The 41-year-old Guillen is brutally direct with the media and his players, lacking the edit chip typically found in managers and coaches. "Even in the dugout I tell them if they stink," he says. "I'm not going to be one of these guys who says, 'Oh, don't worry. Everything is going to be O.K.' I don't buy that [stuff], because by the time you wait for things to be O.K. it's too late."
In recent weeks Guillen has ripped reliever Damaso Marte, suggesting he overstated an injury to avoid pitching ("If Marte is not ready to help this team, he can have a nice trip [home] to the Dominican Republic and enjoy himself"); slumping DH Carl Everett, who complained about being dropped from third to sixth in the lineup ("If he thinks he's swinging the bat good, I don't know what game he is watching"); and the Venezuelan media for misinterpreting his remark about quitting if he wins the World Series ("Next time find somebody who understands English better. Bring [the quotes] to the U.S. embassy").
Guillen says that he would consider quitting not to escape the stress, as the Venezuelan media intimated, but to go out on top. As a White Sox shortstop from 1985 through '97, he knows well that the team has not won a World Series since 1917. "I'm one of the fans," he says. "I don't want it for myself. I want it for Chicago. And if we win, I'll be set in this town for 20 years. I'll be just like [former Bears coach Mike] Ditka: Just win one and live off it for 20 years.
" Chicago is a city of [bleeping] losers. We've got to come up with another sport for Chicago, just to win something. The last thing they won here was with the Bulls. So I want to win as badly as the fans do."
To end the drought the White Sox will need timely hitting from a mediocre offense ( Chicago was ninth in the league in scoring) and more ace-quality pitching from Jose Contreras (10-2 in the second half, including 5-0 in September and his first career complete game last Friday). "He's so nasty right now, it's like having a closer pitch nine innings," Konerko says.
The White Sox are the sort of team Guillen likes: scrappy but low in star power. When general manager Kenny Williams wondered near the July trading deadline if he should make a major deal--he was interested in Reds centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr.--Guillen lobbied to leave the team untouched. "We were something like 30 games over .500," Guillen says. "It would be a slap in the face to these guys to tell them they're not good enough. This is the team I'm going to live and die with. The fans don't want to see stars. They want to see the team win. If you don't win, I don't care if you have [bleeping] Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson on the field. The fans aren't going to come."
U.S. Cellular Field was sold out on Saturday for the 18th time this season, and the joint jumped when White Sox rightfielder Jermaine Dye blasted his second three-run homer in as many nights, a third-inning shot that put Chicago ahead 6-1. Under the flash of fireworks Guillen smiled, relieved to finally have some breathing room. The final score was 8-1, and the White Sox hadn't won a game so easily since Sept. 2. For one night, anyway, the madness of the pennant race and the haunting specter of infamy left Guillen alone. "I think," he said after the victory, "we're back on track."