The year was 2006 and Ozzie Guillen was lounging in the dugout in Cleveland chatting with a bunch of us ink-stained wretches before a game against the Indians. Times were good. The White Sox were coming off their first World Series title in 88 years and had opened the '06 campaign with an 18-7 record.
Guillen was f-bombing his way through his daily pregame meeting with reporters when I asked what it's been like to have every road series circled on every opponent's calendar and have gobs of media in the clubhouse and dugout before a routine game in May. The White Sox, remember, had long been used to playing second fiddle in their own city to the Cubs.
"Hey man, media don't want to know about my team. They want to know what the bleep I say," a wide-eyed Guillen told me while failing to contain his laughter. "They want to see if Ozzie is crazy enough to say something that will get him in bleeping trouble."
Well Ozzie is in plenty of, ahem, bleeping trouble -- again -- and the Miami Don't-Call-Us-Florida Marlins had to have known what they were getting themselves into.
Guillen is a loose cannon. Always has been, always will be. He's offended gays in Chicago. He's taken on media members, opposing players and managers. It's who he is.
But saying Fidel Castro is a great man for staying in power for so long? What was he thinking?
The Marlins went for a lot of splashes this winter in terms of a new ballpark and new players, topped by Jose Reyes. It had been widely rumored for a year or more that Guillen was their man once they moved into Little Havana.
The political climate between the city and the team is not good down there and Guillen could have helped it, instead of being a divisive influence. The Marlins are not considered good neighbors in the way they got the park built all the way down to little issues such as grass-roots neighborhood parking lots.
Give Guillen credit for facing his issue and meeting the media in Miami. Obviously, that was a major damage-control move, especially by doing it in both Spanish and English, but it was also a way of being accountable for his words and actions. Somehow, he survived the big, bad media. A certain hockey team you might know could take a lesson.
What Guillen said is obviously reprehensible. But it's not nearly the issue if he's anywhere else but Miami. Know your market.
Now they have a manager that has basically erased all the goodwill of the ballpark opening. And while Guillen's Castro remarks got all the publicity last week, perhaps an even more amazing set of comments to CBSSports.com two days earlier hardly got noticed.
In that interview, Guillen said he gets drunk after virtually every game. Seriously.
"I go to the hotel bar, get drunk, sleep," Guillen said. "I don't do anything else. I get drunk because I'm happy we win or I get drunk because I'm very sad and disturbed because we lose. Same routine, it never changes. It's been the same routine for 25, 28 years. It doesn't change. I don't like to go out."
The Marlins have no choice but to keep Guillen on a short rope. Zero tolerance. Ozzie's lips can't be so loose anymore.
Tito is ticked
Although he's apparently oblivious to clubhouse beer and fried chicken, Terry Francona is piqued at his former employer.
The man who managed the Red Sox to their World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 won't be at this weekend's Fenway Park 100th anniversary celebrations against the Yankees and he wasn't shy about telling the Boston Globe why.
The Globe, remember, broke the story of the odd in-game diet of the likes of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. It also recounted how Francona's job performance was impacted by his use of pain medication. Francona is among many people who think the Boston front office was the key source.
"Somebody went out of their way to make me look pretty bad," Francona told the paper last week. "It's a shame. I'm sure they'll have a great event and I was part of a lot of that stuff there, but I just can't go back there and start hugging people and stuff without feeling a little bit hypocritical."
Francona revealed he did not speak with Red Sox owner John Henry until February, more than five months after the team did not extend his contract. Henry asked Francona to attend the ceremony (every living Red Sox player/coach has been invited) and Francona declined.
"Until I'm more comfortable with some answers on what happened at the end of the year, I don't want to have much to do with the organization and that's a shame," Francona said. "With all the good things that were accomplished, I just feel pretty strongly about that."
Spirit of 162
Most fans and media despise Tropicana Field but the Rays do a nice job trying to spruce up the hand they're dealt. They're doing it again this year with a new party zone down the left-field line called "162 Landing."
Marked on the ground just beyond the wall is the spot where Evan Longoria's home run landed in the 12th inning of Game 162 -- the last game of the 2011 regular season -- to beat the Yankees and put Tampa in the playoffs.
There is also a museum-like timeline of the wacky final night of last season that saw the Rays and Cardinals sneak into the playoffs while the Red Sox and Braves were left out.
For Bisons openers
*When you're at Coca-Cola Field, be sure to check out the opening video montage played just before the Bisons take the field. Great look back at some of the great moments, all the way back to the Opening Day parade in 1988, and great players from the first 24 seasons.
*A lot of fans are crabbing about the new $1 surcharge on tickets purchased the day of the game at the box office. I get it from both sides: The Bisons were getting killed by showers three hours before a game ruining their walkup and wouldn't mind more advance sales to assure in-house crowds. The fan thinks it's a gouge by a team that does a huge chunk of its business these days on walkup sales.
Fact of the matter: Many major-league teams now have this surcharge. I don't like it either but $1 is far less than the $5-6 in silly fees you pay ordering online.
*Love the new gift shop on the first-base side. It's not big on its own but it's an improvement over the Batter's Box on the third-base side and having both available during busy games is a huge improvement.
*The team needs to relocate the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame display to the main concourse. It's been buried upstairs on the club level where few fans are these days for far too long. Move some ad signage around. Do something.
Put the plaques downstairs and let people see the city's history-makers like they do in places such as Rochester. Sell a sponsorship for it if you have to. The greats deserve better.
*Big E on concession sign makers: In Buffalo, it's fried bologna. Not fried baloney.
Around the horn
*After one week of the season, there were 11 teams with composite batting averages below .230 while the Pirates (.199), Athletics (.195), Padres (.179) and Indians (.176) were all below .200. On the flip side, 10 teams had composite ERAs under 3.00. Hmmm. Makes you think the lack of steroids is changing some stats these days.
*Joe Girardi flipped his lineup for the home opener and said he's going to keep it that way for the forseeable future against right-handed starters. He put Alex Rodriguez third and Robinson Cano fourth to cause trouble for late-inning left-handed relievers.
*Love the Rangers putting a statue in front of their ballpark honoring the fans and depicting Shannon Stone with his son. Stone is the suburban Dallas man who was killed during a game in Arlington last summer while reaching over the left-field wall to catch a ball flipped into the stands by Josh Hamilton.
*Have to see how Johnny Damon works out in Cleveland. He's good at lifting teams into contention but the Tribe seems a ways away in the early going. It almost smells like Damon simply wanted a deal with anyone to continue his quest for 3,000 hits. Worth watching.
*The Yankees put top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos on the Scranton DL Friday with what they said was a sore back after he flamed out here Thursday against the Bisons. Better hope that's all it is.
Banuelos is 0-1, 10.13 in two starts, has allowed 14 hits in 5 1/3 innings and walked six Thursday against the Bisons. His delivery was erratic and his velocity was down, making him look anything but a prospect.