Up until a week ago, if you asked Ozzie Guillen his opinion, he was likely to give you an unvarnished answer. The former player turned manager has always been known for his no-nonsense attitude and unpredictable behavior, which in some ways has been an asset to his career and a breath of fresh air from the canned managerial lines that most spout ad nauseam.
Guillen is no stranger to trouble for his comments. He has earned the wrath of the LGBT community for calling Jay Mariotti, himself a piece of excrement, a gay slur. He publicly fought with his general manager, his former closer, an opposing reliever, Chicago radio hosts, umpires, and Alex Rodriguez over offenses real and imagined (Al Yellon of SB Nation has a good timeline up of Guillen incidents). And each time, Guillen was able to escape punishment. He was fined and forced to attend sensitivity training for his Mariotti comments, and fined over the calling out Joe West, but Ozzie has generally avoided any real consequences for his words.
Backed into a corner, Ozzie Guillen will always apologize, even if it’s a half-hearted apology that isn’t intended as anything more than a public relations sound bite, and for most that sort of apology has been deemed acceptable. But now Guillen is in hot water again for saying “I love Fidel Castro. I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here.” He’s pissed off a core contingent of the Marlins fan base, and causing a much larger stink than ever before.
In Chicago, there was a sense that he may have been a jerk, but that he was THEIR jerk. Guillen led the team to its first World Championship since 1917, and the club was perennially contending, and his outbursts were evidence of his passion, his tough-love attitude, and his rebelliousness. And reporters were silently grateful to cover a sports figure who would provide colorful quotes instead of canned responses. He was allowed, indeed encouraged, to say these things, and thus learned that crossing lines didn’t really have lasting consequences. After all, if baseball wasn’t going to suspend Luke Scott for believing that President Obama is a secret Muslim from Kenya and that his Dominican teammates are “savages,” if they’re not going to suspend players, managers, or front office types for domestic abuse or for drunk driving, why would they suspend him for making a joke about Fidel Castro’s remarkable ability to cling to power? But Miami is a different town with different demographics, and Guillen hasn't done anything there yet. And a lot of those people are angry (although whether they're right to be is certainly debatable).
So yes, it’s a real problem that Guillen has been insulated from learning his lesson. And perhaps in an industry that prizes good public relations, and strong relationships with local communities, it makes sense that Ozzie Guillen finally experience some pain, even if that is just a slap on the wrist (a 5 game suspension). Certainly, an employer has a right to disassociate itself from an employee’s behavior or beliefs if those reflect poorly on the organization as a whole. And given their horrible image in the Miami community, it’s certainly understandable why the Marlins felt like they needed to react.
Though they didn’t feel the need to respond when team president David Samson called the people of Miami stupid. And that’s really the crux of what makes us so angry about this. There are dozens and dozens of equally or more foolish and offensive things done by Major League players, managers, coaches, front office types, and officials every year. And these offenses don’t get investigated by the Commissioner. These offenses don’t earn team-levied suspensions. These offenses don’t get noticed at all, despite the real damage they do to the communities where they happen. If we’re going to have such a low standard so as to punish Guillen for making a bad joke (make no mistake, there’s no way to honestly construe what Guillen said as a statement of support for Castro, his tactics, or his regime), where are the suspensions for everyone else who makes baseball look bad?
This apology was more than a sound bite - it was a polemic.
Anything for baseball I guess. He's sold himself out this time - to the point that the opinion he expressed now no longer carries any weight, even though he was quite correct, referring to some individuals in the above mentioned Miami fan base who signed on to over through the Cuban Government in failed the Bay of Pigs coup in 1961 --- and the CIA's repeated attempts to illegally assassinate a sovereign head of state.
Meanwhile, the MLB press release says there should be no politics in MLB --- unless of coarse it's fly overs by the Air Force and Military Appreciation Days all over the leagues.