CHICAGO – As it turned out, the highlight of Friday’s home opener at U.S. Cellular Field ended up being a conversation that took place behind home plate, before the game, in broad daylight.
Old pals/adversaries Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams engaged in a lengthy conversation before the Chicago White Sox's 6-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins. The franchise’s heavyweights talked about the past, the future and a relationship that has been rockier than a quarry at times.
Guillen, the team’s former standout shortstop and World Series-winning manager, has been at the ballpark a handful of times since departing from the team at the latter stages of the 2011 season. At the time his managerial tenure ended, he was believed to be on less-than-civil terms with Williams, now the club's executive vice president.
But it has been a relationship that has long seen its ups and downs. It seemed only fitting then that they were reunited and talking again on Friday, dubbed National Sibling Day of all things, since their tie seems more brotherlike.
“We’ve been communicating for a while and trying to get together to have some dinner, but it seems like our schedules conflicted all winter long,” Williams said Saturday, downplaying the conversation. “It’s the first chance we had to visit.”
As he has done in the past, Williams patiently explained his unique dynamic with Guillen, describing it as a relationship that appears more complicated from the outside.
“As we’ve talked about, we were 18 years old [when they met] so it’s a 30-year friendship with a lot of laughs and a lot of good times,” Williams said. “We suffered through some bad times together and still managed to have some laughs along the way. We both got together and decided, whatever transpired over the last couple of years really had less to do with he and I and more to do with some things on the peripheral that some were just, created, I won’t say falsely, but certainly created with ill intentions.
“We’ve chosen to focus on all the years we had a great positive relationship and accomplished something very special, than some of the other things.”
Guillen now works as an analyst for ESPN and ESPN Deportes, although Williams believes the bench captain of the 2005 World Series champions can, and will, be a successful part of a baseball franchise again one day. He did not necessarily say that franchise would be the White Sox.
“This is actually the worst seat in the entire stadium, here in the dugout, but [Guillen] sees positioning, he sees first-step quickness, he sees swings and it’s one of the things I don’t think he gets credit for,” Williams said. “We, as a whole, were always perceived as a scouting and just old-school baseball organization, but he does factor in all of the new-fangled stuff that people talk about, with the sabermetrics and all that.
“He puts it to good use as well, so hopefully he’s not just considered by the old-guard general managers for another opportunity, but from some of the young guys who employ a different set of strategies.”
Williams didn’t stop there, though, saying that Guillen could be his own worst enemy at times with his brash, often brutally honest way with words. Williams and Guillen talked about that as well Friday.
Williams was asked if he was surprised Guillen hasn’t gotten another managerial offer vfollowing his departure from the Miami Marlins after his one season (2012).
“No … no, I’m not,” Williams said. “One thing that he has, I think, grown to appreciate, and he’s said it directly multiple times, is he appreciates my honesty and continued honesty, because he hadn’t always gotten that elsewhere. That’s nice on my part to hear.
“And I’m not going to change, so I told him, ‘Listen, a lot of what you’re going through now was self-created. 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.’”
It’s a relationship that is complicated indeed.
“I feel like baseball is missing something,” Williams said. “I think it misses personality and characters and a guy who has had as much success as he has and has much baseball knowledge as he has and has a desire to be in uniform and should be in uniform somewhere. Hopefully he gets another chance to show it.
“As we talked about, he says, ‘Kenny, I was in my late-30s when all this started. I’m 51 years old now, and I have mellowed.’ I looked at him and said, ‘You’ve what?’ I’m not completely buying it, but I know what you are talking about.’”
At that, Williams laughs.
“I hope he can get in position again to get another opportunity and there’s no doubt that if he does, he’ll be successful and a little more mellow,” Williams said.