Third week of January and Ozzie Guillen was already in midseason form.
Some things never change.
On the eve of the annual SoxFest weekend, the say-anything White Sox manager addressed the perception of a cold war between he and closer Bobby Jenks, life without a true designated hitter, expected fan reaction over the next three days and outfielder Alex Rios electing to skip out of the weekend festivities.
And yes, he even dropped an F-bomb here and there.
The one topic that put Guillen on the defensive was the notion that this team is still missing something – specifically a DH – even with veteran Jim Thome still out there in free agency.
“Some of the fans are excited about this team and the moves we made,” Guillen said. “It is different for everyone. But everyone should be happy because I know I am. This is the first time I can remember where we are set at almost every position before camp even starts. In the past we had to choose between, ‘do we want this guy or that guy?’ I think [general manager] Kenny [Williams] and [assistant GM] Rick Hahn did a tremendous job. I don’t see why a fan can be upset, but that’s why they are fans.
“I will say this about our DH – whoever is the DH will be in the [bleeping] lineup.”
As it stands right now, Mark Kotsay and Andruw Jones are the most logical candidates, but Guillen will also use Omar Vizquel, Carlos Quentin and Paul Konerko in that spot, allowing him to play with the lineup in certain matchups as well as get guys rested without taking their bat out of the lineup.
As for Thome, Guillen said there is no bigger fan of the veteran than him, but life in the American League is changing.
“No one except his wife is a bigger fan of Jim Thome than me,” Guillen said. “I will be grateful and pleased one day to say that I had an opportunity to manage this man, but this game is changing a little bit. It’s easy for manager when you don’t have a true DH. I can move things around, give guys more playing time. That’s the way it’s going to be.
“Fans out there will be looking at this team a little different. They might be saying, ‘Hey, we’re missing something.’ I think we’re going in a different direction, but the right direction. Our team is going to create different things. That’s why things will look weird. People shouldn’t be worried about that. Thome to me is one of the best guys ever to wear the uniform, but DH is changing. Few teams will have a legit DH. Those days are going away.”
The story that won’t go away is the idea that there are lingering hard feelings between Guillen and Jenks.
Jenks didn’t like some of the comments made about his conditioning at the end of last season and told the Sun-Times in November, “I felt I was the easy scapegoat because I had struggled in the end with some nagging injuries. This organization, just like most in this game, tell you, ‘Come in, our door is open and tell us what’s on your mind,’ and when you do they turn it around on you and make you feel bad. They’re playing on your own words. They want you to come in, be honest and then they turn it around.”
The two have not spoken the entire offseason, and Guillen said it’s not his job to seek Jenks out this weekend for a sit-down.
“To be honest I’m still surprised Bobby made those comments,” Guillen said. “Bobby knows how I feel about him. I saw what Kenny said [on it being a non-issue], but I’m surprised that [Jenks] said he doesn’t talk to anyone. The thing about this organization is we tell people the truth. Sometimes they don’t want to hear that.
“I don’t have to talk to Bobby. All I have to do is shake his hand when he saves the game. I will always have a friendship. He knows how I feel about him and his family. If he wants to talk to me my door is never closed. We can talk as a friend, we can talk as a manager and player.”
Finally, Guillen did admit that he wasn’t thrilled that Rios is skipping out of this year’s SoxFest, but understood why.
“I was very pleased that Alex flew to Miami [last week] and worked [with Greg Walker] those three days … actually I was shocked he showed up there,” Guillen said. “Everybody has their own way. This guy is a very shy kid. He wants to come to the field and play the game. Every player has right to do what they want to do, but yes, I wish he was coming. That was a little disappointing.”