- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

CHICAGO. — They are baseball’s Odd Couple, so different that they made Felix and Oscar look like blood brothers.

One is fire, the other is ice. One is loud, the other is beyond soft, because you first have to be heard in order to be considered soft.

But when Ozzie Guillen got the job as manager of the Chicago White Sox two years ago, the guy he picked to be his confidant as bench coach was his former White Sox teammate and Orioles designated hitter for three different stints — Harold Baines.

If Hollywood were casting a sitcom pairing two opposites, a good place to start would be Guillen and Baines. One guy you can’t shut up and gets into trouble all the time because of his mouth, while the other won’t open his mouth and couldn’t find controversy if you gave him a road map.

Yet during last night’s Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at U.S. Cellular Field, at some point Guillen turned to Baines and asked for advice or information about the opposing Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

“Temperament has nothing to do with communicating, because he’s vocal and I’m quiet,” Baines said. “A bench coach is a guy who asks questions here and there, and has all the information about the team you are facing. Plus I work with the outfielders, so I am really not just keying in on Ozzie. I am trying to position the outfielders as well.

Baines has one other duty, according to Guillen — trying to keep the volatile Chicago manager under control.

“I think Harold Baines is one of the only people that keeps me in line,” Guillen said. “We have different ways to lead, different ways to act, different ways to talk. But every time I’m kind of confused about something or I’m not really 100 percent sure about what I want to do, that is the man I call. You don’t have to be loud to be the guy next to me.”

But Baines said he doesn’t exert any kind of influence over Guillen’s style. “You have to let a person be themselves,” Baines said. “It is all about trial and error. That is how you learn. You can’t try to hold somebody down. Then they are not being themselves.

“I think Ozzie has grown with his approach to the media.” Baines said. “His knowledge of the game hasn’t changed. It was always there. If anything changed, it is the way he responds to what people say or the way he should phrase certain things to the media.”

That is still a work in progress, as witnessed by Guillen’s backpedaling yesterday about comments he had made in support of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. “What I say about Chavez, I don’t say I like his ideas, I don’t say I like the way he is,” Guillen said before last night’s game. “I just said I like the man because he works hard and he says what he thinks.”

Too bad Guillen doesn’t have a political advisor version of Harold Baines.

Their bond goes back to when Guillen, just a few years removed from Venezuela, arrived in Chicago in 1985. He saw in Baines what White Sox fans saw, so much so that they retired Baines’ number 3 here in Chicago while he was still an active player, the only time in the history of baseball a player has had that honor.

They saw a decency shine through that didn’t need to be spoken.

“When Ozzie first came over, he kind of gravitated toward me, because I guess he thought I was an honest person,” Baines said. “We would eat lunch together and hang out. We would go to the bar and he would drink and I would have my soft drink. We got along well together.”

They were the heart and soul of the White Sox from 1985 until Baines got traded to Texas in 1989 in that infamous deal that the former baseball owner residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue still hasn’t lived down — Baines for a young outfielder named Sammy Sosa.

But Baines had made such a strong connection with Guillen and with the White Sox that it never faded, and they welcomed him back here two more times for stays before his illustrious playing career ended in 2001 — a .289 average with 384 home runs and 1,628 RBI.

So when Guillen took over as White Sox manager in 2004, he brought Baines on the staff as a part-time special assignment instructor, because Baines, who was born and raised and still lives in St. Michael’s on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (discovered there by former White Sox owner Bill Veeck), was not looking for a full time job back in the game.

But when bench coach Joe Nossek resigned after last year, Guillen asked Baines to come join him. “I wasn’t really ready to take on a full-time [role],” Baines said. “But I was asked to, and after talking it over with my family, I took the job.”

The thought of Ozzie Guillen and Harold Baines carrying on a conversation seemed almost laughable when Baines was hired as his bench coach — something like 20 minutes of a mixture of English and Spanish from Guillen, with a “yup” or a “nope” mixed in here and there from Baines. On the surface, it was a strange pairing.

“I can understand why people think that,” Baines said. “But they only see us outside. They don’t see us inside the clubhouse.”

Then again, talk is cheap when compared to characteristics like trust and honesty. That is how Guillen and Baines communicate, and it works just fine.

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