Ozzie's School of Management: Lessons from the Dugout, the Clubhouse, and the Doghouseby Rick Morrissey
Going behind the scenes with Ozzie Guillen, baseball's most colorful and irrepressible manager, to reveal the hidden factors that create a winning team
When Ozzie Guillen opens his mouth, nobody knows what's going to come out. And that has made the manager of the Miami Marlins endlessly entertaining to legions of baseball fans. In language that is/p>/b>
Going behind the scenes with Ozzie Guillen, baseball's most colorful and irrepressible manager, to reveal the hidden factors that create a winning team
When Ozzie Guillen opens his mouth, nobody knows what's going to come out. And that has made the manager of the Miami Marlins endlessly entertaining to legions of baseball fans. In language that is often as profane as it is colorful, he will lash out not only at his team's opponents but also at his own players, reporters, fans, and most of all, himself. He is always getting himself in hot water, and he loves every minute of it.
Yet for all the antics and controversy, Guillen is also one of the game's best managers—a World Series champion and a perennial contender. This book opens the door on the secrets to his success.
Ozzie's School of Management distills the ten commandments of managing, Guillen-style, which means no-holds-barred and leave your squeamishness at the door. The Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Rick Morrissey, who built a strong rapport with Guillen during his eight years with the Chicago White Sox, takes us on a rollicking ride through Ozzie's world, shining a light on his sharp intellect, organizational insights, and changing moods, and showing that the most important part of managing occurs before the first pitch and after the last out.
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Ozzie's School of Management
Lessons from the Dugout, the Clubhouse, and the Doghouse
By Rick Morrissey
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2012 Rick Morrissey
All rights reserved.
ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, IN THEORY
An older gentleman stood near the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox, between innings of a game against the Oakland Athletics in June 2011. His seat was far away from where he was now standing. Joey Cora, the bench coach, had watched the man make his way purposefully down one of the aisles in the premium box seats.
Ozzie Guillen likes to stand on the top step of the dugout in part so he can take in the crowd while he's working. To put yourself in the line of fire of fan abuse would seem to be masochistic, but Ozzie isn't like most other major-league managers. He wants to hear and be heard, to see and be seen. Every baseball game is a happening for him, an experience, and part of that is the interaction with the fans. To sequester himself would be like U2 choosing to play a concert in a garage.
And Ozzie would have no one to talk to when he got bored.
Now the old man was saying something, and Guillen could tell by the earnest expression on his face and the way he leaned over the railing that it was important, or at least important to him. But with the music pounding from the stadium's loudspeakers, Guillen couldn't make out the words.
"What's he saying?" he asked Cora.
"He's saying that Dunn needs to go to the eye doctor," Cora said.
"He just hit a fucking home run!" Guillen boomed.
Ozzie was laughing now, a big improvement over his mood of a few innings earlier, when the home crowd had stood and cheered after Adam Dunn had been hit by a pitch. That's how bad things had gotten for the Sox' designated hitter, a $56 million free-agent signing in the off-season. It was a cheer slathered with derision. Dunn finally has found a way to get on base! If it takes a 90 mph fastball to the elbow to get him there, we're all for it!
It had been a miserable first two months of the season for the hulking home run hitter. His batting average was a sickly .178, and he had spent most of his time picking dirt off his uniform from the deep hole he had dug for himself. After each strikeout—and there had been lots of them—the crowd booed him as if he were guilty of war crimes.
At its heart, managing is not about poring over statistics during games and making the perfect move at the perfect moment. It's not about deciding when to bring in a reliever or when to change the batting order. There's a romanticized image of the major-league manager as a steely-eyed strategist and master move-maker who relies on a treasure trove of statistical data to outwit his opponent. That's part of managing, the way sliding a cake into an oven is part of making a cake. What Guillen had to do in dealing with Dunn—show unflinching faith through bits of thick and loads of thin—that's managing. It's dealing with human beings who have feelings, families, bad days, money problems, large egos, and torturous doubts. It's dealing with different players in different ways.
It's doing things behind the scenes that have nothing to do with whether a right-handed hitter does well against a particular left-handed pitcher whenever the relative humidity is at 57.8 percent in the seventh inning. It's managing people, not numbers.
It's leaving open the possibility you might be wrong and pushing forward anyway, shoulder down, into the gale. It's doing it with a flair that only Guillen possesses.
So this fan standing there wanting the manager to schedule an eye appointment for his slumping slugger? Ozzie listened, and he didn't listen. He laughed and waved to the man. He took it in and ignored it, just as he had ignored the wall of sound that had been pleading for Dunn's benching for weeks.
Guillen refused to desert Dunn, which is exactly how he viewed a potential benching—as a desertion, a betrayal. If he didn't stand up for his player, he risked losing him. He was convinced that most managers, if they had been in his position, would have caved in to public pressure and taken Dunn out of the lineup.
This was a case of spine over matter. Ozzie would take his lumps, and there would be a lot of them, although he didn't know that as he laughed at the fan. The season would swirl toward the drain partly because of Dunn, and Guillen's reputation would take a beating. But the manager refused to budge. In hindsight, it would have been better if he had budged and sent Dunn to the bench.
Ozzie knows a place where you can stick your hindsight.
"There are a lot of managers who worry about what the fuck fans are going to say or that they're going to be criticized because of a move," he said. "And they don't worry about the real thing. The real thing is the player. If you kick the players in the ass because you're afraid of the fans booing you or what the media is going to say, then you're losing three things. You're losing the fans, you're losing the media, and you're losing your players.
"The most important thing is your player. He's the one who's going to perform for you. He's going to make you look good, or he's going to make you look bad. Believe me, 90 percent of the managers out there, they try to protect their ass instead of doing what they're supposed to do. I don't give a shit what they say. I played baseball. I know what those managers are doing."
One day, when Dunn was at his lowest, Guillen called him into his office. The manager had a fine line to walk. He wanted to let Dunn know he supported him, but he didn't want to make him feel as if he were overly worried about him, even though he most certainly was. What he wanted to convey more than anything was that he had no doubt Dunn would get back to being the player he had been the previous seven years, the monster at the plate who had averaged 40 home runs and 101 runs batted in. Of this one thing, Guillen was absolutely certain. That sort of productivity doesn't just disappear forever.
"Don't try to be our savior," he told Dunn. "You're not our savior. You're our helper. You came here to help us, not save us. You're good. Don't second-guess your abilities. I'm behind you. We're all behind you. If they say something about you, it's my fault. I'm the one who put you out there."
Had this been a player without Dunn's standing and accomplishments, Guillen might not have been so patient. He had taken a similar tack with leadoff hitter Juan Pierre, another veteran who was struggling at the plate and in the field, and it drove White Sox fans insane.
But Guillen believed there was a chance he'd lose his team if he treated Dunn or Pierre the same way he treated someone like Brent Lillibridge, a twenty-seven-year-old Sox outfielder who had spent the previous three seasons bouncing back and forth between the majors and Triple-A. If he gave up on a veteran, it would look like panic.
"I treat people equally with respect," Guillen said. "But equally? No. That's not true. That's a bunch of shit. Every manager has got his favorite players. Every manager gets along with somebody better than others. Like I talk to Mark Buehrle more than I talk to Gavin Floyd. I talk to Alexei Ramirez more than I talk to Paul Konerko.
"Equally with respect? Yes. I don't give a shit if you're making $30 million or you're fucking Lillibridge. I will respect you. But you can't treat people equally. You can't. That's a lie. You're lying."
He's not always so understanding with other players as he was with Dunn. When the reliever Will Ohman had two bad appearances to start the 2011 season, Guillen told reporters the pitcher "needs to get his head out of his ass." It's the kind of statement that, in the past, had left players shaking their heads over Guillen. When he publicly calls out a player, he breaks an unwritten baseball rule: you can rip a player in private all you want, but when you get in front of the media you support him.
Guillen saw this situation as a matter of effort and focus. Dunn and Pierre were trying their hardest. A journeyman reliever like Ohman shouldn't look so lost.
Guillen's lack of a filter is why observers in Miami are braced for possible fireworks between the new manager and the outfielder Logan Morrison. Morrison is a talented player with opinions and a Twitter account that got him into trouble in 2011. In August, the team demoted him to Triple-A because of what it considered distasteful tweets. The tipping point? It could have been the tweet in which he called one of his Twitter followers an "underrated slut." Or it could have been the photo he posted of himself wearing a "Sharktits" T-shirt.
Most likely, it was the tweet with the photo of a hopelessly nerdy man and the accompanying poll, "Is this David Samson? Yes or no? Vote now." Samson happens to be the Marlins' president.
So an inevitable clash looms between Guillen and Morrison, right? Not necessarily. Think of the loud Morrison as a prophet, in a Sharktits T-shirt instead of camel hair clothes, preparing the way for the louder Guillen. Morrison can be as outspoken as he wants to be as long as he can play. That's all Guillen cares about. There's room for everyone's quirkiness in Ozzie's world.
He had very little use for the outfielder Nick Swisher in 2008, not because Swisher seemed almost genetically in need of media attention, but because he hit .219 and moped when he was benched.
If a player mopes or doesn't try hard, he is a dead man to Ozzie. It doesn't matter if he's a star or a rookie. In this sense, Guillen is democratic.
On the same June night that Sox fans were giving Dunn a standing ovation for getting hit by a pitch and Guillen felt like crying for his much-maligned designated hitter, the manager confronted shortstop Alexei Ramirez for jogging, rather than sprinting, to first base after hitting a fly ball to right field. Guillen met him at the dugout steps.
"The next time you do that, you'll be running to Guatemala," he fumed.
Later, in a more reflective mood, he talked about all the meanings that Ramirez's lackadaisical effort had carried with it, even if the Missile, as Guillen referred to the Cuban, didn't intend it that way.
"When you don't run the bases, you don't respect me, you don't respect your teammates, you don't respect the people paying to watch you play," he said.
A few days later, Ozzie the Good Cop was back. The Sox were playing Oakland again, and Guillen had brought in Sergio Santos to pitch the ninth inning with Chicago leading 5–3. Santos had been struggling, having picked up the loss in the previous two games in which he had pitched. Here was a chance to build the reliever's confidence.
Santos started off poorly, giving up a single, striking out a batter, and walking another. Guillen went to the mound to calm him. Santos induced a fly out, then proceeded to give up another hit and a run, cutting the Sox' lead to 5–4. So much for Ozzie's soothing words. Now the Athletics had Coco Crisp coming to the plate with men on first and second and two outs.
Baseball people talk about "the book." There is no such official tome. The book is conventional wisdom. It's tradition, passed down from manager to manager, dealing in best-sense approaches to various situations. It's also statistical probabilities. If you go by the book, you're taking the route that carries with it the most recommendations and, presumably, the least risk.
In this case, the book said to bring in a left-handed pitcher to face the switch-hitting Crisp, who was batting .203 versus lefties and .280 against righties. The book said to hurry up already because it looked as if Santos, a right-hander, was choking.
But Santos needed emotional support, not more bludgeons to his ego. Two years before, after seven years as an infielder with three other organizations, he had joined the Sox' minor-league system and become a pitcher.
A year later, armed with a 95-mph fastball and a hard slider, he was on the Sox' big-league roster as a reliever. Now, with two men on and two out in the ninth inning, he was at something of a crossroads. Guillen loved Santos's attitude, but could he trust him with the closer's role?
Ozzie had a decision to make. His team had clawed back into the division race after a terrible start to the 2011 season. He could take the preferred route and bring in a lefty or he could build some equity in his shaky right-hander.
Guillen decided on a book burning. He wanted Santos to believe that the manager believed. If he brought someone else in from the bullpen, he risked losing Santos forever.
"Then all of a sudden I'm showing him I don't have confidence in him," Guillen said of the move he chose not to make. "Managing and coaching is making sure you give the guys opportunities, put them in the best spot, and believe in them when they're down. It's easy to manage when everybody's good."
Santos induced Crisp to ground out to third. He immediately sought out Guillen to thank him for his faith.
"That did wonders for my confidence," Santos said.
Other managers might have looked at Guillen's decision, shaken their heads, and walked away mumbling to themselves, much as the old man who had suggested Dunn needed an eye exam had done.
But they're not Ozzie, for better or worse.
* * *
When he's deciding how to approach certain situations, Guillen riffles through his memories. One of those situations came up in the first game of the 2011 season. Despite the forty-three-degree chill, the Sox were pounding the Indians in Cleveland. Not just beating them, but making their pitchers look like Little Leaguers with self-esteem issues.
In blowouts, managers often pull some of their starters from the game. It's a chance to get some playing time for their bench players. One of those bench players was Omar Vizquel, who would turn forty-four three weeks later. Vizquel is five foot nine and 180 pounds of constant motion who had willed himself into an eleven-time Gold Glove shortstop. He had gotten kicked out of grade school three times in Venezuela for "throwing things at people" and "hitting people with sticks." What says "future Hall of Fame baseball player" more than that?
And now here was Vizquel sitting on the bench as the Sox piled up runs against the Indians. Guillen thought about the sad sight of a former star trudging on to the field to give a younger player a rest in the late innings of a romp. It would have been an insult, the manager thought. Someone of Vizquel's stature needs to be celebrated, not dragged down to human level.
"I don't think any manager should slap a Hall of Fame player doing that," Guillen said. "You're going to lose respect from your team. His teammates are going to say, 'Look at Ozzie playing Omar.' That's why we have other players. I'd never do it to a player."
That decision had wiggled its way up from Guillen's past. In 2000, he was in his last year in the big leagues, a thirty-six-year-old shortstop on his last baseball legs in Tampa Bay. Manager Larry Rothschild inserted him in the eighth inning of a game the Devil Rays trailed, 17–1.
"I was kind of upset," Guillen said. "I knew it was my job, but in the meanwhile, it's 17–1, goddamn, I paid my dues already. I knew it was my job, and I've got to go play. But goddamn, you think I'm going to be happy with one at-bat? I already have ten thousand at-bats. I don't need one at-bat. They did it to me, and I wasn't as great a player as Omar was."
Guillen never said anything to Rothschild. Took the slight, swallowed it, digested it. And never forgot it.
"What was Larry Rothschild going to say?" Guillen said. "He would have said, 'That's your job. You don't want it? Get the fuck out of here.' But the players were talking about it. Like, 'Why is this guy playing you when we're down seventeen runs?' I never go to the manager asking anything because that's the job I picked. But because I didn't like it, I'm not going to do it to somebody else."
The lesson Guillen took away, aside from the one about not insulting veteran players, was how fragile respect is—how hard it is to get and how easy it is to lose.
It's the manager's job to keep twenty-five plates spinning, which is to say that the manager's job is impossible. There are twenty-five players on each major-league roster, and there are always some who are struggling, no matter how good the player is or how good the team is. At some point in the season, each ballplayer will be on intimate terms with failure. No one is good for 162 games.
For Guillen, that ensures six months of varying degrees of misery. The leadoff hitter might be knocking the yarn out of the baseball, but the guy batting cleanup can't get a hit. Or a pitcher suddenly can't locate the strike zone with GPS.
"Coaches and managers, they don't have a life," Guillen said. "They're lonely because they have to worry about the guy who failed. You got three hits, everybody's happy. This guy wins the game, everybody's happy. It's easy to manage the guys having success. Fuck, anybody can do that. But being next to the guy who failed, being next to the people who need to be helped, that's the hard part.
Excerpted from Ozzie's School of Management by Rick Morrissey. Copyright © 2012 Rick Morrissey. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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Meet the Author
Rick Morrissey is an award-winning sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, and he has previously worked at the Chicago Tribune, the Rocky Mountain News, and the Charlotte Observer. He has covered most of the major events in sports, from the Super Bowl to the Olympics to the NBA Finals. He lives in the Chicago area.
Rick Morrissey is an award-winning sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and has previously worked at the Chicago Tribune, the Rocky Mountain News, and The Charlotte Observer. He has covered all the major events in sports, from the Super Bowl to the Olympics to the NBA Finals. He lives in Brookfield, Illinois.
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Good book,no punches pulled.Like all the media he appears this is a raw look at Gullien.Honest and straightforward.I would have liked to hear more stories of him coming up in the minors,friends/enemies he made along the way,but this was a great book nonetheless.I recommend this book.