Guillen, Piniella add flair to rivalry
Crosstown counterparts set for Sunday's first matchup
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Sunday's Cactus League contest at HoHoKam Park marks the first of eight highly charged matchups between the White Sox and Cubs, with six coming during the 2007 regular season.This particular game also represents the first battle of managerial wits between Ozzie Guillen and Lou Piniella in this storied rivalry for city bragging rights. Guillen has begun his fourth season at the White Sox helm, leading his team to an above-.500 finish in each of the previous three, with his managerial crown jewel being the 2005 World Series title. Piniella has begun his 20th season as a Major League manager, after a one-year foray into broadcasting, carrying a championship with him as part of the Reds in 1990 and a career record of 1,519-1,420. He also begun a much-publicized run in charge of the Cubs, a job Guillen believes will agree with Piniella in the spotlight of Chicago. "Lou has experience managing in New York, and this job is similar to New York," said Guillen. "I think the way he is, the way he handles people, it won't be any problem. "Is it going to be easy for him? No. If you don't win, they are going to blame him. If he wins, he's going to be a hero. But I cannot tell Lou what to do, because he's done it all in baseball." Guillen actually managed against Piniella when Piniella was with Tampa Bay during the 2004 and 2005 seasons, finishing with an 8-4 edge in head-to-head contests. Matching strategy with someone as successful at his job as Piniella not only was fun for a young manager such as Guillen, but he also said it becomes a learning experience going against a manager with that sort of pedigree. Toby Hall worked even closer with Piniella than the perch across the field held by Guillen. The new back-up catcher for the White Sox was Piniella's starting backstop during his three years in Tampa. Hall termed playing for Piniella as "an honor" and labeled him as "an awesome manager, one of the greatest ones out there." Hall also saw the toll losing took on Piniella with the Devil Rays, a sinking feeling he could relate to on a yearly basis.
Even the famous Piniella on-field "snaps," as Hall called them, which happened with the umpires from time to time, dwindled as the losses mounted. After three years, Piniella exited Tampa with a 200-285 record."I think they promised him a lot of stuff, and they didn't do it," said Hall. "Obviously, when you lose a lot, it eats away at you. It ate on him and on the players as well. "But look at the team he's got now. He couldn't be in a better situation. That's what he strived for in Tampa and didn't get. He's in hog heaven right now." Both Hall and Piniella live in Tampa during the offseason and have talked since he took the job with the Cubs. Hall pointed out that Piniella brings instant credibility because of the way he has run teams in the past, and he takes that winning desire to another extra level. After pausing for a split second, Hall drew a direct line between his old manager and his current leader. "Ozzie reminds me of a younger version of Lou," Hall said. "Just his presence when you go in there. ... Ozzie is the same. "It's a good mix of managers for the city," he added. With the huge amount of money spent by the Cubs in the offseason coupled with the expectations Piniella brings to a franchise that hasn't won a World Series title in nearly a century, the challenge will not be an easy one. Guillen can relate. During his first year managing the White Sox, Guillen dealt with season-ending injuries to top offensive forces such as Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas and a fifth starter's spot that saw nine pitchers combine for a 5-16 record of futility. Yet, Guillen managed to bring that team in at 83-79 and fostered a culture of success that led to the ensuing championship and baseball euphoria on the South Side. Despite the presence of Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and Mark Buehrle, to name a few White Sox players of superstar stature, Guillen remains the face of the franchise. Piniella seems to have taken on the same role in just his short time with the Cubs. From one major presence to another, Guillen has a little advice to ensure future success for Piniella in Chicago. "Just be ready for the people," Guillen said. "If you [don't] win, you will be criticized by someone every day no matter what you do. But I think he has a tough skin, and I don't think too many will get under his skin. "Have fun and be patient with fans and media. The way fans and media look at Lou, he's a savior. Just do what he's supposed to, because they know what he can do."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.