NEW YORK – In the three years that Javier Vazquez played for Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox manager never asked him to be his ace.
All Guillen wanted to see from the right-hander was a big moment, a mountain climbed, a pulse.
The soft-spoken Vazquez thought he did that. Guillen? Well, the two obviously had a difference of opinion.
Vazquez’s best year with the Sox came in 2007 when he went 15-8 with a 3.74 ERA, but Guillen pointed out several times that his best year came when the Sox were basically eliminated by May.
So by the end of the 2008 season, a divorce was expected.
Vazquez was sent to Atlanta, with the Sox getting Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge back. It also came with some harsh comments – one side a bit more venomous than the other.
That’s why Saturday afternoon’s game against the Yankees has some intrigue, as Vazquez faces his former team for the first time since the relationship crumbled.
“I hope he does, that’s his job,” Guillen responded Friday when asked if he felt like Vazquez would be looking to stick it down the manager’s throat. “I think Javy every time he takes the ball, no matter who he faces, he’s going to compete. I hope he thinks that way, because I would think that way, and I’m not playing.”
Guillen was then asked if he wished things would have ended differently between the two, and pulled no punches.
“I don’t care about him, he’s not feeding my family,” Guillen said. “Things didn’t work out for us. When Javy doesn’t wear my uniform, I don’t talk about him. I wish him the best – after [Saturday’s] game. Because I think everyone here is preparing to beat him.
“I don’t have any feelings. When you’re managing and you’ve been in this game a long time, you’re going to make friends, you’re going to make enemies. Some people are going to like you, some people don’t. But I can live with that. I hope he shows up to play, I hope he shows up to pitch good because he needs it. He needs it for him, he needs it for his team. I know we will be prepared very well for him.”
The relationship deteriorated at the end of the 2008 season, when Guillen had a problem with comments that Vazquez made to the Sun-Times.
“You know what? It’s not going to [change a lot of opinions] because I’m really the type of guy that when I retire, I’m going to be home in Puerto Rico with my family,” Vazquez said then, responding to the question of fans and teammates not seeing enough fire from him. “I’m not looking to have to change minds if people feel that way … I won’t be paying attention to that. If I do well or if I don’t, I’ll still go home at the end of my career and be the same person.”
A day later, Guillen said that Vazquez was not a big-game pitcher. Guillen later explained that he said that to try and light a fire under the veteran, but by the end of that season, Guillen couldn’t even use Vazquez in a meaningful game because he was struggling so bad.
After the pitcher was traded to the Braves, he told the Atlanta media, “Only thing I’m going to say is, it’s good to get away from the negativity and start fresh.”
That rubbed Guillen the wrong way, who addressed it at the Winter Meetings.
“I’m not happy about what he said,” Guillen said then. “I know Javy real well, and he has more class than that. I always say, ‘You can see people’s faces, but you never see their heart.’ I would rather him say, ‘I hate Ozzie, I hope he [bleeping] dies. That was the worst three years of my life.’ Be honest. But when you that about the team, you’re talking about the clubhouse, the media, the fans, the general manager – because Kenny [Williams] put this team together – so you hurt a lot of people’s feelings. But I say, [bleep] feelings, Just win.”