Win or lose, Guillen stays the same

Guillen maintains even keel amid success

ANAHEIM -- The media makes its way into Ozzie Guillen's visiting manager's office at Safeco Field approximately 15 minutes after the conclusion of Monday's series opener. Guillen sits behind his desk, fiddling with the television remote control, with a smile on his face.

His upbeat attitude hasn't changed from before the game, despite the White Sox eight-game winning streak coming to a close in a walk-off, extra-inning loss to the Mariners. As the four regular White Sox beat writers lead the pack toward Guillen, he catches their eyes and his smile turns a bit mischievous.

"Watch this," Guillen says, as he moves toward the small refrigerator in his office.

Guillen takes out a drink and then slams the door to the refrigerator, indicating a sense of anger over the loss. The Seattle media looks stunned for a second or two, before Guillen laughs and awaits postgame questions.

Even in his third year on the job, with the franchise's first World Series title since 1917 under his belt, Guillen refuses to change or, for that matter, conform.

His team wins, and how does he react? Guillen is talking and joking with his players, or holding court in his office. If the win takes place at U.S. Cellular Field, he might be making faces at Freddy Garcia's infant daughter in the corridor outside the clubhouse and then carrying her into the clubhouse or just talking to the families waiting for their particular player to shower and dress.

And if his team loses, as it did in two out of three games at Safeco? The attitude almost always is the same.

It's the basic psychology of professor Guillen. Players aren't going to respond to browbeating or negative reactions as much as they respond to encouragement and a positive look to the future.

In the process, Guillen has earned the image of being a free spirit, maybe even living on the managerial edge. He gets more publicity for his outrageous but honest quotes, as opposed to the credit for his aggressive and successful style of managing that he truly deserves.

The Venezuelan native and former All-Star shortstop knows people. Guillen also knows baseball, and he thoroughly trusts his players and coaches. Put those factors together, and the White Sox have one of the best managers in baseball.

"It's funny because you don't always look at him as a manager," said White Sox left-handed ace Mark Buehrle. "Most managers you look at are serious and always in their office. You can't joke around with them. You can tell Ozzie to screw off, and he will laugh right back at you. But he's a very good manager. He doesn't get the credit for how he manages a game and how he handles our team."

"He's outgoing, and people look at that as a bad thing," White Sox reliever Cliff Politte added. "The players, knowing Ozzie as we do, we know that's just Ozzie. It's the way he feels and he's not afraid to call you out. He wants us to show up on time and play the game hard. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose -- as long as it's done right."

Handling Politte's up-and-down effort during the early stages of the 2006 season is a clear-cut example of how Guillen operates. The hard-throwing Politte came off a 2005 campaign that was worthy of All-Star consideration, when he set a career-high with seven victories and posted a miniscule 2.00 ERA.

But Politte has been known to be twice as hard on himself as any coach or manager could be, even when he has problems during relatively meaningless Spring Training contests in Arizona. Those struggles carried over into the regular season, when Politte was being counted on to fill the right-handed setup role held last year by Dustin Hermanson.

Instead of hauling off in the press on Politte, who simply was struggling with location, Guillen quietly moved Brandon McCarthy into the setup slot and moved Politte into more of a long relief role -- all the while maintaining strong support for the right-hander. Guillen even threw him in a couple of times in mop-up situations to help build his confidence.

"Most managers you look at are serious and always in their office. You can't joke around with them. You can tell Ozzie to screw off, and he will laugh right back at you."
-- Mark Buehrle

Then, with the game tied in the bottom of the ninth on Monday, Guillen summoned Politte back into the fire. He responded with a scoreless frame, sending the game into extra innings.

"He's played this game long enough where he knows this game pretty well, and he understands that sometimes players are going to struggle," Politte said. "So, he backs off the throttle and eases your way back into it.

"That happened with me. He's still not at full throttle, but he's still giving me opportunities. He did it with Pods [Scott Podsednik] and B.A. [Brian Anderson]. I've never seen him really down on someone. That's what makes us appreciate him so much."

As Politte mentioned, Guillen built the same sort of current confidence in Podsednik, who started the season 0-for-16 and 1-for-26 after his All-Star campaign of 2005, and Anderson, the rookie center fielder who leads the team in strikeouts. Podsednik has slowly but surely rounded back into form, with a nine-game hitting streak coming to an end on Wednesday in Seattle, and Anderson responded with a two-out, two-strike, game-tying home run off closer Eddie Guardado on Monday.

If a player works hard, Guillen doesn't mind the rough patches. In fact, he expects them. He might "throw a player under the bus" or poke fun at him from time to time, as his charges frequently joke, but he'll never give up on a player unless he puts himself above the team. It's an attitude that helps players produce almost as much as hours of work in the batting cage.

"I just love the fact that when you are going bad or going good, Ozzie still finds ways to give you a hard time or joke around with you," Anderson said. "I hit my first home run [Sunday against Minnesota], and he came back and said, 'Yeah, you are not going to kill yourself now.'

"He's been through everything we've all been through, with the exception of Jim Thome hitting 50 home runs. He can empathize with all of that stuff. He's a player's manager, and you have to love playing for him."

Podsednik echoed his young teammate's sentiment about Guillen's support.

"He told me, 'Keep going out and playing. Pull yourself out of it,'" said Podsednik. "I'm not the best at dealing with those kinds of situations, but Ozzie patted me on the tail and said, 'Get out there and go get 'em.'"

Guillen was named American League Manager of the Year in 2005, but the award and the White Sox historic season still doesn't earn him a mention with more stoic managerial legends such as Joe Torre, Tony La Russa or even Bobby Cox. Guillen doesn't care.

It's all about working hard and winning titles for the Chicago leader. But even two or three more championships won't take the entertaining character out of the knowledgeable man in charge. Guillen is true to himself and the franchise, and he makes no apologies.

"I treat my players in a little bit different way," Guillen said. "I give them the confidence to try to get the best out of them.

"Having fun is fine with me, as long as you play hard. That's fine to have fun in the clubhouse, but you have to earn it. [If] we don't play the way we should, I'm the guy who won't take [garbage] from anyone."

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