' Joe Torre: genius.' 'Greatest manager ever: Tony La Russa ... Lou Piniella.' I
say they're not good baseball managers. Nobody's a good baseball manager. They
talk about Jim Leyland: 'Oh, my god, Jim Leyland....' Jim Leyland quit! Sparky
Anderson? Sparky Anderson was horses--- for 10 years with Detroit. If you don't
have a good ball club, you're not going to be a good manager. People forget Joe
Torre lost with St. Louis and the Mets. The New York Yankees? I could manage
that team. Lou Piniella, the best ever? Why don't you win with Tampa Bay? My
point is not that he can't manage his ass. It's just that you have to have the
team. I'm not a good manager. I'm good people. Nobody was a good manager.
Ask him about
intelligence. Guillen dropped out of high school at 16. "There's two kinds
of education: book smart and street smart," he says. "You put me at
Harvard, at the podium to talk to the people graduating, I know what I have to
say, and I know how to say it. But you put Bill Gates in the middle of Caracas,
Venezuela? He will s--- his pants. He will die."
"We've got the best cars in the United States, and you've got to go 55
miles an hour. You have a party at your house, there's someone at your door
because the neighbors don't like it. You say something about color, religion or
preference about sex, you're in trouble. What kind of life are we living here?
You work seven days a week and get paid for four because of taxes, and you
don't have a right to say anything?"
the U.S.-born Yankees third baseman who mulled over playing for the Dominican
Republic in next month's World Baseball Classic? "Alex was kissing Latino
people's asses. He knew he wasn't going to play for the Dominicans; he's not a
Dominican! I hate hypocrites: He's full of s---. The Dominican team doesn't
need his ass. It's the same with [Nomar] Garciaparra playing for Mexico.
Garciaparra only knows Canc�n because he went to visit.
' Ozzie Guillen is a bigmouth, he's so controversial.' No. People don't like it
when you tell the truth."
For Guillen, it
all comes back to that word. Truth is his abiding theme, his defense against
would-be censors, a source of strength. "Why," he asks repeatedly,
"shouldn't we have the power to say what we think?" Some things he
utters as a manager are so obviously said for effect that they're laughable.
(Last season's gem was the pronouncement that he would quit if the White Sox
won the World Series, ostensibly to prove he was in it only to win, not for the
money.) Yet even though he publicly calls out players when they mess
up--"Throw them under the bus!" he cries--Guillen says nothing about
them to the press that he hasn't said to their faces.
But to hear
Guillen speak--no, shout--his version of the truth is to realize that it's also
his weapon. Against what, exactly, isn't clear until one morning in his living
room in Golden Beach, Fla., when he returns to the subject of the prison in Los
Teques. Guillen wants to correct one thing. Yes, he says, jail in his country
is hellish, but the devil's hand reaches far beyond any prison. "This is
hell," he says, his glance taking in the spacious living room, the table
with the photo of his pretty wife and their three handsome, smiling boys, the
shelf holding his 1988 All-Star Game platter, a White Sox championship season
DVD and a phone displaying the message 50 new calls. "We live in
means, of course, is that the daily news of disaster, war, child abuse and
other crime makes it easy to embrace the darkest view: This pitiless world is
as low as one can go. There's much in his experience to prove him right. In
July 1989 Guillen's closest friend in Chicago, a Venezuelan named Jon
Goicochea, died in a car accident. In 1995, after Guillen had arranged for Gus
Polidor to become a reserve infielder for the White Sox, Polidor opted to
retire to Venezuela; he missed Gus Jr. too much, he said. Such longing is
beautiful, of course. It's also one reason Polidor is dead.
The two men
couldn't have been more different. Guillen was clownish and electric, Polidor
so even-keeled that Guillen called him Tiricia (Sleepy). But from the instant
that Guillen joined him on the Tiburones de La Guaira (La Guaira Sharks), who
played their home games in Caracas, Polidor never wavered in his support of the
younger player. He would drive far out of his way in the wee hours after night
games to make sure that Guillen got home safely. They played hundreds of games
side by side: Guillen, number 13, at shortstop and Polidor, number 14, at third
base. They won back-to-back Venezuelan league titles in 1984-85 and '85-86.
They spent holidays together. Even as their careers diverged in the
U.S.--Guillen the All-Star, Polidor the utilityman--they talked daily.
"Friends forever," Guillen says.
Five years ago
Guillen's youngest son, Ozney, played with Gus Jr. on a youth-league team in
Caracas. In their first game Ozney took the field at shortstop, wearing number
13. Gus Jr. stepped in at third base, number 14. Ozzie Guillen was sitting in
the stands, watching behind sunglasses, when it hit him: We did that all our
lives. Tears rolled down his face, and Guillen silently asked Polidor, Why
aren't you here to see this? For the rest of the season he couldn't bear to
watch the two boys play.