Commentary

Rating Ozzie's most memorable blowups

Originally Published: July 23, 2008
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN.com

The Chicago-Texas series arrived this week with a little extra intrigue, in the form of a budding feud between the Rangers' closer and the White Sox manager.

In this corner: C.J. Wilson, aspiring novelist, Taoist, movie critic, Guitar Hero devotee and a California free spirit in the Barry Zito mold.

C.J. Wilson

Wilson

Ozzie Guillen

Guillen

In the other corner: Ozzie Guillen, former All-Star shortstop-turned-World Series skipper, old-school guy, beat writer's best friend and serial provocateur.

During a recent series in Arlington, Guillen ripped Wilson for his demeanor on the mound. He called Wilson "cocky" and accused him of lacking "class" and showing up Chicago's hitters.

Like many Guillen showdowns, this one was as fleeting as a midsummer rainstorm. Guillen seemed determined to let things die Monday, and Wilson took a pass on the inflammatory rhetoric -- telling reporters that he just likes "throwing hard and having a Mohawk and being an idiot." Barring a sudden surge of testosterone from one combatant or the other, you can file the incident in the soon-to-be-forgotten bin.

But rest assured that another battle royale will soon take its place. It's almost irrelevant whether Guillen lands in controversy because of his competitive drive or as a way to take the pressure off his players. His "feuds" have become as predictable as car exhaust on the Dan Ryan Expressway.

Sorting through Guillen's run-ins is like picking your favorite Bruce Springsteen CD, but we gamely venture ahead. This week's installment of Starting 9 runs down the most memorable Ozzie Guillen tirades, rants and other dustups from his 4½ seasons as Chicago manager, and ranks them on a 1 to 10 severity scale, with 10 being the most severe.

Sorry if your personal favorite failed to make the cut. Even with the luxury of some honorable mentions at the end, we had to draw the line somewhere.

Magglio Ordonez

Ordonez

1

Magglio Ordonez (March 2005)

The dispute: They're fellow Venezuelan natives, and they were full of praise for each other as White Sox teammates in 1997. Magglio Ordonez once referred to Guillen as "a big hero in my country," and Guillen called Ordonez a great hitter, even though he has "an ugly Latino name."

But something has to give when Ordonez leaves the White Sox to sign a free-agent deal with Detroit in February 2005. A few seemingly benign comments from Ordonez about his departure from Chicago are twisted and contorted, and they pick up steam until Guillen believes he's the guy who's blamed for running Ordonez out of town.

Before you know it, Ordonez is calling Guillen "my enemy," and Guillen refers to his former teammate as "a piece of [expletive]." Things proceed to go downhill from there, if that's possible.

The money quote: "He played with the wrong guy," Guillen tells Playboy Magazine the next spring. "He was bad-mouthing my team. He was bad-mouthing my trainer. He was bad-mouthing my general manager. He was bad-mouthing my owner. He was bad-mouthing my organization. But when he said Ozzie -- uh-oh. As soon as he named me, it was on."

Rank on the Ozzie meter: 10. Though time helps heal the rift eventually, this one has all the requisite elements -- friendship gone awry, nationalistic pride, contrasting interpretations of loyalty, and a little Scott Boras on the side. Bystanders insist the anger from both parties was genuine.

"If they would have met face-to-face, there's a chance somebody wouldn't have come out alive," says Mark Gonzales, the White Sox beat reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

Jay Mariotti

Mariotti

2

Jay Mariotti (June 2006)

Guillen, incensed that Chicago pitcher Sean Tracey won't plunk Hank Blalock as a retaliatory move, slams a water bottle, yells at Tracey in the dugout and pulls him in the seventh inning of a White Sox-Rangers game.

Jay Mariotti, Chicago Sun-Times columnist and "Around the Horn" panel regular, is outraged over Guillen's behavior. He calls the display "senseless and immature."

Guillen, not one to take constructive criticism in stride, fires back by using a homosexual slur to describe Mariotti. The commissioner's office takes note, fines Guillen and orders him to undergo sensitivity training. Then the episode assumes a "Surreal Life" aura when Guillen's gay hairdresser issues a public endorsement and Ozzie tells his fans that he enjoys watching WNBA games in his free time.

The money quote: "He's garbage, still garbage, going to die as garbage," Guillen says of Mariotti.

Rank on the Ozzie meter: 8. Mariotti is a persistent Guillen critic who refers to the White Sox manager as the "Blizzard of Oz." He's particularly adept at hitting a nerve when he rips club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, a man Guillen reveres.

Guillen's main beef is that Mariotti is so quick to cast judgment without setting foot in the White Sox clubhouse. Mariotti claims he stopped going to Sox games because he's been subjected to physical threats and the team has refused to confront the issue.

"Why he's so afraid to show up to the ballpark? … Tell him we'll pay his cab," Guillen says in 2006. "Tell him to tell us where he lives, and we'll bring him to the ballpark and we'll have a conversation."

Hunter Wendelstedt

Wendelstedt

3

Hunter Wendelstedt (August 2004)

The dispute: Guillen charges out of the dugout during a Chicago-Cleveland game to contest an out called on a stolen-base attempt by White Sox outfielder Carlos Lee. He denies spitting tobacco juice on Wendelstedt during their argument, but his actions still earn him a two-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.

The punishment is doubled when Guillen alleges that Wendelstedt -- the son of longtime umpire Harry Wendelstedt -- lied in his game report.

The money quote: "You're not even a pimple on your daddy's ass," Guillen tells Wendelstedt.

Rank on the Ozzie meter: 7. Grousing about a call is one thing, but publicly questioning an umpire's integrity is not a great way to lay the foundation for a productive long-term relationship.

4

Mike North (May 2007)

The confrontation: After Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski tells the Chicago radio host he's upset about being replaced in the starting lineup by backup Toby Hall, Guillen goes all Curt Schilling. He calls The Score 670 and goes on a profanity-filled tirade as Mike North implores him to watch his language.

"This would be the sports equivalent of George Carlin duct-taping Chris Rock's mouth," Mariotti later writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.

The money quote: "How you doing, Ozzie?" North says.

"Oh, shut the [bleep] up," Guillen replies.

Rank on the Ozzie meter: 6. Shortly after the radio run-in, North brings a box of chocolates to Guillen's office as a goodwill gesture. According to the Chicago Tribune, Guillen throws the candy in the trash.

Once the hostilities subside, Guillen takes his lumps for using such vulgar language on the airwaves, where kids and their grandmothers can hear it. When North's 16-year tenure as a Chicago radio host ends a little more than a year later, the incident is mentioned prominently as part of his legacy.

"We only can hope that the end of Mike North is the beginning of decency, professionalism and couth in Chicago sports radio," Mariotti writes in the Sun-Times.

Kenny Williams

Williams

5

Kenny Williams (June 2008)

The dispute: Guillen and Kenny Williams played together for three years in Chicago in the late 1980s. They won a title together in 2005 and bucked each other up through a long, trying summer in 2007.

As a rule, Williams tries to take Guillen's provocative comments in stride because he knows that candor and directness are part of his manager's leadership mojo. He generally is content to let Ozzie be Ozzie.

But things get testy when Chicago's offense stalls and Guillen responds with veiled criticisms of hitting coach Greg Walker and a suggestion that the general manager should bring in some new players. Williams, who already acquired Nick Swisher, Carlos Quentin and Orlando Cabrera in the offseason, isn't quick to embrace the advice.

The money quote: "It's never a good idea to throw your boss under the bus, especially when that boss has had his back as much as I have,'' Williams tells the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rank on the Ozzie meter: 6. The two friends hash things out, and a dormant Chicago lineup proceeds to outscore Kansas City and Minnesota 61-26 during a seven-game win streak. But judging from Williams' initial crankiness, this is not a routine that Guillen should allow to become habit-forming.

Buck Showalter

Showalter

6

Buck Showalter (September 2004)

The dispute: People love recounting this run-in because of the stark contrast in styles. Buck Showalter, with his militaristic attention to detail, is the ultimate baseball perfectionist. As for Ozzie, well, he's more your seat-of-the-pants type of guy.

There's a minor dispute about Rangers reliever John Wetteland's coaching first base, and Guillen infers from the postgame interviews that Showalter thinks he didn't know the rules. He takes that as a signal to commence bashing.

The money quote: "[Showalter] never even smelled a jock in the big leagues," Guillen says. "Mr. Baseball never even got a hit in Triple-A. I was a better player than him, I have more money than him and I'm better looking than him."

Rank on the Ozzie meter: 5. Showalter defuses the controversy by staying above the fray, but he can't be thrilled when the White Sox bring out a lineup card that includes team photos and faux e-mail addresses. The joke is an apparent dig at Texas coach Don Wakamatsu's meticulously prepared lineup cards.

"Buck does everything on the straight and narrow, and Ozzie was just messing with him," one Guillen watcher says. "It was like swatting at a hornet's nest."

Rich Hill

Hill

7

Rich Hill (May 2006)

The dispute: Emotions run high when the White Sox and Cubs meet in an interleague series, and things get out of hand when A.J. Pierzynski plows into Cubs catcher Michael Barrett before the throw arrives from the outfield. When Cubs pitcher Rich Hill refers to Pierzynski's play as "gutless" and "pathetic," it's all Guillen needs to hear.

The money quote: "Tell that Triple-A [bleep] to shut the [bleep] up," Guillen says. "Tell him to start throwing some strikes or he's going to get Dusty [Baker] fired."

Rank on the Ozzie meter: 5. Hill is just an earnest kid standing up for a teammate, but the subsequent chain of events sure make Ozzie look like a visionary. Hill is demoted to Triple-A Iowa the day after the incident, and Baker is, indeed, fired by the Cubs after the 2006 season.

Mariano Duncan

Duncan

8

Mariano Duncan (June 2006)

The dispute: As the first Latino manager to guide a team to a World Series title, Guillen prides himself on being a trailblazer. So he takes it personally when Dodgers coach Mariano Duncan, a native of the Dominican Republic, says he's embarrassing fellow Hispanics and potentially hurting their chances of managing in the big leagues.

The money quote: "He embarrassed every Latino player, coach and front-office person," Duncan tells the Los Angeles Times. "Ozzie is a hero in his country and a hero in my country. We are here in America, where you can speak freely. But you don't say everything that comes to your mind. He has to learn to slow down a little bit. You have to learn how to close your mouth."

Guillen's reply: "Mariano Duncan never will be a big league manager and not because I ruined it for him. If Mariano Duncan thinks being a manager is making out the lineup and changing pitchers, he is real wrong."

Rank on the Ozzie meter: 5. This one doesn't have much of a shelf life, but it provides an interesting glimpse at how Guillen is regarded in the baseball community. For everyone who loves him, is amused by him and respects his accomplishments, there's somebody else who cringes and wonders what the heck he was thinking when he said what he said.

Brandon McCarthy

McCarthy

9

Brandon McCarthy (March 2007)

The dispute: After being traded from the White Sox to the Rangers, Brandon McCarthy tells reporters he's more comfortable with the atmosphere in Texas than Chicago, where he and outfielder Brian Anderson were the only players who weren't married or didn't have steady girlfriends.

McCarthy has no clue what he's gotten himself into. Guillen takes the comments personally and rips McCarthy for spending too much time in Chicago on the town having fun with Anderson.

The money quote: "You played with us 162 games and all of a sudden you leave and say you don't have a friend in the clubhouse, only Brian Anderson?" Guillen says. "Well, he picked the wrong guy to be friends with."

Rank on the Ozzie meter: 3. This is a classic case of Guillen popping off for the sport of it. McCarthy gives him a call, they hash things over, and Guillen tells the writers, "The kid has a chance to be a good pitcher. Everything's clear and good."

Honorable mentions

Frank Thomas: Guillen has had several head-butting sessions with Thomas in Chicago, but their issues pale in comparison to GM Kenny Williams' distaste for the Big Hurt -- which is off the charts.

Ozzie Guillen
AP Photo/M. Spencer GreenApril 7, 2008: Guillen and Cuzzi exchange pleasantries in the third inning.
Phil Garner: After Guillen says Garner snubbed him during the pre-World Series handshakes in 2005, Garner provides photos as evidence to the contrary. In the midst of the Mariotti furor, Garner wonders whether Guillen might want to consider counseling to address his personal issues.

Dave Duncan: The St. Louis pitching coach calls Guillen a liar during a radio interview in June 2006 following a beanball incident between the White Sox and Cardinals.

Umpire Phil Cuzzi: Guillen is not a fan. "I just let him know I don't like him the first day I see him, and I think he feels the same way about me. And we have to move on," Ozzie says after Cuzzi ejects him from a White Sox-Twins game this past April.

Andy Van Slyke: After watching Guillen berate Jon Garland for failing to throw a retaliation pitch against Detroit, Van Slyke tells a radio interviewer that he would have punched Guillen if he were in Garland's shoes. Van Slyke later apologizes, but not before Ozzie slips in a shot or two of his own.

"That's why he's coaching first base and I'm managing in the big leagues," Guillen says. "I'm going to manage in the big leagues longer than he's going to coach first base."

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com. His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer