CHICAGO – Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen could have chosen from a hundred analogies Tuesday to describe his offseason job change.
The easy cliché would have been for Guillen to say that he left one company (the White Sox) to join another (the Marlins). Or he could have compared the transition with selling one house and buying another, which often prompts a mix of excitement and nostalgia.
Instead, Guillen’s metaphor was decidedly dark.
“Listen,” Guillen said, “it’s like getting divorced and getting married again. What are you going to say? ‘Oh, wow, look at my wife, she has another boyfriend.’ No. I’m not that type of guy.
“I got remarried, and I wish my wife the best of luck.”
Harsh? Yes. Appropriate? Yes, very much so.
Although Guillen spoke from the visitors’ dugout at Wrigley Field instead of U.S. Cellular Field, his emotions were no less real. He returned to the city that became his adopted home for 21 years, including 13 as a beloved shortstop and eight as a fearless manager.
Without Guillen, the Sox probably would not have stormed through the playoffs in 2005 to win the franchise’s first World Series title in 88 years.
Without the Sox, Guillen would not have become one of the game’s most enduring managers, not to mention one of its most colorful voices.
Like any marriage, some days were better than others on the South Side.
But then something changed.
The relationship unraveled beyond repair.
Almost 10 months later, Guillen spoke reflectively as he wore a black Marlins hat and jersey with his familiar No. 13 on the back. He admitted that his divorce with the Sox probably was best for everyone.
“It was,” Guillen said. “Everybody’s healthier, I think. My family is healthy. I’m glad where I am. I love it. I think everybody in Chicago, the White Sox, feel the same way. I’m not blaming anybody.”
Talking about a recent breakup is not easy. The more one thinks about it, the more likely that emotions and hard feelings will bubble over.
It seemed to happen to Guillen as he acknowledged his critics.
If people wanted to praise first-year Sox manager Robin Ventura, Guillen gladly would join the chorus. But if anyone said Guillen’s exit was the reason for the Sox turnaround, he offered another message.
“Don’t say they’re winning because I’m not there,” Guillen said, his tone sharpening. “That’s not fair. That’s not fair at all.”
It was a short but firm reminder of how quickly Guillen can polarize an audience. He did so often during his final years on the South Side, where he dwelled on his contract status during pennant races and butted heads with general manager Ken Williams about the makeup of the team.
Love him or hate him, Guillen is a complicated man. Baseball is a grind, and his in-your-face style eventually became exhausting.
The Sox needed a change. So did Guillen.
“To be honest, whatever people say about me and the White Sox, I am a true White Sox,” said Guillen, back to his familiar chest thumping. “Put it this way: 21 years with the same organization. Nobody can say [stuff] about me in the White Sox organization. Nobody.
“I am a true White Sox. I spent more years [with] the White Sox than anybody out there. The White Sox will always be in my heart.”
But the jersey on Guillen’s chest now says Miami.
That’s best for everyone.
• Tom Musick covers Chicago professional sports for Shaw Media. Reach him a email@example.com.