Wednesday, March 16, 2011

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Ozzie Guillen’s bond with Jerry Reinsdorf didn’t halt trade talks


Last Modified: Mar 16, 2011 04:51AM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ozzie Guillen just wouldn’t look right in teal.

Maybe down the road, maybe in the past, but not now. Not with so much on the line for the White Sox in 2011.

So the greatest fish story ever told on the South Side will just have to remain what it is — mystery, speculation or, more realistically, the most scandalous chapter in Guillen’s long-threatened autobiography.

But the question remains: How could Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf even entertain the idea of trading — yes, trading — Guillen to the Florida Marlins in October? This isn’t just any manager, but practically a family member that he adores.

It’s a question worth asking Reinsdorf when he meets with reporters today at Camelback Ranch.

And, in a sense, it’s almost surprising to see Guillen still managing the White Sox.

“All I know is they gave me another chance — not another chance, that’s not the words I want — but they have confidence in me,” Guillen said. “If they built this ballclub and they thought I wasn’t the right guy to manage it, well, they would have fired me last year and then built this ballclub for someone else.”

That could very well be true. But it might not be from a lack of trying.

The fact that Guillen is entering his eighth season is a credit to the Sox’ manager more so than the front-office suits. He has reached a status that makes him almost too big to move.

Every player, coach, manager and general manager is expendable. The difference is some can be directed out the door with a simple point of the finger and a clear conscience. A select group, however, causes sleepless nights by ownership and the acceptance that things will get worse from this decision before they get better.

Not that the Sox weren’t looking to test that by the end of the 2010 season.

In the heat of the cold war that was Guillen vs. general manager Ken Williams, the Sun-Times reported in October that Williams was actually willing to trade Guillen to the Marlins for a top prospect.

Whether it was posturing or playing chicken, the fact that Reinsdorf allowed talks to progress was a bit of a head-scratcher.

Not the only one, either.

Sources say the Sox were plotting a serious run at Tony La Russa before he signed an extension with the St. Louis Cardinals. That move would have reunited Reinsdorf with one of his favorite managers.

Well, maybe second-favorite now.

There’s a reason Reinsdorf is one of the best owners in American sports. Yes, his undying loyalty can be a hindrance at times, but it usually outweighs his bad decisions.

The resolution? Reinsdorf made sure Williams and Guillen would start playing nice and even helped the process by announcing before SoxFest that Guillen’s 2012 club option would be picked up.

Guillen more than appreciated it, but knows with a payroll now stretching the $125 million mark, as well as the headlines that came out of last season’s feud, his option is nothing more than a piece of paper. A very flammable one.

“They can fire me, I can leave,” Guillen said. “All it means is I have another year of security on my contract if they do fire me. I do think it shows that they do have more confidence in me, but I’ve seen guys fired after they just get three-year deals.

“If I don’t think I’m doing a good job, well, then I shouldn’t be here. If Kenny, Jerry and [assistant GM Rick Hahn] don’t think I’m the right man to pilot this team, they have the right to do it. I don’t know if I would even stay and let them have that satisfaction, I wouldn’t. I might say that I’m not getting it done and leave.”

Knowing Guillen, quitting is highly unlikely.

But what is likely is the spotlight turning on him brighter than ever if this team does fail. Williams and Reinsdorf have equipped him with the fastest and most expensive car in the American League Central race, and they want to see the checkered flag waved first.

Guillen always insists that the heat is on him, but this season it is more than ever. Excuses of slow starts because of bad weather or Mike MacDougal ate my homework will not work.

“You have to take that heat and be in the hot seat every day,” Guillen said. “That’s how you grow and see how good you are. You see how deep it can take you and if you can take it.

“It’s a funny thing because when they’re all walking around here saying ‘All in,’ I’ve been all in since I got this job. I was already paid for what we did in 2005 back in 2005. It’s 2011, and it’s about what we do now.’’

Which Guillen hopes won’t be the final chapter in that book he’s promising to write — someday.


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