Originally posted on paullebowitz.com  |  Last updated 4/10/12

One would assume that there’s fine print in Ozzie Guillen’s contract with the Marlins that states he can’t make any statements or engage in activities that compromise his club’s ability to do business. Such would be true with anyone. Making a comment in support of Fidel Castro—intentional or not—comes under the auspices of negatively affecting the Marlins’ ticket sales to a large faction of their supposed fan base and is a fireable offense with them not having to pay him if they so chose.

This talk about Guillen’s rights to free speech being violated are more out of bounds than the comments he made in the first place. He’s an employee of a business with a constituency that reviles Castro. Guillen can say whatever he wants, but if he wants to keep his job, he can’t say whatever he wants.

A 5-game suspension is nothing in comparison to the nullification of his 4-year, $10 million contract—something that the Marlins could have explored if they wanted to get away from Guillen and end the issue permanently.

Guillen is a figurehead of what the Marlins are trying to do. They want to win with personality and flair and went in the opposite direction from managers they’ve hired in the past.

Jeffrey Loria, coming from the art world and aware of the value of style combined with substance; of pumping up buzz by any means necessary, knew what he wanted in a manager and paid for it. Guillen complements the ballpark, uniforms and Miami-style he sought to cultivate.

And he’s a good manager.

His managerial career would be severely damaged by a firing over this and would probably doom the Marlins 2012 season before it got fully underway. While this whole episode is an overreaction to a man who’s made a career of saying stupid things saying something stupid to the tenth power, he should not be fired nor should he be continually reminded of this for the rest of this season, let alone his career.

The Marlins knew who they were hiring when they hired Guillen. I’m sure they didn’t expect him to do something like this, but they should be angry and not surprised. When someone talks and talks without a filter and is essentially rewarded for that behavior, eventually that person is going to cross the line.

Language barriers; intent; how the question was framed; what the entire purpose of Guillen talking about Castro to begin with was—none of that really matters. What matters is that he said something that could conceivably have cost him his job a week into the season. The politically motivated are taking this gaffe as a tool to get their cause some attention and hardliners implied that Guillen was going to get fired.

He’s not getting fired.

Guillen’s job should not be jeopardized by saying something foolish. He made a mistake.

The Marlins are a Scotch-taped tapestery of personalities. From the front office to the manager to the players, there are questions everywhere.

Ownership is being investigated by the SEC for their tactics in getting the new Marlins Park built; the reputations of owner Loria and team president David Samson weren’t sterling before any of the alleged chicanery took place; there are players with checkered pasts (Carlos Zambrano), attitudes (Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell) and injury problems (Jose Reyes) that they need to perform to validate the money they spent this past winter.

Now their manager is in the front of the newspaper rather than the back.

For all their dysfunction, the Marlins are savvy and expected a Guillen meltdown at some point. Presumably, they were counting on it. That said, no one could’ve imagined that it would be a Time Magazine piece and laudatory comments about Castro that would be the first Guillen controversy as Marlins’ manager.

In a strange way, this removes the wait-and-see aspect of the first thing Guillen’s going to do to make himself look like an unhinged lunatic. The explosion went off very early in his tenure; the Marlins suspended him as a good faith gesture; and he apologized.

Guillen’s not going to censor himself and he’s going to say or do something else idiotic, probably within a month.

That’s what the Marlins hired.

Amid all this talk and expectations for Guillen, it’s forgotten that he’s lived off of his World Series win for a very long time and been far more trouble than he’s worth on or off the field. He’s a good manager whose teams have consistently underachieved since 2005. He got credit for the World Series win; he gets the blame for teams that were better on paper than their end results.

The World Series win was seven years ago and it’s time to judge him on what he is now; what he does now.

This mess is not a good start.

I doubt that the people who were going to go to the games are going to be influenced one way or the other by what Guillen said. Miami is not a baseball town and if the new ballpark and spending spree doesn’t attract fans or vault the Marlins into playoff contention, it won’t be because of Guillen and Castro; it will because the team is strangely constructed, may not be as good as advertised and that the fans aren’t interested in baseball one way or the other.

Suspending, firing or doing nothing to Guillen isn’t going to change that.

 

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