Guillen Being Guillen

by Daniel Foster

Ozzie Guillen is Ozzie Guillen. He doesn’t know how to be anybody else. Which is why it was just a matter of time that the new Miami Marlins manager would find himself in trouble:

Ozzie Guillen was suspended five games by the Miami Marlins in advance of a news conference this morning where he explained his explosive comments about Fidel Castro, words that have set off protests in the middle of the community where the Marlins have built their new stadium and among fans the team hope to woo.

What explosive comments? In an interview with Time, Guillen said he “loved” Fidel Castro and respected him for being able to stay in power in Cuba for over 50 years. Needless to say, Miami’s Cuban community does not share Guillen’s love, as hundreds showed up to protest outside Miami’s new stadium in Little Havana. Ozzie blamed the quote on poor translation:

Guillen, the first-year manager of the Marlins, made a special trip back to Miami from Philadelphia on an off-day for the team so he could explain comments in a Time magazine article praising Castro.

“He has done a lot of bad things,” Guillen said of Castro. “That’s why I am surprised he has stayed in power so long.”

Guillen said he felt the meaning of his comments were misconstrued in the translation between Spanish and English. He took and answered questions in both languages for nearly an hour today.

“I don’t want to make excuses,” he said. “But I meant that I was surprised Fidel Castro stayed in power so long. That’s what was missing in the translation. … I’m not saying the journalist was wrong. I was wrong. I was thinking in Spanish and I said it wrong in English.”

I’m certainly willing to chalk Guillen’s comments up to carelessness and not Communism. For one thing, Guillen has always suffered from a terminal case of the verbal runs. This is a guy who was previously disciplined for publicly calling a sports columnist an anti-gay slur and who describes himself as “the Charlie Sheen of baseball minus the drugs and the prostitutes.” For another, Guillen is not so sanguine about Hugo Chavez, ruler of his native Venezuela. In proof that he’s not all bad, Guillen once said of Sean Penn’s admiration for Chavez.

“Sean Penn. if you love Venezuela, please move to Venezuela for a year. … But rent a house in Guarenas or Guatire to see how long you last, clown. … Can I say what I think about him? He is a loser.”

At his apology conference today, Guillen expressed a similar sentiment, saying “I prefer to die than to vote for Hugh Chavez.”

At the same time, I have little time for the general social media freakout over Guillen’s suspension, particularly the handful of anonymous lefties I’ve seen retweeted in my Twitter feed who want to turn this into an issue about the denial of Guillen’s free speech. Of all people, Keith Olbermann is making sense on this score, pointing out to his shrieking followers that the First Amendment doesn’t mean an employer can’t discipline an employee for holding odious views, and that Guillen’s comments re: Castro are of a level with the late (and infamous) Marge Schott’s comments about Hitler way back in 1996.

Right Field

Brief chronicles of our sporting times.