MIAMI (MCT) — The Ozzie Guillen show that played for years in Chicago was an uncomfortable act that offended sensibilities but always seemed to get a pass because the off-color stuff the manager said was washed clean by people claiming it was all in good-natured fun or his candor merited reward rather than reprimand.
So folks in the Second City let it go when Guillen cursed during news conferences or said “there are a lot of people from this country who are lazy,” while making the point illegal immigrants are “workaholics.” People let it go when he said Asian baseball players are treated better than Hispanics because teams often provide them interpreters.
All that foolishness was fine in Chicago.
It doesn’t play in Miami.
Guillen is just now finding this out because a large number of Marlins fans, mostly Cubans, are freaking out over his statements relative to Fidel Castro in Time magazine.
The man who works in Little Havana actually said, “I love Fidel Castro.” Guillen also said he “respects” Castro for his longevity.
Guillen said it. He doesn’t deny he said it.
Guillen later explained his comments to give them context and issued something of an apology. And Tuesday he will conduct a news conference to again explain himself in the hope of being clear.
Now let me be clear: Guillen should to be suspended indefinitely without pay for being unprofessional, insensitive and for conduct detrimental to his ballclub.
There are people in South Florida who are angry with Guillen because he struck an emotional and painful nerve. I am unapologetically one of those people because the communist dictator Guillen apparently loves broke my family. But let’s not be unreasonable. Guillen’s remarks deserve a reaction but not an overreaction.
“Those were unfortunate comments,” Miami mayor Tomas Regalado said Monday. “His mission, I believe, should be to win games. I think he should be more careful when it comes to politics. I think everyone deserves a second chance. He’s been apologetic about the remarks I’ve read and seen. So I don’t think this should mean he should be fired or he should resign.”
Understand that Regalado is not a Marlins or Guillen apologist. He calls Guillen’s comments “controversial” and admits they “hurt.” Regalado also stayed away from the Marlins Park home opener, citing his distaste for the deal that built the stadium on the old Orange Bowl site.
“I’ve been a critic of the deal with the City of Miami, and I still insist that I won’t celebrate that deal,” Regalado said. “I would celebrate the stadium but never the deal for the stadium. As a representative of the people of Miami, I keep that in mind. I think it’s a bad deal for Miami now and in the future.”
And yet Regalado can hold off his emotions with a reasoned response. That’s not the most important point. Baseball is the point.
The point is Guillen hurt the Marlins more than he hurt some people’s feelings. This episode one week into this season is embarrassing for South Florida and its baseball team. It has divided fans who cheer the same team into opposing camps ā€” with some wanting Guillen disciplined and some calling the folks wanting Guillen’s ouster nut jobs.
Either way, it’s a distraction and a loss for a team that just opened a new ballpark, is playing with a new lineup, new uniforms, new colors and wants to set a new narrative about its direction.
All that is lost, at least temporarily, because the Marlins manager can’t manage his own tongue.
The Marlins are not innocent bystanders here.
They hired a guy with a well-documented history for talking trash, and it did not occur to someone within the organization to pull Guillen aside and advise him against uttering the phrase, “I love Fidel Castro?”
Guillen is to be praised for his willingness to explain his statements.
The hope is that when Tuesday’s talk is over, he will accept some but not the ultimate discipline for his mistake.
The hope is that while he’s at it, Guillen explains the comments he made to CBSSports.com in which he said he “gets drunk” after every single road game — a comment he confirmed to reporters he was no exaggeration.
The hope is that suspended or not, fired or not, the Marlins can emerge from this public relations fiasco looking forward to days when the manager doesn’t have as many obtuse comments on his record as victories.
And if Guillen cannot measure himself going forward, the hope is the Marlins have a really solid short list of replacements — because they’re going to need it.