Ozzie Guillen isn’t the random, out of control raving maniac he portrays himself to be. Most of his outrageous statements are designed to take the pressure off his team and put the focus on himself. He’s done it before and will undoubtedly do it again. But the last thing he wanted to do when taking over as manager of the Marlins was to say positive things about Fidel Castro.
The Marlins’ hopes to draw fans to their new ballpark hinge heavily on the Cuban population in Miami. That population is only so prevalent in Miami because of Castro’s autocratic regime taking over Cuba and their desire to escape to freedom.
According to this USA Today piece, in a Time Magazine profile Guillen said the following:
“I love Fidel Castro.”
Then he said:
“I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (SOB) is still here.”
The “why” Guillen said this is irrelevant. Whether Guillen was kidding around; making a blanket statement about someone who he clearly was, in some way, comparing to himself as a survivor; or said something to intentionally put the focus on himself rather than his team has no bearing on the end result and his failure to think before speaking.
There’s a big difference between off-field idiocy and on-field psychological tricks. Guillen has his hands full with keeping Carlos Zambrano in line; convincing Hanley Ramirez that moving to third base is good for his career; maintaining the health of Jose Reyes; and navigating the glued together clubhouse and roster while attracting fans to watch the team play.
The one thing you do not want to do is alienate your targeted base; to make it easier for a potential customer to say they don’t want to consume your product.
The Marlins need the Cuban-American communtity to come to the new ballpark and watch their team. With a revamped roster that’s off to a slow start, they’re clearly going to take time to gel.
The team gelling is largely up to Guillen.
Already owner Jeffrey Loria is under investigation by the SEC for the financing of that new ballpark; the amenities and gaudiness of the stadium itself are being ridiculed; and Loria was under attack for trotting Muhammad Ali out to take part in the first pitch ceremony.
They didn’t need the highly paid new manager to make off-field controversies worse.
Guillen’s act is to be front and center and the Marlins knew that when they hired him. It’s part of the reason they hired him in the first place. That said, there’s a line between ripping players publicly; chastising umpires on Twitter; challenging and questioning your GM; bickering with coaches and opposing managers—all of which Guillen has done in the past and will do in the future—and saying something geopolitically ignorant and inciteful as declaring one’s love for Castro while smack in the middle of a city that reviles Castro as the epitome of evil.
Guillen crossed that line and has apologized.
That apology should be accepted and everyone should move on.
But everyone moving on doesn’t include continuing to line Loria’s pockets by purchasing tickets; validating the hiring of Guillen by going to the games, spending money and partaking in the carnival.
The complaints and protests will die down; the team will play better than they have so far; the damage done to Marlins’ already sketchy ticket sales won’t be so easy to fix.