Originally written on Full Spectrum Baseball  |  Last updated 4/13/12
White_sox_manager_f319

That’s about the politest way to put it.

In 2006, while manager of the Chicago White Sox, Guillen employed an anti-gay slur in reference to then Chicago Sun-Times columnist, Jay Mariotti. Grant it, there are a lot of reasons to have at it with Jay Mariotti. Nonetheless, when you represent a brand, this isn’t an option. Guillen promptly issued an apology to the gay community and was ordered by Major League Baseball to take sensitivity training.

Remember when Guillen trumpeted his penchant for getting drunk after away games? How about while criticizing harsh measures to crack down on illegal immigrants, he suggested that immigrants were “workaholics” and that many Americans were “lazy”? We are all entitled to our opinions, still the last time I checked – Ozzie Guillen has never been a political pundit. He represented a brand and a very proud Chicago tradition, and even though he brought a World Series trophy to the city for the first time in decades, he represented it very badly.

So, now that Ozzie Guillen is managing the Miami Marlins, why should we expect anything different? Just days after the opening of his first season with the team, he found himself behind a bank of microphones apologizing again. This time it was for telling Time magazine that he “love[d]” Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Whaa?

“I respect Fidel Castro,” Ozzie Guillen explained. “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here.”

Ozzie Guillen, a Venezuelan by birth and U.S. citizen by choice, said he meant to express qualified admiration for only the dictator’s longevity and resilience, not for his ideology or methods. I can think of a million metaphors for longevity and resilience. Not once does Fidel Castro enter into the mix.

What the heck was he thinking? Does he realize the address of that new stadium he calls home? He’s smack in the middle of Little Havana, a fiercely anti-Castro Cuban community. Throughout Miami, politicians, including Cuban American elected officials, are calling for Mr. Guillen’s ouster.

So the Marlins, who recently moved into a $600 million-plus, publicly financed stadium, found itself in the midst of a public relations nightmare. The team took action this week and suspended the manager for five games. Somewhere, Kenny Williams (G.M. for the Chicago White Sox) is uncontrollably laughing.

Major League Baseball and team owners have a wide latitude in dealing with employees who besmirch a club’s image and potentially damage the league’s financial prospects. Players, managers and even team owners have been sanctioned or were forced to resign for uttering racist comments that were universally understood to be beyond the pale. Marge Schott rings a bell, which is funny. In an Op-Ed piece this week, The Washington Post felt that Guillen’s comments were not equivalent. I say, how so? Didn’t Marge Scott say that she supported the domestic policies of Germany under the Nazi regime? How is that different?

Ultimately, misunderstood Ozzie Guillen is like a bad reoccurring character on “Saturday Night Live”. It might have been funny the first time but now it seems tired and old. He said that he translated into English badly what he was thinking in Spanish. I’m sorry. Guillen has been in the country for too long and his mastery of the language is too good.

Ozzie Guillen was thoughtless. If anyone should be able to empathize with the victims of a dictatorship, it should be someone who is from Venezuela. Also, he with one fell swoop insulted a group of people who, like him, chose to be Americans. You know what the difference between him and the people of Little Havana are? They weren’t lucky enough to swing their way out of their country.

Unlike The Washington Post, I do think that these comments are as bad as what Al Campanis of the Los Angeles Dodgers and John Rocker of the Atlanta Braves did. Do I applaud the Marlins for taking swift action? Yes. Do I think that Guillen got off a bit easy? Absolutely. I just hope that the people of Little Havana don’t start speaking with their wallets, because if they do, this could be a bigger problem than the Braves or Dodgers ever faced.

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