A great manager can steal a half-dozen games a season, tops, but he gets to hold court before and after each and every one. That's when Ozzie Guillen's genius really shines, and why he's the rare skipper who can write his own ticket.
Guillen carries on like a man being paid by the word, which explains how he suckered the Florida Marlins to move him to Miami at double the pay — all of it part of a scheme the Oz just hatched to buy himself a 62-foot yacht someday.
Before we get into Guillen's grand plan, here's a quick tribute: All hail the return of the manager-as-superstar.
A return to the days when the oldest guy in uniform also happens to be the most entertaining, not to mention the feistiest.
Think Billy Martin coming and going in New York, battling with his players, bickering with The Boss, and still finding time to fill up the tabloids. Or Leo Durocher, Casey Stengel, Connie Mack and John McGraw. They provided a reason to go the ballpark beyond wins and losses, a chance to see in person what stunt they might try next.
"It's not about Ozzie," Guillen said Wednesday in Miami, where he was introduced as the Marlins' new manager.
Just don't bet on it. Guillen was on his best behavior sitting alongside Marlins' owner Jeff Loria, but you only had to wind the videotape back a few days to remember how deep his mischievous streak runs.
Guillen's release by the White Sox came as no surprise. His off-and-on feud with Chicago general manager Kenny Williams reached the tipping point a few weeks ago, when Guillen started grumbling about a contract extension despite having a year left on his current deal and his team losing touch with surging Detroit in the AL Central race.
At a postgame news conference Monday, Guillen said he had "no regrets" about his eight-year stint in Chicago, which included the town's first World Series championship since 1917, but added, "Very disappointed in this year, yes."
He said nice things about Williams and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, as well, and acknowledged reports that he would be managing in Miami next season.
"They sound like they are interested," Guillen conceded, but said the only place he was headed at the moment was Spain on vacation — conveniently leaving out the stopover in Miami.
That was the official version
Unofficially, Guillen told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday that he was as good as gone, and leaving because he was underpaid. The interview didn't run until Tuesday. Here are the — pardon the expression — money quotes:
"With money, I can go buy me a new boat, I can go buy me a new car, I can dress my wife the way I want to dress her, I can go to Spain," Guillen said. "With the ring, I can go to United Airlines and say, 'Hello, I won the 2005 championship. Can you fly me to Spain?' Hell, no.
"Money is everything besides health. Money is next to that. A lot of people say, 'Oh, love.' They don't know what love means. I guarantee you, if you raise a girl where I grew up and you've got no money and she loves you, but you put the same girl with a guy who's got a lot of money, I'll bet she'll love the guy with money. That's the way it is. I love you, but I'm hungry.
"I work in this job for money. I don't work for nothing. Money. That's it. The ring? (Bleep) the ring. I don't even wear my (bleeping) rings. I don't."
"You know what I saw a couple days ago? I saw a 62-foot boat. That's what I want, and that's what I'm going to get. People have to pay me for that. White Sox? I don't know. Marlins? I don't know. But somebody will pay. I want to buy my (bleeping) boat. That's my inspiration. My inspiration is money. That's everybody's inspiration."
OK, so we know what Ozzie wants out of the deal. But what should the Marlins expect for all that money?
Plenty of headaches, to name one; heartache, as measured in wins and losses, for another. Guillen would have to perform a miracle to see the postseason with the Marlins' habitually lowball talent — even Tony La Russa couldn't make a difference with their payroll — but he will help the club sell seats in the new ballpark.
Guillen isn't even close to Angels skipper Mike Scioscia when it comes to managing on the fly, either, but he has good instincts and a well-deserved reputation as a motivator, especially with Latin ballplayers. The Marlins are gambling that he can work his magic on shortstop Hanley Ramirez, one of the club's few prized long-term assets, but they better remember that when it comes to building loyalty, Guillen's great strength — honesty — cuts both ways.
Who can forget how he mentored Magglio Ordonez in Chicago, then turned on his fellow Venezuelan the second he bolted for Detroit and blamed Guillen for meddling in his contract talks with the White Sox?
"He thinks he's got an enemy? No, he's got a big one," Guillen said at the time. "He knows I can (bleep) him over in a lot of different ways. He better shut the (bleep) up and just play for the Detroit Tigers."
The Marlins will be paying top-dollar for that kind of buzz, a distinct change in tactics for an ownership that previously hired good company men like Joe Girardi and Fredi Gonzalez on the cheap and kept them on a short leash.
The deal is reported at four years and $4 million per. The guess here is it's likely to last only as long as management is content with Ozzie stealing plenty more headlines than games.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/JimLitke.