The first day of SoxFest stored a pleasant surprise for Ozzie Guillen, as the Sox picked up his option for 2012.
On the same day, he launched OzzieGuillen.com.
I doubt the Sox brass planned a tandem announcement, but it might as well have been a joint venture. Based on what Kenny Williams did this offseason, and what Guillen has said over the past 24 hours, it seems like both of them have reached a clear understanding:
"You can have your money, but you can't have the B.S."
Money problems don't just ruin marriages -- they also served as fault lines underneath the shaky relationship between manager and general manager. The first Oney Guillen incident came after the Sox rejected the idea of the Ozzie website, which cost the Guillen family several thousand dollars according to Mark Gonzales. In the second Twitter-related controversy, Ozzie Guillen scoffed at the $50,000 signing bonus the Sox offered to Ozney Guillen, saying, "I got 50 grand in my pocket to send my kid to Niketown."
Before the season ended, Guillen postured like mad -- asking for an extension without asking for it, openly wondering about the Cubs' managerial opening and saying without saying, "It'd sure be great to be fired!" After Williams failed to flinch, Guillen said he just wanted to know how the Sox felt about him before he considered business investments in Chicago.
In a way, I'm somewhat disappointed by this news, because it would have been riveting to watch Ozzie the Lame Duck wade his way through a high-stakes season. But Williams, Jerry Reinsdorf and the rest of the front office had their own economy to consider.
When weighing only his managing, Guillen isn't a liability. His teams are known for getting a ton out of starting pitching (that's good!) and running into way too many outs (that's bad!). He doesn't stand out too much otherwise, because some weaknesses -- wanting a speedy leadoff guy, preferring veterans, desiring a LOOGY -- can be found in most other managers. The Chicago media lauds Ron Gardenhire from far away, while a lot of Twins fans hate the way he's shaped his middle infield (railroading Jason Bartlett and J.J. Hardy, for example). There's a trade-off in every situation.
In this case, Williams had three questions:
- Is Guillen a good fit for this roster?
- If his contract originally ended in 2012, would it really matter?
- Can picking up the option ease tensions?
The first question is an easy yes, because the roster is essentially Ozzie-proof. Thanks to Williams regaining control of the DH spot, Guillen already has a batting order that makes sense, and there's still two months until the season starts. And while he's being charitable to Mark Teahen, I wouldn't pay too much attention to the "slap in the face" quote. Just remember, in their final week of contention last season, Omar Vizquel started at third four times, Brent Morel twice, and Teahen never. That's all I need to know, because if he played Morel in September, he'd play him in April. At the same time, Morel has never participated in a full spring training with the big leaguers -- he still has proving to do. So far, everything Ozzie is saying about third base is appropriate.
I'd answer "no" to No. 2. Before Oney intervened, I can't say I ever thought that much about Guillen's contract status, because he wasn't the reason his team didn't make the playoffs. It's not like he has a decline phase to worry about.
Since the first two questions have favorable answers, it makes the third issue easier to resolve. Guillen has verbally extended an olive branch insisting he's a new man and will control his kids. I wouldn't take his word for it, but based on the reports of genuinely good vibes between the parties at SoxFest (which wasn't the case last year), it seems the time was right for a compromise.
This decision is meeting halfway. Guillen doesn't get the extension he wanted, but he does get an extra year of security to build Ozzie, Inc. Meanwhile, it's abundantly clear that 2011 isn't a year to dick around, so Williams is putting an even heavier onus on the Guillen camp to keep his personal and professional lives separate. If he has to start other businesses to keep family members from affecting White Sox business, then so be it, and if all goes well, money won't be an issue for at least another 10 months or so.