Harold Baines stood in the hallway of the White Sox clubhouse Saturday, swirling a drink in a cup. The first-base coach had not traveled with the team to St. Petersburg for the first two games of the American League Division Series because of an ulcer flareup. Long since in uniform, he greeted players and coaches in his church-quiet way.
Just then manager Ozzie Guillen — the anti-Baines — burst from his office in his flame-licked Christian Audigier T-shirt, screaming, "My boy is still alive! My boy is still alive!"
Baines stood, smiling, silent.
Such passes for tension in a locker room run by the live-wire 45-year-old, even with his team one game from elimination and a month into a seemingly perpetual string of must-wins.
Whether by whim of his seemingly capricious nature or by some cunning design, Guillen by action and words keeps the White Sox clubhouse at a high level of anxiety and amazing state of serenity. His players see a grand plan in what often feels like chaos.
"He does everything for a reason," said reserve catcher Toby Hall, who played for Lou Piniella as a Ray and calls him "an older version of Ozzie." "He just doesn't make up stuff to try to get people motivated."
Owner Jerry Reinsdorf took a chance on the Sox's former rookie of the year and All-Star shortstop for the 2004 season — his previous experience was coaching third base for the Expos and Marlins — and has reaped a World Series title (2005, when Guillen was named AL manager of the year) and a Central Division title this season. Guillen is brash, loud and vulgar and runs a loose club when viewed briefly from the outside. But inside, completely different.
"He cares. He cares about what he does," outfielder/DH Ken Griffey said. "That goes a long way."
Guillen, the majors' first Venezuelan manager and the first Latin-born to win a World Series, declared he would retire if he won the championship but recanted and has since been re-signed through 2012. His rants are legend and his verbal attacks against current and former players and media members have pushed the bounds of what fans and peers can accept as self-expression.
Just in the past few weeks, he questioned Javier Vazquez's legitimacy as a big-game pitcher before a crucial start, then impugned his entire staff, saying, "I don't have an ace here." That staff eventually pitched the White Sox through three must-wins in three games against three teams for the division title.
Either reflecting or fueling team tension, Guillen said shortstop Orlando Cabrera considered himself above the team after the two-time Gold Glover complained to official scorers about calls on two fielding plays. Guillen said he wasn't paid to be a babysitter.
"I don't have to do it with other teams because they always had my back," Cabrera told the Chicago Tribune. "They don't want to do it here, I can take care of my own business."
But Cabrera appears in the minority on the issue. While sports etiquette usually dictates internal issues be kept such, most White Sox players seem unfazed at being skewered in the media by Guillen.
"He just wants the best from anybody," Griffey said. "He doesn't ask you to do anything that you're not capable of doing."
White Sox general manager Kenny Williams apparently agrees, issuing a statement after the Cabrera spat saying, "The one thing Cabrera needs to know about Ozzie is he had faults, and his No. 1 fault is that he protects his players too much. If Orlando doesn't understand that, he needs to talk to his neighbors."
Or go read the bulletin board, where a mantra was left in black marker: "F--- feelings. It's about winning."