Ozzie Guillen deserves another shot to manage in Major League Baseball.
Guillen, the fiery former manager who won a World Series with the Chicago White Sox, has been on the beach, out of the game for years now.
Guillen, now 52, is doing some national TV work, but wants to get back on the field where he belongs.
Any day now, there could be an opening. The Detroit Tigers, drowning in a sea of losses – losers of 11 of their last 13 – will probably fire manager Brad Ausmus.
The Tigers have underachieved for more than a year now. They finished in last place in the American League Central last season.
This past offseason, they spent big free-agent dollars to pump their payroll up to nearly $200 million.
Still, the results have been brutal under Ausmus, who is in the last year of a three-year contract. The Tigers (16-21) are in fourth place, 7.5 games out.
With the Tigers playing poorly, there has been plenty of speculation about a possible replacement.
You’ve heard Lloyd McClendon, who is managing the Tigers’ Triple-A team in Toledo. He managed the Mariners and Pirates previously. Kirk Gibson, the former Arizona Diamondbacks manager, is a color analyst for the Tigers’ TV broadcast.
The big fish sitting out there is Ron Gardenhire, the former longtime Minnesota Twins manager. He’s been out of the game since 2014 when he was fired.
All are worthy candidates. Still, Guillen’s name is missing in action. In years gone by, Guillen’s name would have been on the top of the list. He’s a winner. He was known for getting the most out of his players. Plus, he was known for calling out players who weren’t pulling their weight.
But that was before his debacle in Miami.
The Marlins fired Guillen after just one season in 2012. Guillen got into trouble down there with his mouth. In a Time magazine interview, Guillen said, “I love Fidel Castro…I respect Fidel Castro.”
As expected, it didn’t play well with Cubans in Miami. Fans both protested and stopped coming to the ballpark. It took a toll on the franchise. It definitely led to Guillen’s ouster after the season.
The Marlins pulled the plug on Guillen and paid the remainder of that four-year, $10-million deal.
Since then, Guillen hasn’t been welcomed in MLB. He’s never mentioned for gigs. But he misses the game and still is hopeful he gets another opportunity.
The funny thing about the Ausmus situation is that many thought Guillen, not Ausmus, should have replaced Jim Leyland when he stepped down after the 2013 season.
But Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers’ GM at the time, rolled the dice. At the time of Ausmus’ hiring, this columnist wasn’t onboard with a rookie managing a championship-caliber team. It just made no sense.
Ausmus had never been a manager or a coach, for that matter, in the big leagues. Worse, Ausmus, a former Tigers catcher, never even held either of those jobs in the minor leagues.
Detroiters had seen this movie before. Both Buddy Bell and Alan Trammell were hired with no experience and both were disasters.
Dombrowski put his reputation on the line with this out-of-leftfield hiring. If this turns out to be a disaster – and it’s looking more and more a real possibly every day – Dombrowski will take a hit in history for going with an inexperienced manager in a spot where you needed a proven skipper.
The best man for the job both then and now is Guillen.
First, Guillen has a relationship with Miguel Cabrera, the team’s best player. Both are from Venezuela.
The Tigers’ roster is loaded with Hispanic players. Guillen speaks their language, can relate. Best of all, Guillen is demanding and makes folks accountable.
Plus, Guillen won a World Series with the White Sox in 2005, ending the franchise’s 88-year championship drought. The Tigers haven’t won it all since 1984.
Guillen’s resume is pretty impressive. You can’t say the same about Ausmus.
The Tigers’ window to win a championship is closing, if not closed already. It seemed as if this team had an honest shot win in 2014 with the right manager to lead the way, but that has faded.
It would brighten again with Guillen. He deserves and needs another chance.