Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen is returning this week from a 5 game team suspension, earned from the public comments he made expressing admiration for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. All eyes will be on the colorful skipper, who has publically been shamed into shutting his mouth, though he has never had much success in sustaining his silence in the past. This time is different, and if Guillen doesn’t do a better job of censoring himself, he may not be given another chance.
Guillen should be best known for his 16 year major league playing career and the World Series title he won as the manager of the Chicago White Sox in 2005. The fact that instead he’s more renowned for what comes out of his mouth is emblematic of the thin ice on which he sits today. Believing he was riding high after signing on as the Miami manager this past off-season, he is actually at a crossroads with his career that could turn out in very different ways.
Many people may view Guillen’s suspension as a first amendment/free speech issue, but it’s not. I believe as much as anybody that when speaking for yourself you have the right to say what you want. However, Guillen is the most public mouthpiece of the Marlins and everything he says in his capacity of manager reflects back on the organization. His decision to commend Castro was bad enough, but was made worse by his employment being in the one American city that hates the dictator’s regime more than anyone.
The Castro remarks is just one instance in a long line of incidences involving Guillen and his mouth. He has publically chastised his players and GM, used gay slurs, and earlier this year proudly announced that he gets drunk every night in his hotel room after games. The only conclusion that can be drawn at this point is that Guillen is a total blowhard, that he craves being in the spotlight, or a combination of both. These are not qualities that a family oriented business like a major league baseball team should want as their representative. If Guillen continues to go down this road his managerial career will be very much in doubt.
Guillen has always walked a fine line between being an attraction because of the spectacle of never knowing what he will say next, and being bigoted and boorish. Unfortunately he often falls on the wrong side of that line and public tolerance is wearing thin. His over-the-line comments this past week were another indicator that he has no filter and a major reminder to the Marlins that they got in bed with a manager who is as likely to lose them money as he is to make it for them.
Undoubtedly Guillen was brought to Miami in part because of the hope that he would appeal to the significant Latino community in the area. He is off to a rough start, but can still turn it around if he isn’t too arrogant to learn from his mistakes. If it’s attention he craves, he can earn it in spades for things besides making off-color remarks. If he leads a potentially exciting young Marlins team to the playoffs and steps out and does work in his new community, the accolades will be there and for all the right reasons. Winning cures all and if he achieves that in a classy and community-minded way, he will start to earn back respect.
Guillen’s future with the Marlins and baseball hinges on his ability to choose the right path moving forward. It’s time for him to stop talking and to listen if he wants to become anything more than a punch line in the annals of baseball history. He may be on his last chance and unless he recognizes the error of his ways and does something to correct them, the end may come before he even realizes it.
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