Ozzie gets five days for Castro comments

Anybody seen Jack McKeon?

Apparently much to the surprise of the Miami Marlins, Ozzie Guillen firmly put his foot in his mouth in a recent interview with Time magazine. A Latino manager hired to manage a team in a city that has a neighborhood call “Little Havana” can’t say:

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

The reaction to Guillen’s comments in Miami was less than favorable, in particular from Cuban refugees who fled their home country because of Fidel Castro. The Marlins gave Guillen a five-game suspension today.

Guillen has drawn attention from the commissioner’s office for his comments in the past. In 2006 he was fined and order to take sensitivity training for using a gay slur toward Jay Mariotti, a Chicago sportswriter.

He has apologized for his Castro comments and people who know him say he is about as upset as they have seen him, but the hard fact is that Ozzie and the Marlins are in a difficult position.

It should be interesting to see if Guillen has lost the clubhouse or, at least, the respect of many of his players for his comments. I will admit to not understanding the full depth of Guillen’s comments until I talked to a few people from the Miami area. For Guillen, who has called the area home for over a decade, to not understand is quite unbelievable. It may be very hard to Guillen to get his team to completely trust his sincerity in his apology.

But now the Marlins have a larger issue at hand.

The Marlins have a new publicly funded stadium. A stadium, in Little Havana, that will cost the city $2 billion over the next 40 years. The Marlins have lavished millions of dollars on payroll. About the worst thing that could happen to them, in a city where the Cuban community is politically powerful, is for their manager to praise Castro.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria had to work with that community to get the new stadium. The pressure on the Marlins from a community of people driven from their homeland by Castro is going to be immense. I am sure the commissioner’s office, which lobbied to the same groups for a new stadium, is going to apply further pressure to make sure the Marlins don’t have a full blown taxpayer revolt on their hands. One idea of the intensity of the issue can be found here:

“We strongly disagree with the opinion of Ozzie Guillen, and consider it a provocation against the Cuban and Venezuelan communities,” said Miguel Saavedra, head of Vigilia Mambisa. “Tomorrow starts a boycott. We are asking for the resignation of Guillen.”

Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez has called for “decisive steps” to end the controversy.

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The five-game suspension gives the Marlins a bit of time to find the full scope of the damage Guillen has done. It gives the Marlins time to figure out how, exactly, to free themselves of Ozzie.

The Marlins, though, hold some blame here. Guillen also has waverd between supporting and not supporting, Hugo Chavez, president of Ozzie’s country of birth, Venezuela, and a Castro supporter. They should have taken this consideration before hiring Guillen.

I am sure they will take it into consideration when they decide his fate. If, before the suspension is up, the Marlins announce Guillen was fired in part because he lost the trust of players in the clubhouse I wouldn’t be surprised but it won’t be the full reason.

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This isn’t the same Commissioner who has been photographed watching a baseball game while sitting next to the aforementioned Fidel Castro is it?


Ozzie is entitled to his opinion. If understood in the framework of baseball, not the zany world of geopolitics, his defense of Castro actually makes sense. Unlike the Dominican Republic, young Cuban players aren’t pressured into sex with their coaches in order to make the starting roster. They can thank Fidel and the revolution for that.

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