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With a 6-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Saturday night, Ozzie Guillen locked in his fifth winning season out of his seven as White Sox manager.
He’s still trying to figure out whether or not that’s good enough to get him the contract extension he hasn’t officially asked for (but is asking for), and now he’s openly answering questions about interest in the Cubs’ managerial opening.
It isn’t exactly his idea. It’s one I’ve heard before, mainly along the lines of the “Trade Peavy for Zambrano” rumors that spring from a desire for a quick talker and/or a lack of knowledge about the rest of the league, and Dan McNeil was the most recent to mention it.
And from what I can gather, reporters introduced the topic, and Guillen’s only responding to it. But I have a feeling these questions are quite welcome for Guillen, and so I have some questions of my own.
No. 1: Is he merely answering questions, or is this a ploy for support?
Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf appear to be a united front with the view that Guillen has a year left on his contract with a vesting option, and that’s what they expect from him right now.
Guillen needs somebody else on his side, and keeping the Cubs on the radar might increase public pressure to keep Guillen in the fold.
If Guillen goes to Florida, the move won’t have a long tail. You’ll see his name in headlines once in a while, but the team is largely anonymous thanks to Jeffrey Loria. I don’t think that fires people up — “Oh no, he’s going to go to an irrelevant team the Sox rarely see!”
But if he goes to the Cubs, he’s a headline every week, and a headache for the Sox just as often. Or maybe just for bloggers who are bored with Sox-Cubs pissing contests and would rather have the two sides tend to their own business.
It’s Guillen’s only real shot at an uprising, at any rate.
No. 2: Would the Cubs even want him?
It’s hard to gauge ownership that hasn’t held the team for less than a year, so the official answer is “Who knows?”
There are reasons why they should think about it. There’s the World Series ring, the fondness for National League-style baseball, his close relationship with Carlos Zambrano that could theoretically help attempt to salvage that contract.
But then are things like this:
After Cubs manager Lou Piniella pointed out the spike in attendance from 22,000 when the Dodgers faced the White Sox last week to a full house when the Cubs visited U.S. Cellular Field this weekend, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was asked why attendance was so low for the Dodgers series.
“Because our fans are not stupid like Cubs fans,” Guillen said. “They know we’re [expletive].”
Guillen said Cubs fans will watch any game at Wrigley Field because “Wrigley Field is just a bar.”
Guillen has been respectful to the Cubs organization (especially Lou Piniella), but he has taken pleasure in trashing the Wrigley scene for years, and Cubs fans haven’t taken kindly to it, understandably. A whole lot of words would have to be eaten, which is why this concept feels like a leverage ploy more than anything else.
Speaking of eating his own words…
No. 3: Can his players take him seriously?
Let me pull out some quotes from 2007, when a few key players — Mark Buehrle, Jermaine Dye, Tadahito Iguchi — had their futures up in the air, and Guillen was two years away from his contract expiring.
When the season started, Guillen didn’t want any public negotiations taking place. From an April 1, 2007 story:
”The only thing I hope and wish, and I will appreciate, is we don’t have contract talks during the season,” Guillen said. ”When we were here the last four years with the team, we haven’t heard anything.
”If you want to talk about your contract , I hope they keep it quiet, keep it between them and the front office. Obviously, every day the questions are going to come out. They have to deal with that.
”In the meanwhile, I want them to concentrate on what they have to do for us during the season, and the contract will take care of itself, with us or with someone else.”
That wall broke down when the team couldn’t get out of May with a pulse and Mark Buehrle’s impending free agency became a possible PR crisis, but Guillen did a good job of maintaining the line himself:
Here’s a fun quote from a June 23, 2007, Chicago Sun-Times story:
”They come to me and ask me, even if they say, ‘Hey, we’re going to go a different way, talk about someone else.’ Or if they say, ‘Let’s do something and talk about your contract ,’ that’s up to Jerry and Kenny and what’s on their minds.”
”I’m not going to ask for it,” Guillen said. ”I’m never going to ask. If someone is interested to do it, I’m more than willing to do it, more than happy to talk about it, but I never will say, ‘Hey, you know what? What’s my position here? What are we going to do?’ I’m not that type of person. […] “If Jerry thinks I can do this for a long time, and I don’t mean right now, but if Jerry has confidence in me and Kenny has confidence in me, we don’t need to show people by all of a sudden giving me a contract,” Guillen said. ”I’m not going to be manager for 100 years, but I wish I could manage for the next 20 years.
Guillen was eventually rewarded with a five-year contract extension in September, which was met with mixed reviews, since the Sox were on the way to a 90-loss campaign.
The situation is different this time around. In fact, it’s a polar opposite — Guillen’s coming off a solid season, but he and Williams aren’t on the same page, and there are quite a few vacancies around the league. It’s a situation that’s conducive to taking negotiations public, and as somebody who wants money and security now, it’s probably as good a time as any to start wondering aloud — emphasis on “loud.”
Problem is, Guillen is always “loud,” so it’s a lot easier to see his doubletalk. Guillen wasn’t the type of person who would put his own interest ahead of the team … y’know, until it actually might pay off for him to do so.
And it’s his right. It’s business. We all should be so lucky to have lots of lucrative backup plans that would allow us to take risks asking for raises.
But allow me to wonder aloud about a hypothetical situation taking place next year, when John Danks once again accepts a one-year contract instead of agreeing to a longer-term deal. The media asks him about his future, and he says that there might be teams that want him more than the White Sox do.
Guillen probably wouldn’t be happy to hear one of his players openly questioning how much confidence the Sox have in him from a financial perspective. But could Guillen say anything about it, given his choice to start asking about something-that-sounds-an-awful-lot-like-an-extension-request-but-totally-isn’t, without it turning out like this?
I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t matter. The clubhouse might tune this all out, or recognize it’s a business, and the power structure remains the same.
My guess is that it wouldn’t lead to a full-blown mutiny, but it could bubble up here and there. Mark Buehrle’s contract will be up in the air next season, as will Matt Thornton’s. They, too, will have a fair share of leverage at their disposal. I’m guessing the Sox would like to handle those quietly, too, and letting Guillen play them publicly might not set the right tone.
It’s just another thing to consider when bringing back Guillen, and another reason why I think it won’t end amicably. Both sides have their reasons for playing it the way they have, but given the fractious nature of the current situation, it looks to me like bringing Guillen back would only result in more cracks.