Guillen a big reason for buzz about Marlins

STEVEN WINE AP Sports Writer Published:

MIAMI (AP) -- The Marlins' motormouth manager never runs out of material. When he's done talking shop, he'll talk about shopping.

And so we learn Ozzie Guillen is a fan of Bed, Bath & Beyond. He buys cookware there, and stuff for the place he's renting at spring training, and wooden hangers for his clothes.

"Men hate to go to those places, but that's a relaxing place for me," Guillen says. "I'd rather be there than drinking. You think I'm weird?

Weird is not quite the word to describe the wizardry of Ozzie. He's excitable, energetic, entertaining, brazen, unpredictable, opinionated, clever, funny and profane, not necessarily in that order.

He's also chatty. Guillen's a big reason there's suddenly so much noise about the Marlins, a team that has led the league in fan apathy for much of its 20-year existence.

With his hiring last fall, the Marlins began a spending binge that also included the acquisition of All-Stars Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Carlos Zambrano and Heath Bell. Now, as the rejuvenated Marlins move into a new ballpark, they're touted as a playoff contender, with excited fans expecting Guillen to lead the way.

"If they love me in September the way they love me now, we're in good shape," he says.

The Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria knew what they were getting when they hired Guillen -- he was the third-base coach for their 2003 World Series championship team. The Marlins haven't made the playoffs since, while Guillen began a successful run as manager of the Chicago White Sox in 2004 and led them to the World Series title the following season.

Guillen's predecessors as manager of the Marlins include Fredi Gonzalez and Edwin Rodriguez, who had in common a headline-avoiding leadership style. Loria fired both.

"Ozzie will be a fun, refreshing change from what we've had," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest says. "I don't know that anybody can be as loud and provocative as Ozzie."

Guillen-watchers wonder how he'll get along with Loria. The demanding owner once fired headstrong Joe Girardi, who six weeks later was chosen NL manager of the year.

But Loria says he and Guillen enjoy a good relationship that dates back more than 20 years. The owner likens Guillen to a major hurricane by describing him as a "Category 5 manager."

"This is a man with great passion, great energy," Loria says.

Guillen, who departed the White Sox on friendly terms with hands-on owner Jerry Reinsdorf, has no qualms about trying to satisfy another boss who's quick to share his opinions in the manager's office.

"Jeffrey loves baseball. So does Jerry Reinsdorf," Guillen says. "Sometimes it's not easy to work for people who are baseball fans. Sometimes they think they know more than you.

"I always say the farther you sit from the plate, the smarter you get. Jeffrey told me, 'But I sit in the first row.' And I said, 'Yes, but you don't have the lineup card.'"

With that, Guillen laughs, which he does often. So do his players. The Marlins' clubhouse is filled with plenty of personality, including the jocular Bell, the unpredictable Zambrano and Twitter phenom Logan Morrison.

Buehrle, Reyes, Zambrano and Bell all agree the Marlins' fast-talking manager with the thick Venezuelan accent made them excited to join the team.

"Ozzie keeps everybody loose," says Buehrle, who won 108 games for Guillen over the past eight seasons with the White Sox. "When he's talking to you, you kind of laugh and giggle. And when he turns around and walks away, you look at everybody and say, 'Does anybody understand what he said?'

"He's like one of the players. I love playing for him."

Even holdover Hanley Ramirez, whose attitude and effort confounded previous managers, seems buoyed by the arrival of Guillen.

"He's a good guy," says Ramirez, who's moved from shortstop to third base to make room for Reyes. "You've just got to show him you come to play every day and hustle every day. You can go 0 for 4, but if he sees you give everything you've got, he's going to be cool with it."

The Marlins have already witnessed Guillen's notorious temper -- he was thrown out of a game barely a week into spring training. But the former shortstop, who batted .264 in 16 major league seasons, says he's not going to become angry at a player for going hitless.

"If you're 0 for 4 or 0 for 20 it's my fault, because you're playing," he says. "I put you in the lineup."

Guillen has only a few rules, such as playing hard and being on time. He's also a stickler when it comes to "The Star-Spangled Banner," a subject that inspires a typical monologue.

"Be there for the national anthem, and don't be late -- I don't care if you go out there butt-naked," says Guillen, who became a U.S. citizen in 2006. "Respect the flag. A lot of people have been killed trying to make this country free for us. You should be there for at least two minutes and respect that, especially if you come from another country."

Guillen said the same sort of things for years in Chicago, where he was beloved as a star player and successful skipper. A feud with general manager Ken Williams soured the situation, and at the end of a disappointing 2011 season, he was granted a request to be released from his contract.

For Guillen, it was a wrenching conclusion to a run that made him the toast of the South Side and a national hero in Venezuela. Six months later, as he begins a new season with a new team, the sting remains.

"I just got fired," he says with a chuckle lacking its usual mirth. "I have to prove to people how good I am."

And then Guillen goes silent, if only for a moment.