Ozzie Guillen feels like a new man. Having a 100-pound weight lifted from your chest will do that.
That’s how the former White Sox manager felt after his on-field meeting with Ken Williams before the Sox home opener Friday. Guillen and Williams, then the general manager, had a successful but stormy relationship over a lengthy period that included a World Series championship in 2005, and they agreed before the home opener of a season that will celebrate the 10-year anniversary to put the bad behind them and focus on all the good.
“This is a relief,’’ Guillen told the Sun-Times Monday. “I needed that. I needed to get that thing off my chest. I think he needed it. I sent him a [glad we did that] text after that.’’
Guillen left the Sox for the Florida Marlins during the last week of the 2011 season. His time with the Marlins didn’t end well, either, lasting one season. Guillen has since worked for ESPN Deportes and he and his family still lives in Chicago. He attended Sox games last season, and took another step toward mending things by getting together with Williams, the team’s executive vice president who hired Guillen when he was general manager. The meeting came at Williams’ invitation.
“Relief from all the sadness I had with it,’’ Guillen said. “I helped Kenny. And Kenny helped me. Why not remember the good old days when everything was great and forget about one year or three months of negativity or bad press, whatever you want to call it. We spent so many years having fun and we throw everything in the garbage?
“It’s like we’ve been married for so long and all of sudden you’re getting divorced. You forget you’ve been married for 11 years and you forget I was happy and life was great and I was happy with this woman. All of sudden we’re going to hate each other? What happened to the good old days? I had a kid with this woman. I had a kid with Kenny — a ring – that’s a kid. You can divorce but the relationship has to be there because you have a family with this woman. I feel the same way.’’
The bond they share because of that moment they shared hoisting that trophy with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in Houston in 2005 could never be severed, Guillen said.
“Kenny helped me get the ring,’’ he said. “We’re attached because of that. It wasn’t a pretty divorce, but two older people said, ‘You know what, we have kids together, we have to move on, our kids are getting older.’ That’s what we did. We both feel very good – at least I do – about ourselves when that happened.’’
Guillen said he felt somewhat awkward being on the field with all of the Opening Day festivities going on.
“I wanted to be in uniform to be honest with you, but to me it was a big, big relief. It was like I weighed 300 pounds and now I weigh 220.’’
Williams told media the next day that “baseball is missing something” without personalities like Guillen managing, praised Guillen’s knowledge, keen eye for the game and its nuances and said that “he should be in uniform somewhere.”
“Hopefully he gets another chance to show it,’’ Williams said.
“I told him, ‘Listen, a lot of what you’re going through now was self-created,’ ‘’ Williams said. “And in order to have that turned around, you’re going to have to show people that there is that more mature, 51-year old man who’s ready to employ a different strategy.’ ‘’
Guillen said Monday he would like to manage or coach but the situation would have to suit his family, and he wouldn’t want to coach under a manager who would feel like Guillen was there waiting to take his job. He said his competitive juices started flowing during spring training, and he hasn’t ruled out working in the minor leagues because he enjoys working with young players.
“I would change because I’m more mature, maybe more mellow,’’ he said. “Because I work in media, on the other side of the business, a lot of things teach me how that works. I like to have an opinion. Would I change the way I talk about my players and team? I don’t think so. But what I think about life, people and politics, no, [talking about that isn’t] going to do me any good, I’m not a politics guy. But talk about the game? Of course I will. I have to.’’
There weren’t many happy faces around U.S. Cellular Field on Friday. The Sox fell to 0-4 that day. But Guillen, before the game anyway, was smiling inside and out.
“There were a lot of happy faces,’’ he said. “Kenny, in good times or bad, he is going to be honest. He’s not going to play around with people. He’s a straight-up man.
“A lot of people out there think we hate each other. We were both very young [at the beginning our our relationship], now we’re 51 and 52 and we’ve both grown up a lot.
“Being out of baseball a while and him doing something different now, I think we both realize we’ve done more good things to each other and for the Chicago fans than bad things.’’