Guillen, Cespedes and Mixing Baseball and Politics
Earlier this week I made myself a little promise, to discover a love for major league baseball, seeing as our own Washington Nationals are finally enjoying a good deal of buzz. But before I could even get started learning getting to know our own team, the newly renamed Miami Marlins demanded my attention.
The Marlins’ manager, Ozzie Guillen, made a pretty startlingly dumb comment in his recent interview with Time Magazine. “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? Many people have tried to kill Fidel Castro in the last 60 years, yet that [guy] is still there." It was sure to offend some folks, probably lots, in Miami.
Guillen apologized for the remark, saying he was misinterpreted and, a native Spanish speaker, struggled to get what he really meant across in English, but it wasn’t enough. He’s now been suspended for 5 games, and there are still calls for him to be sacked.
John Friedman lays out the complexities of the story, and thus, of the decisions made and perhaps yet to be made by the Marlins ownership:
"Politics: You don’t have to be an expert in the history of Cuban politics or Castro’s legacy or Miami’s demographics to understand the explosive nature of this story.
Economics: By potentially damaging its relations with Cuban-Americans, how much money does the Marlins franchise risk losing?
Management: Can Guillen, who led the Chicago White Sox to a World Series victory in 2006, somehow continue to be an effective on-the-field manager, given all of the commotion he has stirred up?
Freedom of Speech: Don’t we allow people to make stupid statements when they don’t directly threaten the welfare of a fellow citizen?
Labor: What’s the appropriate punishment for a high-profile employee who says something in an interview and enrages a segment of your clientele?"
John Shea, over at the San Francisco Chronicle, thinks Marlins owner Jeff Loria shouldn’t be surprised by Guillen's faux pas, since “Guillen has a history of saying outrageous things, and if Loria didn't want that in a manager, he shouldn't have hired Guillen.”
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig supported Guillen’s suspension, saying his remarks were “offensive to an important part of the Miami community and others throughout the world” and “have no place in our game.” He went on to call baseball a "social institution with important social responsibilities." Fair enough, but, as Shea points out, this is the same commissioner who sat with Fidel Castro during an Orioles exhibition game in Cuba in 1999. The Cuban - U.S. exhibition games were a fine and historic example of how baseball can bring people together, no matter how far apart their politics may be.
I'm not sure how far this "social institution" thing really goes, but Tim Brown makes a good case for why it needn't go far at all:
"What, you thought you were getting Henry Kissinger?
. . . I say this with all respect to Cuban-Americans, Ozzie Guillen, Marlins fans, the First Amendment, the pitchfork-and-torch crowd and anyone else calling for Ozzie Guillen's head: Why do we care what Ozzie Guillen thinks – or says – about anything beyond his lineup card? The man wears pajamas for a living and possesses no authority on the subject of Fidel Castro or the people Castro abused. None. . . he doesn't speak for you."
The Chronicle's John Shea naturally checked with the Oakland A’s new Cuban superstar Yoenis Cespedes on the developing Guillen story but Cespedes wouldn’t comment. Apparently he doesn’t like to mix his baseball with politics. That being the case, it’s a good thing he went to the A’s instead of the Marlins.