I barely finished the question.
“Yes,” said Rick Morrissey quickly in reply to whether he wished his deadline was a few months later for his book, Ozzie’s School of Management?
Morrissey’s last chapter covers Ozzie Guillen’s first spring training with Florida. That was pushing things for a book due out in May.
However, no sooner did the book go to press than Guillen found himself in major trouble for incredibly stupid statements about Fidel Castro. Now that would have been a fun chapter for the book.
“Yes, I wish I could have gotten into that, but that’s life,” Morrissey said. “Frankly, with Ozzie, if the deadline was two months later, there would be something else.”
Morrissey, who covered Guillen first as a columnist for the Tribune and now with the Sun-Times, hardly was lacking in material. He uses the backdrop of Guillen’s final stormy season in Chicago to paint a portrait of a most unusual, complex and compelling man.
Morrissey attempts to explain Guillen’s approach to baseball and life. However, I found this line from him to be telling:
Sometimes there’s not a method to Guillen’s madness. Sometimes, there’s just madness.
Here’s my Q/A with Morrissey.
What does the title say about what you’re trying to accomplish in the book?
The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s like you’d see in one of those bestseller self-help books. Let’s take a crazy manager and see how he does his job. Obviously, there’s the perception that Ozzie is a wild and crazy guy. I think he is a victim of that big personality. People don’t take him seriously.
But there’s more to him. I wanted to see how he does his job.
Is Guillen crazy or is there a method to his madness?
We had several discussions where I said, ‘Ozzie, you’re doing things for effect.’ He said, ‘No, I’m not. I say what I think.’ I do think he likes the attention. He says he doesn’t. However, some of the things he does are borderline ridiculous. You don’t put yourself in that many situations to be criticized if you didn’t want attention.
You didn’t do this book in partnership with Guillen. What kind of cooperation did you get from him?
It’s interesting. He never said, ‘I don’t have time for you.’ If I thought I was bothering him, he’d say, ‘Don’t worry about it.’
Reporters always are looking for the one-on-one interview, but I soon learned he was better in a group situation. The stories were better and he was more engaged. I knew there’s no way writers could write about most of this stuff. I found I got a lot of insights into how he does things when he was talking to a group of us.
Were you surprised about Guillen’s statements about Castro?
I was surprised in the sense that he would go there. He’s a Latin guy and he’s a smart guy. He knows there are things you don’t say when you’re managing in the Cuban capital of America. I don’t think he meant to say what he said. I’m not apologizing for him, but I think it was more along the lines of ‘I can’t believe this guy still is in power.’ But that doesn’t change that he said what he said.
Do you think the harsh reaction will change him?
I thought he looked very contrite. I had never seen him shaken like that. However, I don’t think you can change him. Maybe in the short term, but not in the long term. That’s his personality.
Guillen is the king of F-bombs. You decided to use all of his language in its colorful glory. Why?
I did think about the kids who might pick up this book. But swearing is as much a part of Ozzie as breathing. I thought if I took it out, I wouldn’t be painting a complete portrait of him.
So what kind of portrait did you paint of Guillen?
That’s a good question. I think I painted a portrait of someone who is a lot more than the cartoonish depiction of him in many circles. There’s always a lot of, ‘That’s Ozzie being Ozzie.’ It is him, but there’s more.
It’s about how he handles his players. He’s a better game tactician than people give him credit for.
It’s also about someone who is very needy in terms of attention and affirmation. He wanted that (contract extension) from Jerry Reinsdorf last year, and he didn’t get it. Then he left. That sums up a lot about Ozzie.