Thomas, Guillen set record straight

Thomas, Guillen set record straight

CHICAGO -- At approximately 3:40 p.m. CT Monday afternoon, the door to Ozzie Guillen's clubhouse office opened, and a nattily attired Frank Thomas walked out.

Thomas had a smile on his face.

He walked toward his locker and passed one of the White Sox media relations' staffers, who happened to be holding a copy of Monday's newspaper and Internet clips. Those clips featured Guillen's pregame talk Sunday concerning Thomas' previously exhibited "bad attitude," with one newspaper running the story above the fold on the front of its sports section.

After briefly looking down at the packet, Thomas chuckled.

Although Thomas' character briefly was called into question Sunday, despite the injured slugger simply showing up back in Chicago on Saturday and going through rehab on his surgically repaired left ankle, Thomas' upbeat attitude never wavered on Monday. When he talked to the media for 15 minutes during White Sox batting practice, Thomas made it clear that no problem existed between him and the outspoken manager.

In fact, as a teammate of Guillen's for nine years, Thomas was more than familiar with his shoot-from-the-lip, direct approach.

"He's going to say what he wants to say and he's always done that," said Thomas of Guillen. "But there's no ill will or no ill feelings with me and Ozzie. That's it.

"We've always had a weird relationship, but we've put a lot of blood, sweat and tears together. He's always been a loose-lipped guy. That's Ozzie, and you love him for it.

"You never know what's going to come out of his mouth," Thomas added with a smile. "I don't take any of that stuff to heart."

If this Guillen vs. Thomas saga sounds eerily familiar to White Sox supporters, they need only look back to when Guillen was first hired in November 2003 for Chapter 1 of this story. Guillen called out Thomas during his opening press conference, wanting the team's most prolific slugger to be more of a team player.

The story lingered until Spring Training 2004, when Thomas arrived in Tucson, Ariz., and handled himself with as much class as he did Monday afternoon. Once again, he pointed to the fact that Ozzie will be Ozzie, and that's what makes him successful.

But in Monday's particular situation, Thomas was at times a little more direct, at times a little more philosophical and for most of the interview, showed his maturity as a soon-to-be 37-year-old, embarking on his 16th Major League season. Thomas admitted that his attitude hasn't always been perfect and even talked about how he looked at stat sheets as a young player as a way to motivate himself.

Motivation also often came from Guillen's pointed critiques. But the biggest concern for Thomas, Guillen and general manager Ken Williams was that the Monday morning controversy didn't cause any sort of distraction for the collective job to be done on the field.

Williams, who was as stunned as Thomas and Guillen by the articles' tenor, spoke with Guillen upon arriving and was satisfied by the explanation of the point he was trying to make. Guillen also stressed how many previous times he had stuck up for Thomas, as his teammate and as a player under him.

"Ozzie is a player's manager, and he will always be a players-first manager," Williams said. "He has their back and believes in them. He's articulated that on numerous occasions. The last thing we want is for fans, or any other team, to think we are divided."

"That's one of the things when I saw the newspaper today, it was like, 'Wait a minute. It shouldn't be about me at all right now. Talk about the guys who are making things happen,'" Thomas added. "It's beautiful what's going on. These guys are playing their (tails) off and I definitely don't want to be a distraction."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.