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Guillen asserts leadership

Guillen asserts leadership

MINNEAPOLIS -- A scant few people in the United States appreciate freedom of speech more than Ozzie Guillen.

He has no problem expressing his viewpoint about a wide array of topics, and he usually makes fairly salient points, in his own colorful manner. The White Sox manager also understands that words usually have to be followed by action, and that's where his analysis of Orlando Cabrera's comments comes into play.

In a talk with MLB.com on Sunday, the White Sox shortstop spoke about how his club seemed to lose hope when the other team scored first. He also pointed out that the White Sox shouldn't feel that way, because they have too much firepower to give in so quickly.

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Cabrera's most pointed criticism was that the White Sox didn't look like the team to beat and were hoping for a win instead of being aggressive. Cabrera used Minnesota's victory on Wednesday as another illustration of his feelings when talking about the topic prior to Thursday's game.

Guillen believed Cabrera was trying to fire up the team. He also sounded a warning about calling out teammates with just four games remaining.

"When you make a comment like that, you got to back it up," Guillen said. "You have to be careful what you say and how your teammates receive it. You can make any comment, I'm all for that. But he's got to be careful.

"To me, that doesn't bother me. People win games between the lines. They don't win games on the papers and the media. But if he wants to fire the guys up and make them better, you got to remember, if we win this thing, we win this thing as a team.

"If we lose this thing, he'll be part of the losing team. A big part. He's going to be right there, part of that 2008 picture, either way."

Almost on cue, Cabrera backed up Guillen's comments by homering off Kevin Slowey to start a six-run fourth inning on Thursday. Ultimately, the topic switched with Guillen to leadership, and how it appeared Cabrera was trying to take on that role during the season's final week. The White Sox manager made it clear that Cabrera's words might ring a little hollow since he had not been a leader from start to finish.

"I'm the leader of this ballclub," Guillen said. "I don't need leaders. I need good ballplayers.

"I think leadership is how you handle yourself on the field, off the field and in the clubhouse, how you talk. That's leadership. I was a leader, and I hit .220. Because when I was down, all the players played with me. I was worried about them, and I tried to make them better.

"That's leadership. You're not the best player in the game, but you have a lot of respect for the rest and yourself and be the same guy every day."

This subject probably wouldn't have been addressed if not for the White Sox freefall at the Metrodome. Any time a team is having trouble scoring or struggling for a victory, it appears more lethargic than it actually is.

Some sort of victory on Thursday would cure that problem, a point general manager Ken Williams made clear in strong terms during an extremely brief chat during batting practice on Thursday.

"The only thing I care about is winning tonight's game," Williams said. "Whatever they've got to do to win tonight's game, figure it out. That's for Ozzie and the coaches to handle -- all that."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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