That Didn’t Take Long Now Did It?
We all knew that Ozzie Guillen would, sooner or later, stick his foot in his big mouth. We just assumed that it would be baseball related and not some “oops did I say that out loud” idiotic political comment which has inflamed the Cuban population of Miami. You know, the very citizens that legendary cheapskate owner Jeffry Loria is counting on to fill up his brand new tax funded ballpark and come out and see his baseball team which he spent so many of his dollars trying to improve this offseason.
Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams must be wiping his brow at this moment with relief. Didn’t anyone else out there take note that there wasn’t much of a protest on the Southside when Guillen expressed a desire to move on and manage the Miami Marlins? Certainly there was the feigned protest that Guillen was still under contract and that some sort of compensation would be asked for from baseball for losing their manager. But this issue, unlike the Chicago Cubs-Boston Red Sox Theo Epstein compensation, was resolved in a matter of minutes.
I don’t know if Guillen is a good manager or bad. I do know that no team needs this type of distraction as the game of baseball is difficult enough without adding to the on field struggle. Certainly he is a good quote and journalists love to write about something other than the day to day mundane how does it feel to lose the game questions. Guillen over the course of his tenure in Chicago was always a controversial quote away from once again landing in hot water. He obliged the press more often than not and few outside of Chicago took his comments with anything but a large grain of salt.
I don’t know if it was the Marlins idea to suspend Guillen or pressure from the commissioner’s office. In this day and age of overly political (pardon the pun) correctness, when one is talking to the media and knowingly being quoted, thinking before you speak becomes of paramount importance. Stupid is as stupid does should be a glaring rule of thumb.
The suspension was probably one motivated by business. The one thing the Miami Marlins didn’t want to do was to alienate their fan base. Before moving into Marlins Park, Miami had one of the worst attendance records in baseball. The old stadium was designed for football, it was in a bad part of town (people have told me) and it rained almost every day. It was a long time dream of Jeffrey Loria to have a new baseball only ballpark, small and intimate, which would entice the baseball fan of southern Florida to come out and finally support their team. Guillen was likely hired because of his Spanish background; someone who would the Cuban population of Miami could identify with and would give a face to the franchise.
Loria was no doubt aware of the controversies which had followed Guillen in his days with Chicago but was likely counting on a maturation and second chance change in behavior from his new manager. I’m certain that there were closed door meetings between the two in an attempt to clarify any potential misunderstandings. Certainly another part of the Guillen appeal was his fiery managing style and the fact that he did lead the White Sox to a World Series title in 2005. The Marlins were able to sign a starting pitcher they desperately needed (Mark Buerhle) probably because he wanted to remain with Guillen.
Now that is all blown apart and pushed asunder. The worst case scenario has surfaced and the damage control parties are hard at work despite the relative lack of press after the suspension was announced. Loria will be looking for an excuse to drop Guillen and find someone who is quite and goes about his business in a more professional off the field manner. Loria needs some other excuse to fire Guillen, one which is baseball related. Replacing Guillen based only on his comments about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro might effectively muzzle the rest of baseball from making comments on any non baseball topic and on any non controversial topic.
Free speech is a basic right. Stupid speech in public can’t be viewed in the same way if one is in the public eye. Stupid speech is something you do with your fellow drunken buddies at the local bar away from the ever prying eyes of the media.
I’m not judging the content of what Ozzie Guillen said as I don’t know the politics involved in Cuba or the reasons for the tension between Cuba, its citizens and the United States other than what I have read over the years. The best way to deal with statements such as these are to ignore them for what they so obviously are, ill considered.
It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the commissioner’s office has to say. I suspect they will stay well away from this political hot potato. Leave Guillen to explain his comments to the everyday man on the street. Let them be the judge. A suspension and the apology of Guillen might be enough. We shall see soon enough.
By: Doug Bird