A comeback by Ozzie could be a winner
Guillen a proven winning manager and should follow path similar to one Leyland took
A funny thing happened at the Caribbean World Series on Wednesday. Ozzie Martinez, the Mayaguez shortstop, hit a home run to help Puerto Rico avoid elimination, and Ozzie Guillen, as part of the ESPNDeportes broadcast team, helped describe it.
What's odd about that?
Well, the two Ozzies were traded for each other a little more than two years ago.
Martinez, who was sold to the Dodgers midway through the 2012 season, and reliever Jhan Marinez were the price that the White Sox extracted from the Marlins to allow Guillen to leave his contract as the White Sox manager one year early.
What a sad chapter for everyone involved, as it turned out.
Guillen, who had managed the White Sox to a World Series championship in 2005, ending a drought that had begun in 1918, forced his exit from the organization that had his back as a player and a manager because Miami owner Jeffrey Loria had a new stadium and the new revenue streams to go with it.
When Guillen signed on to manage the Sox in 2004, he didn't even know how much he was going to be paid. He took the job first and then let chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Ken Williams decide how much to pay him. That's how happy he was to get a chance to manage.
But things changed after Guillen's team won the World Series. His personality, which had been on display since his Rookie of the Year season for Tony La Russa in 1985, grew.
Around baseball, with payrolls climbing, this came at the height of the so-called "Moneyball" era, as some managers began to be valued less and general managers more. Guillen clashed with Williams over a variety of issues -- most of them silly -- and at times sucked the air out of a room. He suddenly cared a lot about his contract, pushing Reinsdorf for contract extensions. The Marlins saw him as available after the 2011 season, even though he was signed to manage the White Sox through '12, and Williams worked out a deal -- for Martinez and Marinez -- to allow them to talk to Guillen, who said yes to a four-year, $10 million offer from Loria.
Guillen continues to draw that salary even though Loria swept him aside in the purge that followed a 69-93 season that began with hope fueled by the additions of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Guillen. He has two more years to go on a contract that makes him the sixth-highest-paid manager in baseball.
Believe it or not, Mike Scioscia, Joe Girardi, Bruce Bochy, Terry Francona and Dusty Baker (no longer with Cincinnati but with one more year on his deal) are the only managers known to be earning more than $2.5 million a season. The guy who wears a World Series ring from 2005 makes more than the two guys who took their teams to the most recent World Series, John Farrell of the Red Sox and Mike Matheny of the Cardinals, and Ron Washington, who took the Rangers to back-to-back Series in '10 and '11.
Guillen has actually moved up on the list while in comfortable exile. Big-ticket managers Tony La Russa, Jim Leyland, Charlie Manuel and Davey Johnson have come off the books in the past two years, all replaced at much lower costs.
If nothing else, this speaks to how little managers are valued in the current game. Guillen worked the system to get what he believed he was worth, and now he's a 50-year-old with more energy than responsibility.
Guillen should manage again, the sooner the better. The only way to statistically quantify the success or failure of a manager is through Bill James' Pythagorean standings, which calculate a team's expected record based on a series of factors, the biggest being runs scored and runs allowed. Guillen was plus-19 in his eight seasons with Chicago and plus-1 in his one year with the Marlins.
That plus-20 is proof that he would be worth it to a team that hires him. But between his departure from the White Sox and his turbulent year with Miami, Guillen's reputation took a big hit. He's got to rehabilitate his image and demonstrate that he's hungry to manage again.
If a job opportunity comes along, he's got to jump on it, whether it's to manage or coach. His mistake was to get too caught up in himself, the power he wielded and the money he made. It shouldn't be a life sentence to get off-track.
Look at Leyland. He managed three teams in four years when he was in his early 50s, burning himself out. He was a mess in his one season with the Rockies, resigning even though he had two years remaining on his contract, and now he seems ticketed for Cooperstown.
Leyland stayed involved in the game post-Colorado, working as a scout and advisor, and after a six-year absence from the dugout, he jumped when GM Dave Dombrowski offered him a chance to manage a losing Detroit team.
It was the one of the best moves the Tigers ever made, and the same for him. There's no reason Guillen can't one day make a similar return. He's got too much to offer to spend the rest of his career as an analyst and story-teller.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.