Guillen not taking sentimental journey Reserve infielder sings same tune about release after 13 seasons in Chicago

April 15, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

If the presence of the Chicago White Sox in the visitors' dugout was supposed to evoke some emotional response from former White Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen, it did not have the predictable effect.

Guillen was not overcome with sentiment. Quite the contrary. He picked up right where he left off this spring, when he offended several of his former teammates with an uncomplimentary evaluation of the reconfigured White Sox infield.

In case you missed it, Guillen said in March that the Orioles' reserve infield alignment was better than the White Sox first string. It was a statement born of the frustration of being pushed aside after 13 years in the middle of that infield, but Guillen remains unrepentant.

"I already said it," Guillen said. "I don't regret it. If they don't like it if they are upset about it, then prove me wrong."

"I was disappointed that they wanted to give the [shortstop] job to Benji Gil. I've been playing better than Benji Gil my whole career. I didn't think that was fair. If they've got a kid they want to bring up. That's just the game. I tip my hat to him."

That's the way things eventually turned out. The Benji Gil experiment did not survive spring training and the full-time shortstop role has since been turned over to rookie Mike Caruso. The White Sox suddenly are in a full-fledged youth cycle, with 10 players on the major-league roster who have one year of major-league experience or less, but Guillen still feels the sting of his unceremonious departure.

"That's just Ozzie," White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas told a Chicago reporter before last night's game. "He's only mad at the organization, but he feels he has to say something."

Guillen will not argue the point. He admits that he was disappointed the White Sox did not want to re-sign him after last year. He admits that he would have preferred to remain in Chicago, where he was a fixture from the time he broke into the lineup as a 21-year-old rookie in 1985 until he was benched for the final weeks of last season. He is just as quick to express gratitude to the Orioles for allowing him to continue his career -- albeit in a part-time role -- but he hasn't forgotten the unhappy ending in Chicago.

"I'm always honest," Guillen said. "That's my bad. That's what's not good about me. I always tell the truth."

He still harbors some ill feelings toward former manager Terry Bevington, who dressed Guillen down last year for bringing his children into the clubhouse but allowed Albert Belle to surround his locker with an entourage that included his brother and bodyguards.

Bevington, who was dismissed by the White Sox after the 1997 season and now manages the Toronto Blue Jays' Triple-A franchise at Syracuse, has since been quoted as saying that Guillen turned into a "bad guy" his last two years with the White Sox.

Guillen says it was the other way around.

"I can't believe Terry called me a bad guy," Guillen said. "All I did was help him by making guys play harder. If I'm such a bad guy, I think they ought to take a poll of the players and ask who's a better guy, me or him. If I was a bad guy, why, when the media came to me and wanted me to rip him, I didn't say anything about him?

"I wouldn't say he's a bad guy, but he was a [bad] manager."

It clearly is a sensitive issue for Guillen, whose happy-go-lucky demeanor made him a favorite of White Sox fans, back when there actually were White Sox fans.

"When they needed me to play 42 games in a row last year because they didn't have a utility infielder to help me out, I was a great guy," Guillen said. "Then, when they decided they're not going to re-sign me, they bench me for the last [two weeks] of the season and I'm a bad guy."

Pub Date: 4/15/98

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