Ozzie Guillen’s most glaring weakness as a manager has been letting players know that they had no future with the club.
The White Sox skipper has often tiptoed out of his office during cut-down days, leaving it to general manager Ken Williams or assistant GM Rick Hahn to play the turk.
Over the last four days, there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Guillen had to make the final decision on veteran slugger Jim Thome, and on Monday he finally did.
The Thome chapter is over on the South Side.
“It came down to getting enough at-bats,” Guillen explained. “I don’t want a season where Jim sits three or four days in-a-row and the media comes up to him and asks, ‘You’re not playing … ” This thing will become a soap opera. It’s about at-bats.
“I talked to Jim [Sunday] and I made everything clear, how he would have to work with the ballclub. I wouldn’t get that many at-bats for the ballclub. Play once a week, twice a week. I don’t think it was fair for him. I have too much respect for the man. It was not an easy decision. Every decision is harder than another, but that one was not easy. I wanted to let him know in case he had something else with someone else.”
That he does.
The Sun-Times learned that Thome’s representatives had already spoken with Minnesota, while Detroit and Tampa Bay are also possibilities for the soon-to-be 40-year-old free agent.
“[Thome] was cool with it,” Guillen said. “He told me straight up how he felt. The reason we are doing this whole thing is because of the person we’re talking about. The way we feel about him and the special guy he is. Anyone else we would have just let him go like we always do. We care for each other and we wish the best for him.”
Although Guillen did say that if Thome were to be out there still come spring training and the current plan of DH-by-committee wasn’t working, well, bringing him back would be revisited.
“We might see in spring training that we’re missing a piece and go get him,” Guillen said. “But hopefully Jim is not waiting that long. Hopefully Jim has found a job.”
Without Thome, it’s still a mix of Andruw Jones, Mark Kotsay and Omar Vizquel rotating in and out, and then Carlos Quentin and Paul Konerko getting time there when they need a breather.
“It’s weird because since I’ve been the manager we’ve always had the big boys in the middle,” Guillen said. “We have a little different philosophy. I’m very, very optimistic. I don’t want to say I’ve put my job on the line, but I’ve been telling Kenny for three weeks that I like what I have.”
As far as where this decision ranked for Guillen? Well, no comparison.
“He’s a friend, there’s a respect thing, and as far as feeling bad, no doubt [it was the toughest],” he added. “Little by little you learn about this job and find out you have to do something you don’t want to do.”