Ozzie Guillen will become the face (not to mention the mouth) of the Marlins as soon as their deal to hire him is completed. The White Sox, surely growing weary of Guillen's continuing public protestations about his contract situation and inability to get along with White Sox GM Ken Williams, announced they had allowed Guillen out of his contract Monday, and are expected to receive minor players in compensation from the Marlins once they sign him.
The Marlins desperately wanted a marquee man to manage their team, one that can help market their revenue-challenged team. And Ozzie should be perfect for that. He's funny in two languages. And now, he is about to become the star of the South Florida show, which is what the Golden Beach, Fla., resident wanted all along.
Florida understands its need for a manager/marketer so badly that the organization that is perennially at or near the bottom for player payroll is reportedly about to bestow on Guillen a $16-million, four-year contract. Marlins people loved him when he was the third-base coach on the 2003 World Series champion club managed by Jack McKeon, who announced his retirement from managing earlier Monday, setting the stage for this development. Of course, it might be more of a challenge to love Guillen as a manager. Different Marlins higher-ups have had trouble getting along with quieter types like Joe Girardi and Fredi Gonzalez in the past.
The Marlins' disappointing season came with its two greatest stars, underachieving shortstop Hanley Ramirez and injured ace Josh Johnson, contributing significantly less than anyone expected. They need a new star, and they have one now. McKeon was the right caretaker at the time, but Marlins people want a jolt. It makes sense for them.
The White Sox sought Logan Morrison last winter in talks, but the Marlins would not give him up and are expected to send only a minor leaguer or two as compensation once they sign Guillen. One competing GM speculated that the White Sox are just happy to be rid of Guillen's contract. Ultimately, they may be as happy to get out from this marriage as Guillen was. Guillen said it was his call, and the reason he decided to leave the White Sox is that he "didn't deserve'' to manage their 2012 team. He is expected to accept a contract that will guarantee him eight times his White Sox guarantee, suggesting he may think he deserves that.
While the Marlins will grab plenty of headlines over the next few years, the real winner here may be the White Sox. They had to be tiring of Guillen's continual public blathering about his contract situation, especially considering a year remained at about $2 million. No one else could have gotten away with talking so much about themselves when the team was desperately trying to remain in the race. But that is the gift of Ozzie. He can act selfishly, even petulantly, and folks think it's funny.
White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who has long loved Guillen, met with the manager today. But Reinsdorf seemed to support his GM Williams more in recent months, according to people familiar with the situation. While Williams isn't exactly the picture of calm behind the scenes, he's quieter publicly and a better team player. One person familiar with Reinsdorf's thinking hinted that his first choice to replace Guillen may be someone currently managing in the big leagues, and the natural speculation will focus on the iconic Tony La Russa, who is among Reinsdorf's best friends and whom Reinsdorf has regretted firing as White Sox manager for more than two decades. La Russa is on a one-year deal with the Cardinals, who are still battling for the NL wild card.
In 2003, Williams shocked folks by hiring Guillen over his old Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston after an interview in which Guillen challenged Williams, and fought with Williams. Unfortunately, the fighting never stopped, escalating in recent years with one of Guillen's sons unabashedly ripping his father's boss on Twitter. Their relationship never seemed the same after middle son Oney Guillen kept targeting Williams, according to people familiar with the situation.
I wouldn't blame Williams for wanting Ozzie to go. If Ozzie can't contain his own son, how can he be expected to manage the team? Guillen will always be recalled for winning the first World Series in decades for the White Sox, in 2005, overcoming clubhouse dissension late in the season to roll through the playoffs with unhittable pitching and Ozzie pulling the strings.
But the winning slowed down, and the dissension never did. It was time for the White Sox to stop the madness.