HOUSTON -- Perhaps these Chicago White Sox could have won their first World Series since 1917 without Ozzie Guillen as their manager, but I doubt it.
Perhaps someone else could have kneaded and massaged 99 regular-season victories out of this team, held its hand as it claimed first place on Day One -- and stayed there, repaired his players' psyches after their mid-August tumble down the W-L stairs and then, audaciously so, led it to 11 more wins, from the beginning of the playoffs to the champagne-soaked end here in Houston.
How good are Guillen's White Sox? Good enough that you feel sheepish about using such a less-muscled word as "good." This team -- there are no straws that stir the Sox drink -- left good behind months ago. Since then, especially once October began, they've not only flirted with greatness, they've dated it, romanced it, married it, and Wednesday evening, gave birth to a bouncing, 30-pound, sterling silver World Series championship trophy.
Isn't it adorable?
Instead, here's how great the White Sox are: No playoff series lasted long enough for them to celebrate in their own clubhouse. They've popped corks at Fenway Park, Angels Stadium, and now Minute Maid Park, where they sprayed bottles of -- and I'm not making this up -- Barefoot Bubbly.
If you're keeping score, that's a 3-0 sweep of the former defending champion Boston Red Sox, a 4-1 series win against the Los Angeles Angels, and a 4-0 sweep of the Houston Astros, who were all but anesthetized by White Sox pitching, White Sox timely hitting, White Sox defense, White Sox cluelessness.
I mean that in a good way. The White Sox made hard look, not easy, but not daunting, either. They were this year's Idiots, which is what the Red Sox called themselves a season ago as they goofily defied history and odds.
The White Sox did the same. They ended the second-longest World Series O-fer in baseball (only the Cubs have endured more trophy drought) and did so with a team that, at season's beginning, had more question marks than exclamation points.
But could they have won this Commissioner's Trophy (that's the official name) without a 41-year-old Venezuelan who had exactly zero managerial experience when he was offered the Sox job two seasons ago, who manages by a book that only he can read, who wouldn't know how to sugarcoat a comment if you handed him a five-pound bag of Domino?
Put it this way: Tony La Russa couldn't win one with the Sox. Nor could Chuck Tanner, Al Lopez, Jeff Torborg, Gene Lamont, Jerry Manuel, Kid Gleason, Bob Lemon, Eddie Stanky, Paul Richards, and anyone else who came after Clarence "Pants" Rowland and that 1917 team.
There are lots of reasons why the White Sox won the 2005 World Series. General manager Ken Williams put together a wonderful roster, but Guillen is the one who knew how to prime it, start it, maintain it, baby it, scold it, and savor it. Without him, there are no 99 regular-season wins, no 11 playoff wins, no spontaneous postgame celebration/lovefest with hundreds of Sox fans who cheered behind the visitor's dugout at Minute Maid.
"Thank you, White Sox!" chanted the crowd.
"Thank you, Ozzie," would have worked, too.
Did you see Guillen moments after shortstop Juan Uribe's throw settled into Paul Konerko's mitt for the final out of the Series? As White Sox players collected in a joyous scrum near the pitcher's mound, Guillen first stayed in the dugout before inching finally onto the field. Even then, he stood off to the side, behind the third-base line. He did so, he said later, out of respect for the Astros' staff and players.
As he soaked in the moment, Guillen said he thought of his native Venezuela and the country-wide celebration this Series win would spark. He thought of Jerry Reinsdorf, and how happy the Sox owner would be when he held that championship trophy. And he thought of his players.
"It was amazing to see them like little kids, jumping up and down," said Guillen, his eyes red and a little bit misty.
Guillen, it turns out, was the proud parent.
Asked what he did to make a difference this season, Guillen didn't hesitate.
"Nothing," he said. "Make sure they trust me, trust them."
Nothing? Place the pieces of this White Sox team and its $69-million payroll on an examination table and it isn't much of an autopsy. Could you honestly say that on April 4, when the Sox opened their season against the Cleveland Indians, a lineup of Scott Podsednik, Tadahito Iguchi, Carl Everett, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Aaron Rowand, A.J. Pierzynski, Joe Crede and Juan Uribe would own first place in the American League Central from start to finish, and eventually be included on the short list of all-time great teams?
But Guillen knows the difference between preeners and worker bees. He also knows the importance of defense, starting pitching and a bullpen as reliable as the morning newspaper. This is a team, with apologies to the Astros, of the real killer bees. They Velcro themselves to you and then dink, bang, and nag you to death.
That's what they did to the Astros. They won Game 1 by two runs. They won Game 2, on a Chicago night so cold and wet that the dugouts should have had fireplaces, by one run. They won the 14-inning Game 3 telethon by two runs. And Wednesday night they won their final game of this season by the exact 1-0 score that they won their first game of the season.
At the end of each World Series loss, Astros manager Phil Garner must have wanted to gnaw his arm off. After all, the Sox looked beatable, but they never quite lost a game. The Sox scored just enough runs, squirmed out of just enough jams, stayed composed just enough.
"They deserved to be called world champions this year," said Garner, though you got the distinct impression that he wasn't entirely convinced.
Guillen isn't perfect. He made his share of questionable moves during this Series, and admitted as much. His lineup card in the Game 3 marathon originally had Pablo Ozuna entering the game in the 13th inning instead of Geoff Blum. Then he changed his mind and lucked out: Blum hit the game-winning home run an inning later.
But there is no victory parade without Guillen. No champagne rainfall. No ring ceremony next spring.
"I think his personality rubbed off on everybody," said Series MVP Jermaine Dye.
Winning a World Series, Guillen said not long before Wednesday evening's game, is "not my dream ... [it] is my goal.
"I have one dream in life: to see my kids' kids grow up."
When they do, Guillen can tell them about the Little Black Pinstripe Machine, about a summer to cherish, and an October worthy of its own Cooperstown exhibit.
They'll love the ending.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.