I hate to be the one to have Ozzie Guillen’s back, but, hey, at least it keeps me in shape.
There are countless reasons Guillen should not be a major league manager – or anybody’s manager, for that matter – but expressing admiration for Fidel Castro is not one of them.
(Frankly, I would’ve suspended Guillen five games for talking to Time magazine.)
Before we deal with the hysterical public outcry over Guillen’s off-hand political remarks, let’s deal with the obvious:
The Miami Marlins had no business hiring him to run their club.
Guillen is a loose-lipped, foul-mouthed, two-fisted drinker; just before his Castro misstep, he admitted to getting drunk after nearly every game. He used a gay slur in 2006 to denigrate a Chicago sportswriter. How can he be the face of any franchise?
Guillen specializes in impertinent and insensitive comments. What, they thought they were hiring Alistair Cooke?
Of course, he won a World Series with the White Sox in 2005, and, in Sports Nation, championships generally trump character flaws.
Now, in terms of Guillen’s brief Castro tutorial, while one wants to defend his ability to express an opinion – freedom of speech, after all, encompasses freedom of stupid speech – an employer such as the Marlins certainly is within its rights to discipline an employee that doesn’t represent the organization well.
And I think we can all agree that Guillen did not represent the Marlins well here.
Considering the Marlins just opened a $634 million ballpark in Little Havana and considering they are wooing Cuban-Americans who actively despise Castro and considering Guillen was hired to help galvanize the team’s Hispanic fan base, his comments on the longtime Cuban dictator were astonishingly and apocalyptically ill-conceived.
I mean, in terms of baseball marketing and public relations, you couldn’t antagonize your customers more in south Florida if you set up an INS booth at the main concession stand.
Still, as for this boycott-and/or-run-him- up-the-flagpole sensibility that now permeates the landscape, I say this: If you don’t like what a sports pundit or a baseball manager says, just turn the page or walk away.
(I once gave the worst toast ever at a friend’s wedding. But did they throw me out of the reception? No – just nobody talked to me the rest of the evening, which is how folks should treat Guillen’s comments. And I speak as a Cuban-American myself with a relatively healthy disdain for Fidel Castro.)
As comedian Bill Maher opined last month in the New York Times, “We need to learn to coexist, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck.”
Naturally, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement supporting the Marlins’ decision to suspend Guillen, saying, “Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities. … Mr. Guillen’s remarks have no place in our game.”
Interestingly, Selig sat side-by-side with Castro when the Orioles traveled to Cuba for an exhibition game in 1999. Hmm. I’m not sure what message of social responsibility it sends to America when the commissioner-for-life rubs elbows in the stands with the comandante-for-life.
How can Guillen be condemned for his lack of judgment while Selig, who authorized an MLB appearance in Cuba and then validated Castro by chatting him up, waves to the crowd?
Guillen didn’t even praise Castro’s policies, he simply praised his perseverance.
And let me ask you this: What chance of survival would you give to a guy orchestrating a Communist revolution on a small island 90 miles south of the biggest, toughest, militarily powerful capitalist empire in history?
(Uh, oh. I hope I’m not suspended for five columns now.)
Ask The Slouch
Q. I noticed that you pay off your winners in cash – is this just a clever way to launder your considerable gambling winnings to avoid taxes? (Doug Stark; Pittsburgh)
A. Listen, pal, I avoid the tax problem by losing every year.
Q. If someone you knew was going to buy a Tebow jersey, would you advise them to save the receipt? (Eugene Shepard; Florence, Mont.)
A. I held on to mine.
Q. Academics seem to interfere with athletics at most institutions of higher learning. Which college will be the first to eliminate academics and concentrate strictly on athletics? (Joel Kaufman; Deale, Md.)
A. I believe Kentucky already did.
Q. Is there any putt that Johnny Miller considers unmakeable? (Don Cawley; Shaker Heights, Ohio)
Q. The NFL, NBA and MLB all concluded labor deals in the last year. Will the SEC settle its deal in time to avoid a disruption of the football season? (Greg Krueger; Cedarburg, Wis.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.