"It's all about winning this year," Guillen said. "I might not be here next year. Who cares about 2008, 2009 or 2010? 2007 is the one I care about."
The White Sox rose to the top of baseball not only because of their manager. They won with terrific pitching and talented players. But their manager set a high-energy, interactive tone with the players, with the media, with everybody who came into contact with him. He hasn't lost a step, he hasn't changed a bit. The White Sox remain a reflection of their manager, because their manager is a nonstop presence with this team. He's on every day. He's wall-to-wall Ozzie.
"It's hard to get up every day and do this the way I do this," Guillen said -- and you know what he means. But this is the only way that he can do it.
And that brings us back to the present, the only tense that Ozzie Guillen finds workable for a manager. He may be a controversial figure to some, but he did lead the South Siders to their first World Series championship in 88 years. If he offends some people, there is never any doubt about him speaking his mind or the truth as he sees it. He wants another championship right away, because the other one was two years ago, and as far as the 2007 season, it just doesn't count.
"That's my goal, to win another one, and I truly believe we have the people to do that," Guillen said. "A lot of people in baseball are living on their name and what they did 10 years ago. I don't believe in that. Believe me, a lot of people are living on what they did in the past. I'm not that way.
"Pay me on what I did the year before, pay me on what we did lately. You're not paying me for 2005. [If] people think I'm not doing the job, I expect to be out of here. If [general manager] Kenny Williams and [White Sox chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf do not think I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, they can stop in my office, and like they always say, 'We're going to go in a different direction.' I don't want to sit there in 2010 and say, 'Jerry, you remember when we won in 2005?' I won a ring. I already got paid for that. I want another one.
"One thing about it -- if we win another one, then Jerry's got to open the bank, because I will make more money than [Paul] Konerko."
Guillen smiled when he said that. If the White Sox won it all again, he would probably get a nice raise, but he probably wouldn't be making eight figures a year. Meanwhile, fame is fleeting and the American League Central is the toughest division in baseball.
"Two years ago," Guillen recalled, "everybody was talking, 'Oh, we're playing Ozzieball -- great, we're winning because we're playing Ozzieball.' Well, last year, we were playing Ozzieball, and we [struggled]. Well, blame it on me.
"I don't think we played bad last year. Two teams played better than we did. But I know we didn't play the way we should be playing. I know that because it's my ballclub. We were missing something. What? Maybe a better manager, better coaching staff, better pitchers, better relievers. When you lose, you lose together. When you win, the team wins -- that's my philosophy. If we lose, blame it on me.
"If I see 25 guys busting their [tails], I'm not going to be fired because of that. If somebody is not busting their [tail], I will throw him under the bus. We lose because this [team] did not play right. But if I see all my guys show up to play every day, I'll take the heat. I want this job, I love this job, but I can live without this job."
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Spring Training info:
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Erstad on facing Angels: 350K
Guillen was the AL Manager of the Year in 2005, and the thing he liked most about that was that it paired him with the National League Manager of the Year, Atlanta's Bobby Cox, for whom he had played and for whom he still has great admiration. But the award itself? That was then, this is now.
"Jack McKeon told me every day, 'I won Manager of the Year in Cincinnati; the next May, I was out,'" Guillen said. "Look at Tony Pena, Manager of the Year [in 2003], he finished third. Next year? Out.
"Is it nice to have? Of course. Don't get me wrong -- it's an honor to win that, it's a privilege to have. But I don't believe in that. It's past. I don't want to be arrogant, but that's the way it is."
Guillen likes his 2007 team. He is, for instance, very big on the acquisition of Darin Erstad. That makes perfect sense, because Erstad is Ozzie's kind of player -- hard-nosed, high-effort, team-first. The White Sox outfield picture is not totally settled, but bet on Erstad playing, likely in center when Scott Podsednik, coming back from hernia surgery, is fully ready to play left.
"Erstad brings a lot of great, great stuff for us," Guillen says. "His work ethic, he fits well in the clubhouse, he's truly a pro. He's doing everything we ask him to do. This guy is unique. Even when he wasn't playing for us, this is the type of person you like to see play.
"I don't say he's a grinder, I say he's a baseball player. Everybody should be playing like that. He's fun to watch. You sit in the stands and see this guy, the way he goes about it, it's worth your money to go to the ballgame."
The White Sox won 90 games last season. That would have won two out of three divisions in the NL, but in the AL Central, it was good for only third. The White Sox will have to be better this season, and the manager believes that they will be.
"To be the best, you've got to beat the best," Guillen said. "You win 90 games and you finish third, I mean, what can you do? You win 90 games and you finish second, and I can take that, because only one guy beat you. But you win 90 games, that's a lot of games to finish third, and that's what happened to us last year.
"This ballclub is better, and they've shown me in Spring Training, 'We're executing better right now.' I think [shortstop] Juan Uribe is going make the difference. Podsednik is going to come back healthy. I think our bullpen is deeper, on paper. On paper, we are real deep and real good. Now, it's up to them to perform.
"I'm not going to sit here and lie to people. I'm not going to say our product is not that good. I think we've got a good enough ballclub to compete and win. I don't have any doubt that we can do that. But we have to play the game right every day if we're going to get to the next level."
When the White Sox lost to the Angels, 4-3, on this afternoon of St. Patrick's Day, the White Sox manager explained the result by saying, "We need more Irish players to do better."
That was very good. The 2007 White Sox are in against some of the best teams in baseball, but they will be in the hunt. With this manager, there will always be entertainment value while the hunt goes on. And this ballclub will not be living in the past, because that's overrated.