Prior to the start of Friday's opening SoxFest Town Hall Meeting involving general manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen, Williams announced the team exercised its 2012 option on Guillen's contract. So, one more potential off-the-field distraction was removed, with the questions of Guillen's future erased for at least the next two years.
The decision took Guillen by surprise, or at least the timing of it caught him off guard. As media members were scrambling around a small ballroom at the Palmer House Hilton interviewing players during a 50-minute pre-SoxFest session, Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf gave Guillen the good news while sitting off to the side and away from the action.
When Guillen called his wife, Ibis, to tell her of the decision, he told the smallish crowd at the Town Hall Meeting how she cried.
"Was she crying because she was happy or sad?" said Williams with a laugh.
"I'm a new man, because I went through hell all summer," said Guillen, speaking to the media after the question-and-answer session with the fans. "And I wanted to get that thing behind and move on and enjoy the game I always enjoy. Go about my business the way I always do."
Last year's White Sox campaign was one of the strangest in recent memory. A group of talent looking to be a division contender on paper stumbled out to a 24-33 start and sat 9 1/2 games back in early June. A stunning 28-8 run over a 36-game stretch quickly pushed the White Sox back into first in the American League Central, but a late-season fade and the inability to beat the Twins left the South Siders home for the postseason.
Meanwhile, the once tight-knit relationship between Guillen and Williams seemed to be eroding. There also was an ongoing Twitter controversy involving Guillen's middle son, Oney, who no longer was an employee of the organization.
Most players said the off-the-field issues didn't affect their on-the-field play. Then again, an excited group of White Sox players looking at postseason chances for 2011 have stressed a return to focusing on nothing but baseball. Friday's move had that same meaning behind it for Guillen.
"That's our point. That's what we want," Guillen said. "I want people just to worry about [Adam] Dunn. Talk about [Jesse] Crain, talk about [Paul Konerko]. Don't talk about Ozzie's contract, if you guys get along again.
"I don't think the players were distracted [by] it. I think the fans and [coaches and the front office] were distracted about it. That's not easy, when you come to work and you don't want to come to work. It's happened to me. It's happened to him [Williams]. It's happened to Jerry, too.
"We got caught in the distractions and saying stuff," Guillen said. "On my side, I don't think I helped good enough to get it done. This thing now, we just talk about the club and the fans, my family, his family, Jerry. Everyone is going to have a little release about -- I'm here for another day and no more questions about it, and that will help everyone."
Williams said the option would not have been picked up if he didn't wholeheartedly believe Guillen was the right man for the job, and there never has been a question concerning Guillen's ability to run a ballclub. He added how the social media controversy has been addressed enough where Williams doesn't believe it will be an issue and doesn't intend on addressing it again.
"Listen, through communication in any way, shape or form comes a better understanding and better direction," Williams said. "We've never had a problem one-on-one, directly. Anything that's ever happened with regards to getting off track has been put on our plates by other peripheral things."
"You guys made this kid very famous. Oney is making a lot of money because you guys helped him," Guillen said. "But in the meanwhile, Oney's tweeting is behind. Oney promised me he wouldn't get involved. It never bothered me. I never feared I was going to lose my job because of that, because my job is to manage this club. If I have to worry about what one of my kids is saying, then I have to worry about too much stuff."
By the time 2012 comes to a close, Guillen will have managed the White Sox for nine seasons. He enters the 2011 campaign with 600 victories, ranking third in franchise history behind Jimmy Dykes (899) and Al Lopez (840). Guillen also is tied with Boston's Terry Francona for the fourth-longest tenure as manager with one club in the Major Leagues, and is the only manager in White Sox history to lead the team to more than one division/league title (2005 and 2008).
Next on the agenda for Williams and Guillen could be getting the coaching staff locked up, as they also are working in the last year of their respective deals.
"What we'd like to ultimately do is make sure we're all on the same page, traveling down the same course, and some of the other peripheral things are no longer factors," Williams said.
"I've got confidence in every one of these coaches. But this was the first order of business. Now we have to take care of the next set of business."