Yesterday on Fish Bites, we highlighted two of the recent things Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said that caused a good deal of controversy in the media. It turns out the comment regarding his "respect" for Fidel Castro has landed him on the team's hot seat as well, as he has been suspended five games by the team. The suspension was announced at a press conference in Marlins Park this morning.
The suspension is somewhat surprising, as ultimately these are just words that Guillen said rather than things that he did. In addition, these were words regarding something not related to the Marlins or baseball, though they were very strongly related to the Miami community with whom the Marlins are trying to garner favor. The team wants to send an obvious message to the Cuban community that Guillen's words are not acceptable and that they deserve punishment.
But five games? Is that justified, knowing Guillen's actual intent?It is not as if the intent was not in the quote itself. I mean, look at the quote again.
"I respect Fidel Castro," Guillen was quoted as saying. "You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro over the last 60 years, but that mother****** is still here."
Within the quote itself, he displays his intent at saying that he respects Castro's ability to survive without respecting his policies or actions. So the intent of the quote is strictly clear, yet the Marlins are still going to suspend Guillen for five games for saying something essentially on his own time? It seems rather harsh when considering the other things that Major League Baseball has done to suspend players for other things. Consider that Nyjer Morgan a few years ago got a seven-game suspension for throwing a ball into stands, which could have injured a fan, and an eight-game suspension for his role in instigating the Chris Volstad - Morgan - Gaby Sanchez clothesline fiasco. Sanchez himself got three games for decking Morgan in defense of his pitcher. Guillen said some very stupid words, but he is receiving a suspension midway between physical defense of teammates and potentially hurting fans? This is not to mention a myriad of other off-field activities that seem to go unpunished by Major League Baseball; as Ehsan Kassim of Marlin Maniac noted in a conversation between him and I earlier today:
I can understand why the team suspended him, probably the right move, but I don't support it because of the fact that people who get DUI's get no punishment.
This is not to say that Guillen's words should be forgiven, or that they are not incredibly insensitive or dumb given the community he should be considering. I am not Cuban nor Hispanic, so I do not have the strong, visceral reaction to discussions about Fidel Castro and the current Cuban regime, but even I can see that saying anything positive about Fidel Castro as a manager of a team trying to tie their brand to Miami is major mistake. Whatever Guillen's intent may have been, the words were never going to come out or be spun correctly, so he should have wisely avoided any talk of that nature. But such is the nature of the volatile Guillen, whom we know to speak his mind quite often and without much filter.
Was the punishment too harsh? Probably, especially since it was literally just words and his intent was written in the quote. Was it justified to suspend him? Perhaps, as the team was trying to send a message to the fan base that they are desperately trying to build that anything that would peeve the Cuban population would be out of the question. But was it dumb of Guillen to say any of those things? Absolutely, and he should be contrite about his words, as he was when he delivered his apology during the press conference. All in all, it was an ugly couple of days, and I am hoping mostly for a quick resolution and a return to things involving baseball and not political discussion by people who are not paid to do it.