This Weak In Baseball: Ozzie Guillen Libre

By Brian P. Dunleavy
Apr. 16, 2012

Ozzie Guillen returns to the Miami Marlins dugout tomorrow night after serving the most famous, and infamous, five-game suspension in recent baseball history.

Of course, that the team manager missed any time at all is beyond absurd, but good luck trying to find any sports media voices with the courage to say so.

Indeed, the chorus of baseball columnists and TV commentators has been overwhelmingly supportive of the Marlins’ decision to suspend Guillen for what in reality were fairly tame comments about former Cuban president Fidel Castro. No surprise there. After all, generations of Americans have been raised on the idea that Castro was and is the boogey-man, a ruthless dictator who stormed to power and robbed the Cuban people of their freedom. And of course, at least some of that is true.

At the same time, we’ve also all been taught to forget that his predecessor, who had the support of the U.S. government and, purportedly, organized crime figures, was no saint either. As James Thurber once wrote of baseball history, “You can look it up.”

However, there is no room for such nuance in today’s knee-jerk response, 24-hour news cycle. And for that, Guillen has paid the price, first with the five-game docking and perhaps ultimately with his job (many in Miami’s Cuban community are calling for him to be fired). All for exercising his First Amendment right and saying, "I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? Many people have tried to kill Fidel Castro in the last 60 years, yet that [SOB] is still there.”

Hardly a ringing political endorsement, and very much in line with his 2008 comments to Men’s Journal, when he was asked to name the toughest person he knows. He said then: "Fidel Castro. He's a bull---- dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him. Everywhere he goes they roll out the red carpet. I don't admire his philosophy. I admire him.”

If anything, Guillen isn’t a consistent communist (and really, is that so bad?), but rather a consistent misogynist. You see, Castro merely passes Guillen’s sniff test as a “real man,” unlike a Chicago beat writer whom he addressed using a gay slur during his time as manager of the White Sox. Guillen was disciplined by Major League Baseball for that one.

And so, for me, this isn’t about defending Guillen, a blowhard of the first order, or Castro, whose human rights record is spotty, at best. But it is about defending the right to free speech, no matter how stupid.

For if we disciplined ballplayers and managers every time they said something stupid, we would never have any games to watch.


About the author: Brian P. Dunleavy is a writer who lives in New York.



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