Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen has a reputation in Major League Baseball for being completely unfiltered in his speech to and players alike. Though some believe that his honesty and up-front character is refreshing in a business in which reporters often struggle to quote a player or a manager’s genuine feelings, others simply believe that he is a loudmouth whose foul language and rude antics bring shame to the game. Over the years, Guillen has suffered many media blowups due to his comments, but he has retained the respect of his fans. However, a recent statement may have crossed the line. In the Time Magazine article, “Big Fish,” dated Monday, April 9, Guillen was quoted as saying, “I love Fidel Castro.” In context, however, Guillen later explained that he was expressing his admiration for the fact that the Cuban dictator Castro has been able to stay in power for so long after being the target of many assassination attempts. On Tuesday, April 10, Guillen was suspended for 5 games without pay by the Marlins organization, in what some believe to be a public relations move for a team with a largely Latino fan base.
Guillen Let Off the Hook
By Daryl Chin
The Marlins, and thus Major League Baseball, have failed to satisfyingly punish Ozzie Guillen.
Guillen has been allowed far too many free rides in the past already. As a manager of the Chicago White Sox, he was often outspoken, clashing with Chicago general manger Kenny Williams on many occasions as a result. In Guillen’s final years in Chicago, Williams tried twice to fire Guillen, due to the friction between them. The team finally parted ways with Guillen on Monday, September 26, 2011.
What many sports fans don’t know is that this isn’t the first time Guillen has made positive remarks regarding Castro. In an interview with the magazine Men’s Journal in 2008, Guillen said of Castro, “I don’t admire his philosophy. I admire him.” The reason his recent comments have garnered national attention is that his team’s fan base is largely made up of Cuban-Americans.
Following the tumult Guillen’s comments created around the nation and in the Cuban-American community in Miami, Guillen tried to back out of the situation by apologizing directly to fans and the media on Tuesday, April 10.
The apology, however rare it may have been from Guillen, wasn’t enough to appease many in Miami. Protesters gathered at Marlins Park, the site where Guillen spoke to the media after flying back from a game in Philadelphia on Monday. Many Cuban Americans have been calling for a boycott of Marlins games until Guillen either resigns or is fired. This certainly can’t be good news for an organization with a predominantly Latino fan base. He has offended many before, but this time he has insulted the city to which his Marlins have just moved. He has almost permanently isolated this community of Cuban-Americans, which the organization has struggled so hard to attract with the opening of its new ballpark this spring.
Guillen’s previous antics in Chicago explain why he received only a 5-game suspension from Miami management. Any other Marlins manager in the past would have been fired immediately. However, it was the beginning of the season, and Marlins’ ownership certainly wouldn’t have wanted to bring in a new coach to a team that many picked to go deep into the playoffs. It’s been much easier for them to suspend him as a formality and hope the controversy will go away if the team starts winning.
Despite the team’s efforts to rein in the situation, there are many reasons as to why Guillen should be fired. For one, he is a repeat offender. While he is exercising free speech, his offensive remarks raise too many red flags. They have the potential to create deep resentment between Guillen and the MLB. Guillen needs to finally understand the potential of these types of comments to distance various demographics of people away from the game. Consider all the amount of time it took for baseball to become more diverse. Cuban-Americans and other Latin American prospects might be discouraged from joining the Marlins if proper punishment isn’t handed out.
The entire situation is a huge distraction for this newly assembled team to deal with. This issue will hang over the team all season as they fight for a playoff spot in the highly competitive NL East division. More so, the disgruntled fan base will be slow to forgive the team and its manager as long as Guillen remains at the helm. Regardless of how the Marlins finish the season this year, these comments will remain a dark spot for the coming years.
Words To Be Eaten, Not Condemned
By Michael Sheldon
Ozzie Guillen’s mouth has always been a cornucopia of sorts: filled in abundance with questionable ideas, polarizing statements, and often, downright rudeness. This time, his comments on Fidel Castro have landed him in dangerously hot water, offending thousands and temporarily alienating a good portion of his team’s fan base.
Let me put this out here right now: if you’re looking for a Fidel Castro supporter, I am not your man. But by Ozzie Guillen’s standards, this all seems pretty normal.
It’s not ideal for a prominent figure to be running around, spewing love for dictators, but there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion. When I started having problems is after the Marlins organization handed him a 5-game suspension.
Now, it would be one thing if Ozzie Guillen broke an actual rule set forth by the MLB, or even if he had broken an official rule set forth by Marlins. But Guillen’s supposed offense came in the form of a statement that had nothing to do with baseball. At best, his comments about Castro were, as he said, misstated and merely stemmed from his surprise at the durability of Castro’s reign in the face of adversity. At worst, they reflect legitimate political support for the Cuban dictator. In either scenario, Guillen has done nothing to warrant an official penalty.
I understand (and fully support) the public backlash he has received. Guillen’s comments struck very harsh chords with millions that have been directly or indirectly hurt by Castro’s regime in Cuba, and it is no secret that Fidel Castro is generally despised in this country. But for an official punishment to be received in wake of this kind of statement is highly out of line. Impassioned debate and the variety of viewpoints are what make our nation great—it is at the core of our way of life. This principle encourages those who disagree with Guillen to do so actively, but it also protects Guillen from being personally damaged merely because of his own beliefs. Punishing Guillen is a direct assault on his rights.
Many feel that, given his prominent position, Guillen is obligated to watch his mouth. They argue that there is no place for politics in baseball. Rather presumptuously, they assume that Guillen is solely an entity within the world of baseball. They forget that before he is the manager of the Miami Marlins, he is his own person. And just like any person, Guillen has the right to and should be encouraged to speak his mind and make his viewpoints known.
While the Marlins’ organization has broken no laws in its handling of Guillen’s blunder, the punishment directly contradicts the spirit in which country was founded. Guillen’s punishment, doled out for his having said something deemed un-American, is actually quite un-American itself.
Guillen’s comments were not wise. They were not sensitive, nor were they (it seems) well-informed. However, they are protected by the values of humanity that we like to think define our society. Indeed, it is the Miami Marlins organization, and not Ozzie Guillen, that ought to stay out of politics and stick to baseball.