Ozzie Guillen is crazy.
The White Sox manager knows this, of course, because he sees it every day -- in the newspapers, in the 40 e-mails he gets a morning that are now filled with words like "stink" and "choke" and "your fault." And when he turns on the radio they are all asking the same thing: Can he handle the pressure?
His team is collapsing, the best club in the American League watches its once-insurmountable lead disintegrate by the day. The Cleveland Indians came to town, roaring up from behind, a 15 game lead on Aug. 1 has fallen to 21/2 after the Indians won, 7-5, last night. But the implosion started long before. Like last week when the White Sox lost two games it absolutely could not afford to lose to baseball's worst team, the Kansas City Royals, Chicago turned its wary eyes to Guillen for a word of assurance.
Instead this is what he said:
"We flat-out stink," he said.
So there was Guillen Monday afternoon in the White Sox' dugout, pedaling away from "we flat-out stink" as fast as he could go.
"We're the only team that has got 90 wins other than St. Louis and it's like 'Wow, we're not that bad.' " Guillen said. "Some people think our team is a bunch of [garbage] but we have 90 wins."
It was pointed out to Guillen that the person who seemed to hold that position the most was himself.
The manager smiled.
"If I say 'Oh we're just playing great,' people in Chicago, they know what's going on, they'll know I'm lying," he said. "Look, two things I tell my team. I let them know when they're playing bad and I let them know when they're playing good. A lot of people think I'm crazy and stupid and ignorant. I think before I talk.
"I can't say 'We play great' when we play Kansas City and lost."
Is Ozzie Guillen crazy?
It's hard to tell as the stream of consciousness spills from his lips rattling from stink to superb. It's hard to tell as he stubbornly defended a failing and perhaps broken Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, leaving him in the pitching rotation as an unhittable rookie named Brandon McCarthy sat in the wings only to reverse himself after El Duque was hammered again on Saturday.
Or the way he turned his rage toward reliever Damaso Marte, essentially kicking the pitcher off the team last week after he hit two Royals hitters and complained of a neck injury that seemed suspicious to the White Sox. Then a few days later he let Marte beg for his job back and brought him into critical situations late in the games on Friday, Sunday and Monday night.
Marte survived on Friday and Sunday but Monday night, with a 5-4 lead in the eighth, he walked Cleveland's Travis Hafner and gave up a double to Victor Martinez before Bobby Jenks came in to serve up a two-run single to Aaron Boone.
It was the kind of game that has gnawed at Guillen recently, the kind the White Sox used to win. One in which a starting pitcher -- this time Freddy Garcia -- battled late into the game and Chicago fought back from a 4-0 deficit only to eventually lose. Thus it negated Paul Konerko's two-run double in the fifth to tie the game and Carl Everett's home run in the seventh to take the lead.
It's games like these that has made the manager seem, well, a little eccentric.
"You should be in jail all week!" he shouted before the game at Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore as the player walked towards the visitors' batting cages, which are located near Chicago's dugout. "Don't come out of your hotel room."
Last year, in Guillen's first year, the White Sox ran in the wild-card race until mid-September when they lost six of seven one week and fell flat. They still won 83 games, but the finish felt empty. Now they have won at least 90 but there is a fear that one more week will stall them and they will be passed up by Cleveland for the American League Central and Boston or New York for the wild card that will turn the summer filled with promise into another empty winter.
General Manager Ken Williams said he doesn't like to consider such possibilities. "You're inviting a certain negative feeling," he said.
Guillen took the question head-on Monday. If that should happen, if somehow the White Sox win some 95 games and don't make the playoffs, "Then you say 'I tip my cap to you,' and go home," he said. At which point he took his black White Sox cap and knocked it akimbo on top of his head.
Then the manager on the brink laughed. "Blame me," he proclaimed and seemed to like the sound of that. He stood up from his seat in the White Sox dugout and began walking toward the field. He spotted Williams talking to a handful of reporters and shouted, "Kenny blame me!"
With that Ozzie Guillen took the field.
But not before blowing a kiss to the Cleveland players.
Just another night on the edge in what might be the biggest baseball collapse in years.