Let’s be honest, baseball lacks compelling figures. Outside of ESPN’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Yankees and Red Sox or Pedro Gomez’s stalking…I mean reporting of Barry Bonds’ every move, very little baseball news connects with anyone besides us fanatics. Well add someone else to this list, as even though he didn’t get much national attention until the World Series, Ozzie Guillen has become the most fascinating person in Major League Baseball.
Besides Bobby Knight, I can’t think of a coach who has become the biggest lightning rod in his sport. Like Knight, Guillen is profane and often out of control. Where Ozzie is diametrically opposite from The General is how he is a media whore, seemingly loving to spout off to the media like Terrell Owens, but without the push-ups. Guillen never turns down a microphone, despite treating English like it’s his 3rd language. Listening to Ozzie is like hearing a Hispanic version of the movie Trainspotting, as the only words that are generally clear are the expletives.
I know many of the traditionalists and auxiliary PC-police members shudder when he opens his mouth, but I find it very refreshing. Ozzie is like a morning shock jock wearing stirrups. While he has mentioned that the managers who have influenced him most were Bobby Cox and Jeff Torborg, his behavior makes it hard to see how they’ve rubbed off on him. In truth, it would appear the managers who he has most emulated are Bobby (the Brain) Heenan, Jimmy (Mouth of the South) Hart, Sir Oliver Humperdink, and Lord Alfred Hayes. Ozzie, the gig is up. Grow out your goatee and wrap a rubber band around it, because I think you are the reincarnation Captain Lou Albano.
Now, I’ve written before that I was not a fan of hiring Ozzie Guillen to manage the White Sox, as I thought when he was a player he was a major league goofball with a minor league bat. While I still believe this about him, I was dead wrong about his managing talents. Guillen has an interesting style of playing to get ahead and then using a deft touch with his pitchers to hang-on for the win. As a White Sox fan, I’m constantly nervous the guy is going have a Jimmy the Greek moment, but so far, his comments have been mainly entertaining.
Looking at his latest diatribe I can’t say I disagree with anything that he said, it was just odd to hear it from a World Champion Manager. When you hear someone talk about Joe Torre being a bit overrated and that the only time Nomar has been to Mexico is on vacation in Cancun, you expect it to be preceded by "hey, long-time listener, first-time caller".
Ozzie’s comments about Alex Rodriguez were a verbal teabagging. As harsh as it came off, I’m guessing most players in baseball would have shook their head yes to what Guillen said. This roasting was nothing compared to what he said about Magglio Ordonez last season, as that press conference sounded like something out of Tony Montana’s mouth. Ozzie has pulled back from his comments about ARod, as he apologized for throwing the first punch. Just to give you an idea of how being a World Championship manager gives you a lot of leeway, he didn’t catch much grief at all for his words. In a world where most managers only offer up clichés, Guillen is almost a John McCain-like figure, wooing the press with his own version of the "straight-talk express".
Ultimately, just like Bob Knight and Billy Martin, Guillen will only get a free pass as long as his team continues to win. Besides the World Championship that he helped deliver, the other thing that has been immeasurable to the White Sox organization is how he’s become the biggest sports celebrity in the city. Sure the northsiders still are the majority, but add up another season like 2005, plus the headline grabbing ways of it’s manager and the White Sox might come very close to drawing even with the Cubs for the Windy City’s attention.
Post Note: Can you imagine what else Ozzie might have said, if he would have been interviewed on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" by anyone else than James Brown? JB is the king of the slow-pitch soft ball interviewers. If Bernard Goldberg or Armen Keteyian would have been on the other side of him, Guillen would have gone off like Jeffrey Ross at a Comedy Central Roast.