months the entire family was in the same city.

"I'm proud of my family because they showed me yesterday how much they love each other and how much they care about each other," he said.

The Sox like to say they are a family and that they care about each other, too. At least Williams said that in a recent release promoting the team's new MLB Network reality series, "The Club," which promises "unprecedented access." The organization also uses Twitter extensively, including as a tool to criticize media reports it doesn't like.

Williams did not fire Oney. But Williams has made it clear he didn't like it when Oney's father opened a Twitter account. And though Williams told ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine that he did not speak to Ozzie about halting a planned Web site Oney had been involved with, the Sun-Times earlier reported that Ozzie said members of the team's front office shot the idea down.

Whatever the case, these things are rarely about what is said or tweeted, but rather about power and control.

That's Williams' right. And Guillen should have anticipated that this unauthorized communication would not go over well. But when Williams hired Guillen, he also knew he was getting an outspoken, candid, emotional man to manage the ballclub.

Guillen's best qualities -- sincerity and candor -- are something we should all applaud in a sports landscape increasingly secretive and dishonest. You want to know what goes on inside the Sox clubhouse? Just e-mail him and he'll likely tell you.

If that's harmful to his players, it would be tough to prove. He was the same guy in 2005 when they won the World Series. No player or ex-player, on or off the record, has suggested that Guillen's forthrightness with the outside world has directly hurt the team.

"I will never put my 25 players behind anything else," Guillen said Saturday. "My 25 players are more important than Kenny, more important than Jerry and they are more important than my entire family."

Of course a few minutes later, he said, "My family is more important than my team. I never balance ... I love my kid more than I love Kenny. I love my kid more than I love Jerry and the White Sox. I say yesterday in the Twitter that they touched one part that really hurt because if I don't care about my kids, then who is going to care?"

He meant it. Both statements.

Sometimes, or rather, most of the time, Ozzie just can't help himself. Like when he was asked if he saw Oney's tweets.

"I thought they were funny," Ozzie said.

Did he see the one in which Oney panned the restaurant of which Williams is a minority owner?

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion," said Ozzie, who is also a longtime acquaintance of the restaurant's owner. "If people want to find out how bad their food is, it's a free statement. Go out and eat there."

Williams has responded to selected reporters regarding the latest developments. That's his choice. But I don't think we'll be seeing the manager and the GM having dinner together any time soon, especially not at Williams' restaurant. Guillen made it clear Saturday it doesn't matter.

"Kenny's my boss, he's always going to be and I respect that," he said. "I don't think [Yankees GM Brian] Cashman and Joe Torre got along that well and they won six [bleeping] championships."

Maybe the Sox will win another bleeping championship, too. Either way, Ozzie and Oney are likely to be tweeting about it.

"Nobody's going to tell me to stop," Ozzie said. "And my kids are human beings. They're normal. They tweet whatever they want to tweet. If there's one place you can't tweet where you want to tweet, it's Cuba. In this country, you can talk about anyone you want. That's freedom of speech."

Sure, it is. But he may eventually find himself doing it for another employer.

That's the American way too, unfortunately.