Ozzie Guillen's tenure with the White Sox was never going to end well. His forceful personality made a graceful exit all but impossible.
So when the White Sox granted Guillen's wish and let him out of his contract to join the Florida Marlins on Monday, nobody could have been caught completely off-guard. It was a move four-to-12 months in the making. The biggest question was whether the announcement would be accompanied by rage, tears, accusations, and/or family members.
This is where Guillen had a surprise in store. When it came to executing his exit, Guillen was the perfect Boy Scout.
He left the White Sox exactly as he found them.
The box score will say that 21,320 people at U.S. Cellular Field watched Ozzie Guillen manage his last game. Half that number would bring you a lot closer to the truth.
Among fans, fatigue set in months ago. For Guillen, you can probably trace it back to last September, when he first campaigned unsuccessfully for a contract extension. When he didn't get what he wanted either time, he made sure that everybody around the White Sox would be equally exhausted.
There are some who believe Guillen made the Sox "relevant," but relevancy isn't 12,000 fans during a meaningless game in September. No, the version of Guillen that generated excitement left long ago, and all that remained was the shell of skipper whose team couldn't stop shooting itself in the foot to take a winnable division.
Sure, he retained his status as the funniest guy in baseball (although there's not a lot of competition). He also never really lost his touch for handling a pitching staff.
But in most other areas, Guillen became disengaged. He played Showtime Rotisserie baseball with his lineup card -- set it and forget it! -- even as Adam Dunn and Alex Rios dragged down the club in a historic fashion. Worse yet, he only had derisive laughter for legitimate alternatives. His batters took beatings from errant fastballs, and his club didn't retaliate.
Maybe the relationship could have been salvaged with a quicker start, but when the Sox stumbled out of the gate with an 11-22 record, it seemed like the leadership of the organization checked out.
At the end -- and maybe well before -- managing the White Sox became Guillen's third priority.
The first was money, which seemed to become a divisive issue after the Sox rejected his original plans for an Ozzie Guillen website prior to the 2010 season. It supposedly cost the Guillens "several thousand dollars," and after that point, we heard far more about Guillen's desire to get paid.
He escalated it to an insulting degree during his last day on the job. On the same day where Brooks Boyer had to try talking around lowering ticket prices, Guillen emphatically insisted that $2 million wasn't enough to live on, much less fulfill a contract for:
"More years? [Expletive] more years. 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. … Life is about money. People don’t believe that. People are happy after they make money."
In other years, this could have been funny. But Guillen's repeated cries for cash rang hollow to those who spent money on this team, and didn't get the kind of dedication that the prices warranted. He made plenty of money off the disaster, and yet he's the one crying poor?
The guy who bragged about his street smarts and honesty somehow lost touch with the real people. He was more interested in trying to expose Kenny Williams for his bad roster decisions, letting the salaries of Dunn and Rios dictate their playing time when Williams told him not to, and using Jake Peavy's status as an opportunity to be reckless in that matter, too.
Guillen thought he could embarrass Williams by highlighting his mistakes. Instead, he embarrassed himself by admitting he lacked motivation to find a way around them.
At least with Williams, I could sense some embarrassment in his body of work. Maybe Guillen is incapable of shame, but he gave no indication that he believed he played any part in the team's failures. Sure, he threw out boilerplate comments to fall on a boilerplate sword, but when pressed for details, he said wouldn't do anything differently. Every decision was defensible, and every value-vacuuming player was indispensable.
I didn't foresee Guillen's departure looking anything like Jerry Manuel's in 2003. I didn't think Guillen's teams would miss three straight postseasons, especially twice with a losing record. I didn't think attendance would dive below 2 million again, at least so soon.
However, if somebody told me those events would occur, I would have expected Guillen to thrash against the tides. Whether it was with words, fists, playing time decisions or some combination thereof, I thought Guillen would go down fighting.
He didn't give it his all -- at least not in 2011 -- and that's why I'm not sad to see him go.
I'm only sad about what Guillen could have been. His time with the White Sox was an undeniable success, and he still has the tools to be an outstanding manager, especially with the way he can push and pull pitchers. And he understands that baseball is entertainment better than anybody.
Maybe he'll reach those heights again with the Marlins, and that's going to make me slightly jealous. But it wasn't going to happen with the White Sox -- at least not with Williams in charge -- and the Sox couldn't risk another year of indifference.
So the White Sox let Guillen divorce himself from the club, and Williams will go about searching for a replacement to serve as a booster for the franchise. As was the case eight years ago, the Sox find themselves needing a manager to address a shortage in spirit.
That. That, I didn't see coming.