Guillen is no Latin scholar, but he sure can talk politics

World Series

October 27, 2005|By RICK MAESE

Houston --The Chicago White Sox were getting ready to play for a championship, eschewing critics and ghosts and curses. Their general manager, Ken Williams, sat in the dugout talking about his team's roster.

He sees talent everywhere, but who's the most important? The team lacks the superstar, the future Hall of Famer.

"Ozzie talks about team MVPs and such," Williams says. "I can't find one."

I can't either, but I do know who the most valuable member of the team is. He doesn't swing a bat, he doesn't throw a pitch and he doesn't turn double plays. Not anymore at least.

The White Sox would not be where they are without manager Ozzie Guillen. The guy is a walking opinion. He's unfiltered, uncensored and easily the most entertaining character in the World Series.

Because attention has been focused on him for the past month, he's been able to minimize the distractions for his players, an overachieving bunch that seemed to will itself to one of the best postseason performances of the past quarter-century. And while they've played diligent, smart baseball, Ozzie has been entertaining us all.

Last night, as his players prepared for the biggest game of their lives, Ozzie held court as only he can. These pre-game talks aren't limited to baseball strategy. Game 4's topic de jour: Venezuelan politics. Among other things, of course.

Ozzie happens to like Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, unlike many of his fellow countrymen. "That's my opinion," Guillen said. "I don't give a [care] what 25 million people think. ... I have my feelings, I have my taste. Why I cannot say what I like, what I not like?"

Guillen jokes about his broken English, but this is a man who isn't too worried about editing. The wisdom of Oz isn't always accurate, isn't always politically correct and usually wouldn't fly on primetime television.

What you do get from him is unapologetic passion. His convictions are sincere and it seems like he operates with a high-speed connection between his brain and his mouth. What he thinks, he says.

In Venezuela, according to Ozzie, a communist wouldn't last long, especially one from Cuba.

"Fidel [Castro] in Venezuela, he will be killed," Ozzie said.

And forget your sugarcane or your fine cigars. The only good things to come from Cuba can be found on the White Sox roster, according to the baseball manager. "The best thing they have," he said, "we have here - [Jose] Contreras and Duque [Orlando Hernandez]."

Wait a second. Just why was Ozzie even talking about Latin American politics before the biggest game of his life?

"Because I got the [um, courage] to do it," he said.

Ozzie can bounce from topic to topic, like a Sunday morning talk program. There's no subject he won't touch - like Bill O'Reilly, but likable. Ozzie even writes his own regular column in the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal.

"The way I talk, I'm just telling the truth," he says.

And he really seems to relish his role. Later Ozzie repeats one of his favorite sayings: "A lot of people hate me. A few people love me. But they all have to [expletive] respect me."

That's his license to spill.

Earlier this week, the Houston Chronicle published a story suggesting that Ted Williams should be included on Major League Baseball's recently announced Latino Legends team. Williams' mother was a Mexican-American from San Diego.

Needless to say, Guillen disagreed with the article.

"I don't care if his daddy is Venezuelan and his mommy is Mexican, this man can't even say `Hola' in Spanish," he said, adding that "Reggie Jackson is more Latino than Ted Williams."

The Latino Legends team lists Alex Rodriguez as the game's top Hispanic shortstop. Ozzie prefers Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio.

"A-Rod couldn't hold Aparicio's jock," he said.

Of course just because Ozzie talks like he's getting paid by the word doesn't make him a good field manager. His decisions do that. Key pitching changes. Inserting Geoff Blum in Game 3, a half-inning before Blum hit a game-winning homer in the 14th inning.

After that home run, the White Sox found themselves the closest to a world championship they'd been in 88 years. A dream for some, but not Ozzie.

He said the World Series is only a goal. His dream involves family, watching his children's children grow up.

That doesn't mean you don't celebrate a goal that you accomplish, though. And you can be certain that it doesn't mean this isn't something he'll talk about for a long time to come.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

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