Canada hates the White Sox ... OK, at least Toronto does

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TORONTO – Not even White Sox chief marketing officer Brooks Boyer could embrace the slogan Ozzie Guillen was pitching late in spring training.

And that says a lot, considering Boyer would try forcing a PlayStation 3 on an Amish family if it meant ticket sales.

“Don’t hate Ozzie Guillen, hate the White Sox,” Guillen insisted on several occasions.

Well, it became obvious on Monday that it’s catching on.

Forget the ugly Americans adage, how about the ugly South Siders? Making their first road trip of the new season, the Sox were unwelcome guests at the Rogers Centre for the Blue Jays home opener, not only because of the usual suspects – Guillen and catcher A.J. Pierzynski – but because of former Toronto outfielder Alex Rios now a member of the traveling party.

It seems that Jays fans hadn’t forgotten Rios’ big contract he received while he played here, as well as a YouTube video in which Rios has some choice words for a fan after a charity event.

That meant loud boos anytime his name was announced and chants of “Rios sucks” throughout the game.

Guillen did his best to smooth the situation over like only he can.

Translation: gas on the fire.

“Every time they boo him we’ll be laughing because they’re still paying him like $20 million,” Guillen said, which actually wasn’t true because the Sox picked up the contract in full when they grabbed him off waivers.

“That’s not his fault. It’s not his fault they paid him that much money. He played better for the Blue Jays than people think he played. Why are they going to boo him? I don’t see any reason. It’s not his fault they lose or his stats or whatever. If they boo him, believe me I don’t think Alex cares that much. I love when the fans boo people, that means they care.”

Guillen didn’t stop there.

“Put it this way, they booed Jim Thome in Cleveland [when he returned with the Sox]. When you boo Jim Thome in Cleveland then you don’t know what you can expect from the fans. People probably didn’t know where Cleveland was until Jim Thome got there. They’re going to boo Alex Rios in Toronto? That doesn’t surprise me.

“They’re going to boo me too. We have the team that everywhere we roll, they boo A.J. everywhere, they pick someone to boo. We get used to it. How many people going to show up [for the opener]? About 50,000 or 40,000? Tell the fans in Toronto, ‘Alex Rios is in Toronto, all you fans come out and boo him.’ We need people in the ballpark just to come out and boo Alex the next four days. Please, we haven’t seen many fans here the last three or four years. Come out just to boo him.”

They did, and coincidentally, the next stop for the Sox on this current road trip? Cleveland, the same place Guillen said, “people probably didn’t know where Cleveland was until Jim Thome got there.”

As for Rios, he seemed unfazed by the hostility thrown in his direction.

“It was their decision to [waive] me, I have no clue why they did it or whatever,” Rios said of his former club. “What can I say? Like I said, it’s baseball. Things like that happen. But it’s time to move on, and just move on.”

Rios didn’t seem completely overwhelmed by the situation, either, singling in three consecutive at-bats, after a strikeout in his first at-bat.

Not that Guillen expected anything less from him.

“He couldn’t play worse than he did last year for us,” Guillen admitted. “Even if he’s trying this year, he can’t. He was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. But I don’t blame him. I predicted last year when the season was over that Alex was going to be a different ballplayer. He has a lot of confidence, he knows everyone here.

“It’s not easy when you get traded from one team to another, the team you grow up with, to the city of Chicago, it’s not easy. But I think right now, I don’t care about the numbers, he’s the one that is swinging the bat the best.”

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