At SABR 51 on Thursday, July 6, 2023, Chicago White Sox great Ozzie Guillén participated in a Player Panel at the Palmer House Hilton hotel. The session was moderated by Chuck Garfien of NBC Sports Chicago.
Guillén is a White Sox studio analyst for NBC Sports Chicago and a former major-league player and manager. He was a shortstop for 16 seasons from 1985 to 2000 and an American League Rookie of the Year and Rawlings Gold Glove Award recipient. In 2005, he managed the White Sox to their first World Series championship in 88 years and became the first Latino manager in major-league history to win a Series title. He also managed the Miami Marlins in 2012 before joining ESPN Deportes in 2013 and NBC Sports Chicago in 2019.
- Audio: Click here to listen to the SABR 51 Player Panel with Ozzie Guillén (MP3; 56:37)
Here are some highlights:
ON STARTING OUT IN THE MINORS
- “When any scout went to Venezuela in my time, in the ‘80s, it was one scout for 40 kids. You had to be very lucky, that man sees you, ‘Oh, I kind of like that guy.’ It’s too many people to see in three hours. One scout for 40 kids. Nowadays, thank God, it’ll be 40 scouts to see one kid.
- “When you’re coming from the minor leagues — I was hitting, oh my God, .347, batting title, all this. I came to the big leagues and Jack McKeon said, ‘You’re not going to play in the big leagues hitting .340 and making 40 errors. You’re not going to come to the big leagues hitting .290 and making 30-something errors.’ That’s Single-A and Double-A. My philosophy was from (fellow Venezuelan players) Davey Concepción, Pompeyo Davalillo, Vic Davalillo: (If) you’re not hitting in the minor leagues, you’re never going to make it to the big leagues. If you can hit, they’ll find you a place to play. Back then? Nah. You had to catch the ball. Then I changed totally. I made 12 errors, still hit .308, came to the big leagues.”
ON PLAYING UNDER TONY LA RUSSA
- “I was lucky enough, I thank God every day, when I came to the White Sox, I had the best (manager) in the game. The best one, the hardest-nosed, the guy who’s not going to be afraid to tell you right in your face how you’re really feeling, how you’ve got to play the game. I grew up with Tony. I don’t know what is the reason people in this country or in this town hate Tony the way he is. He’s the best manager in the history of the game. Mr. Connie Mack owned the (Philadelphia A’s) team, and he never had the opportunity to manage different people: African-Americans, Latinos, Japanese, all kinds of (people) — Tony did, OK? That’s why I consider him the best manager in the game.”
- “Now the guys throw five innings, 102 pitches, because aw, he’s got a stomachache … 102 pitches and five innings, out. Four innings, 96 pitches, out. And what do they say? He did a tremendous job, keep the team with only two runs on the board. He only pitched four innings? And we have that conversation all the time. Now, there he goes. Here comes the guy from the bullpen making $200 (million) and they have to take the load. And that’s why that’s the problem about baseball. Sabermetrics.”
- “Everybody hates (former White Sox catcher) A.J. Pierzynski. Not White Sox fans. Everybody, including his own mom, hates him. OK, but if you play with A.J. Pierzynski, you’re managing, and you play with him, you love that son of a gun every second in the game because he shows up to play and kick everybody’s ass. That’s a sabermetric. That’s a real sabermetric.”
- “Exit velocity: bullshit. Ok, you have a better chance? Yes. But in baseball, it’s not a better chance. It’s numbers. ‘He hit a very soft .350, but he hit .350.’ You’re going to pay me as a .350 hitter. You’re not going to pay me for how many balls I hit hard. Nope. … Whoever came up with exit velocity? You want the ball to jump out of your bat, put some cork on it.”
ON WHO SHOULD BE IN THE HALL OF FAME
- Guillén: “You’re going to hate me for this one: Sammy Sosa. Hello? The reason is because in that era, Sammy was supposed to be cheating. We don’t know, we assume. We assume.”
- Garfien: “He was cheating.”
- Guillén: “Well, OK. Hey, by the way, don’t get me wrong, I’m against that. A thousand percent. That cost me money, that cost me years, that cost me a better career. Yes. But when Sammy was doing it, 90% of the people were doing it. And everybody was blaming Sammy. Everyone was against Sammy. And I think Sammy, with or without the numbers, he should be there because I think he earned it.”
ON THE WHITE SOX’S STRUGGLES IN 2023
- Garfien: “Well, it’s not working. We know that. I will say that when they rebuilt and made the trades, the trades they made on paper made sense. And we always talk about how talented this team is. And what we’re finding is: there is talent, and then there’s a team. And what does the team — how much is the team getting the most out of its talent? Would you say the White Sox are getting the most out of their talent? The answer is 100% no. You could have injuries, underperformance, and that’s going to happen with every team. You could maybe have depth in your minor league system that’s going to help with that. They don’t seem to have that. Systematically, something seems to be wrong with the White Sox and the way things are going.”
Transcription assistance by Davy Andrews.
For more coverage of SABR 51, visit SABR.org/convention.
Originally published: July 24, 2023. Last Updated: July 24, 2023.