In Defense of Ozzie Guillen
I am a huge Ozzie Guillen fan. When I was a kid, I saw Ozzie play shortstop at Comisky Park, and as an adult I’ve watched him coach the Chicago White Sox. A poster of him holding the World Series Trophy adorns my office wall.
I loved how #13 played the game, and I loved his small-ball coaching style. He’s hilarious and outspoken, and when his team played like crap, he’d say so. And he took responsibility when his coaching was bad, too.
Ozzie clearly loves the game and my affection for him runs deep. So deep that I almost considered becoming a Marlins fan for the season, just so I could root for him. (As a lifelong White Sox fan, it seemed OK, since the two teams play in different leagues. Plus, it would be fun to watch the Marlins beat the Cubs.)
I was wondering why Miami picked him up until I read the Sports Illustrated story “Marlinsanity” with Ozzie and Jose Reyes giggling on the cover. The team was re-branding itself, built a new stadium in Little Havana, and looking for some flash. It drafted a number of hothead players, such as Carlos Zambrano. Suddenly, Ozzie being manager made sense: He has a motor-mouth and is endless entertaining.
But saying something nice about Fidel Castro is NOT entertaining, at least not in Little Havana. In an interview with Time, Ozzie is quoted as saying that he loved Fidel Castro and “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last sixty years, but that son of a bitch is still there.”
Sounds like vintage Ozzie to me. Can the Marlins’ top brass really be surprised? Aren’t they getting the media attention they desired for their team as they try to resurrect baseball in south Florida?
They had to have known that Ozzie is a loose canon. Didn’t they do due diligence? Did they forget the time when Ozzie called a sports columnist he was annoyed with a “maricon”? Do they read Ozzie’s Twitter feed? They should—it’s hilarious.
And now Ozzie is making mea culpas back in Miami. “It was an error. Everyone hates Fidel Castro, including me. I am surprised he is still in power. That is what I was trying to say to the journalist.”
But it wasn’t enough for owner Jeffrey Loria, and he suspended Ozzie for five whole games. (Luckily he’ll be back when the Marlins host the Cubs.)
A Cuban-American group Vigilia Mambisa is planning a boycott of the team until Ozzie steps down. Local politicians are calling on Ozzie to resign.
The Marlins hired an opinionated coach and now are suspending him for being who he is. Isn’t voicing unpopular opinions something that can get you jailed in Cuba?
“This is the biggest mistake I’ve made so far in my life,” Ozzie said. “When you’re a sportsman, you shouldn’t be involved in politics.”
But baseball and politics have always been intertwined. From corporate tax breaks to taxpayer-funded stadiums to labor conditions (how much do those Haitians make as they manufacture baseballs?), politics is part of MLB and sports in general.
Ozzie also said he’s sad and embarrassed about the whole thing. Me, too—I feel bad for the guy. And I thought Zambrano would be the first to get booted off the team, not Ozzie. But who knows. Maybe Ozzie can come back to Chicago where fans just shrugged when he said stupid things.
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