MLB players have ‘very, very difficult decision to make,’ Ozzie Guillen says
Former White Sox shortstop and manager says he’d play but knows a multitude of deals still need to be worked out.
Ozzie Guillen is as conflicted and puzzled as anyone else.
The former White Sox shortstop and World Series-winning manager, known for speaking his mind and voicing firm opinions on any and all topics, doesn’t know if we will have baseball in 2020.
“You wake up in the morning and read one thing, and by the afternoon, it’s different,” Guillen said this week. “It’s very confusing.”
Guillen is not alone amid the bewildered around us. The owners and players have been divided on how to salvage a season — or half a season with an expanded postseason — and how to endure significant financial losses on both sides while safely navigating through a health pandemic.
“The players have a very, very difficult [decision to make],” Guillen said.
As a former player and manager, and as a father, husband and grandfather of two — as well as a pregame and postgame host on Sox TV broadcasts — Guillen has a multidimensional perspective.
“It’s not easy, obviously,” he said. “And then there are all these people dying to see baseball. To be honest, how many are there? Everybody.”
Guillen and his sons are baseball junkies in that group. In Chicago, the South Side was buzzing with a heightened interest in the Sox entering 2020.
“Everybody was excited for the team; I was excited,” Guillen said. “They were pushing to take the next step. And all of a sudden, nothing is going on.”
No Luis Robert debut. No Eloy Jimenez sophomore year. No Yoan Moncada encore after his breakout season. And no Michael Kopech return from Tommy John surgery. All of it put on hold.
“They have great young talent, great players, but if nothing is going on, you have to wait another year,” Guillen said. “Which is sad.”
Guillen’s fear is that a labor standoff spills over to next year when the collective bargaining agreement expires in December. It’s a fear shared all around baseball.
“Clearly, neither side has been softened by the pandemic,” a veteran major-league scout said. “The mindset should be to salvage this season, then deal with the CBA. But the opposite is happening. Why? Greed on both sides. The fans and the game itself are afterthoughts.”
This weekend, players were expected to be mulling over a fresh proposal from the owners that would put the game at the forefront. There isn’t much time left to hammer out an agreement if starting up an 80-game regular season by July is to be achieved.
Fans won’t be allowed in the stands, at least initially, and owners say the economic hit from that means players should take pay cuts in addition to the prorated cuts they’d already be taking.
“You would think the game was on financial life support,” the scout said. “They have made huge money and can afford to weather this storm. Everyone better be careful; fans are watching. . . . Can you imagine following up a botched 2020 with a 2021 strike or lockout? They will lose the fans.”
Baseball has a chance to keep them interested if medical clearance is given to play and owners and players come to a financial agreement.
It will look different with no high-fiving, no spitting, no showering at the ballpark, no Uber rides to and from the stadium, all measures imposed to steer clear of the coronavirus. Some players may choose not to participate.
“Players will have a right to say, ‘I’m not playing,’ ’’ Guillen said. “People have to respect that. Anybody not in uniform will criticize them for being selfish, but people have to understand that, yes, it’s their job, but they are human beings. Everything has to work out for both sides.
“Sometimes I wake up and say, just cancel the season because so many details have to be worked out. It’s hard, and it changes from one day to another. Seeing players in the stands making sure they’re not close to other players? Players have to shower in the hotel? Come on. I don’t see anything easy about it.”
Were he a player now, Guillen said he would want to play and would play with the blessing of the players’ union.
“You know me. Yes,” he said. “That’s how I make my money. I have a family to care for.
“And then we talk about players and owners, but there are thousands and thousands of people living off baseball. Parking-lot people, security, stadium workers, vendors, many others. It’s a hard situation.”