A couple of weeks ago, on Valentine's Day no less, I foolishly declared "Oneygate" — the war of words between former Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Jenks and Oney Guillen, son of manager Ozzie Guillen — to have been finally slammed shut. Wrong again, Daver. As you may have heard by now, the great portal of controversy burst open again this weekend, and the end result is that neither side looks particularly good.
Let's start with Jenks. After appearing to suture the rift shut a couple of weeks ago, he ripped open the stitches while talking to the Tribune's wonderfully wacky Phil Rogers late last week, saying:
A lot of the stuff with Ozzie (Guillen) and the front office gets old. It has been a problem for a long time. It was a problem before last year. … It's going to be nice for me to see how things are done here.
Really, Bobby? Did you have to go back there? I guess you did. But, why? Why?!
There's really no reason at this point for Jenks to be taking shots at Ozzie and the Sox front office. He's already made his point in this regard and, with spring training games getting underway, now's the time when Jenks should be burying his White Sox cap deep in the storage venue of his choice and focusing on his role with the Boston Red Sox, who enter this season a highly favored team with lofty expectations.
But, clearly, there are some very hurt feelings involved here. In fact, Jenks says so himself, telling Rogers:
There's always the business side to baseball. But when you've been with a team for a long time, it's hard not to take things personally. I definitely took things personally. I still take them personally.
What's worse, when Phil asks Jenks specifically about Oney, the 30-year-old reliever says, "Middle child syndrome. I guess he needs attention.'' Granted, I can't disagree with Bobby there. In fact, that was exactly my reaction to the Guillen son's original Twitter outburst as well.
You can probably guess what happens next: Oney reads this quote, just as he read the first few Jenks jewels back in December, loads up his Twittergun and starts firing off poorly punctuated rounds. But here's a twist: Oney didn't do that. In fact, this time it appears he's trying to put and keep the whole matter at rest, tweeting:
I will not comment a single word bc to me the issue was over. Hope u know now who the problem was
What kind of crazy, mixed-up world do we live in when Oney Guillen looks like a paragon of maturity? He even delivered a fairly convincing right hook to Jenks' credibility with that that second quasi-sentence. Oney, my man, I underestimated you.
A Glaring Problem
So the story ends here, right? Not so fast. Enter Oswaldo Jose Guillen. In a now-widely quoted interview from Arizona on Saturday, Ozzie seemingly tried to take the high road initially but jsut couldn't quite keep himself from jumping the curb and heading down the path of violently worded threats. First, Guillen appears to wield his son as a weapon, saying:
Please, someone who knows [Jenks], please [tell him not to] talk about Oney. It’s going to be ugly. I talked to my wife about it, to make sure to tell Oney to let it go. ... Stay away from Oney. He’s not a good kid. When you go to that point with him, Oney knows a lot about a lot of things.
It's good to hear that Ozzie does seem to be going through family channels to settle Oney down, but there's also a subtle implication here that the tweet-happy son is a rogue element who can't be controlled under every circumstance. Sure, that's understandable given that Oney is, indeed, an adult but, nevertheless, a glaring problem remains. The White Sox clubhouse still isn't soundproofed. As long as Oney remains a "bad kid" (by Ozzie's implication), is any player safe from his digital declarations? Apparently not, according to the guy wearing the manager's cap.
But then Ozzie takes it one step further, seething:
[Things] that happened last year, I can make a book about [Jenks]. Not one page — I can make a book out of this kid. ... He knows I can easily kill this kid. ... If Bobby was talking about the club, I would be on [TV] everywhere, because I would rip his guts.
For starters, that's some pretty violent imagery. Let's take it down a notch. Beyond that, what happened to the sanctity of the clubhouse, Ozzie? You'd violate that, and risk the trust of your own players, just to get back at one, solitary disgruntled relief pitcher? That seems short-sighted, if not downright irresponsible.
Again, clearly there is a long history here and many, many hurt feelings. I actually choose to believe Ozzie when he says the team went out of its way to help Jenks through many personal problems and even "lied" to presumably preserve the pitcher's already ailing reputation. That's to be commended. But if someone is going to take the high road here — and someone, anyone (Bueller?) really should — shouldn't it be management?
The Other Side Of Ozzie
At the end of the day, it's an ugly situation that should have been left out of the public eye from the get-go. (Not that I would deny the whole spat has been interesting to write about and discuss.) And the fact that it went public does appear to be Jenks' fault. But Oney and Ozzie certainly haven't shied away from fanning the flames.
The question now is whether this controversy will affect the team on the field. As mentioned a couple of times now, I worry that the guys still in the Sox clubhouse could feel, at the very least, awkward about how openly their manager is responding to Jenks' shots and how vociferously he's issuing threats — even if they agree with him.
Ozzie Guillen is an open, honest, colorful, funny-as-hell guy. A truly revelatory sports personality. More important, he's a good manager who's generally done well by the White Sox. But this feud is revealing another side of Ozzie — an ugly one — that we've caught glimpses of in the past but he's done a better job of concealing as of late. Of course, the whole ugly mess isn't exactly helping Jenks' case either, so there are no winners here. Still, Ozzie's job is to lead and he's not exactly getting spring training rolling on a happy note. Good thing games start today.