Monday, April 9, 2012

The Red Scare

Last night, I was all set to respond to Ozzie Guillens statement of "respect" for Castro. While I've voiced support for athletes wading into contentious geopolitical issues before- and actually do support Ozzie doing so here, too- his comments were particularly superficial and nonsensical, as if all of global politics can be reduced to the third act of "Scarface". That sucks, and I wanted to say as much. It's not that Ozzie shouldn't have spoken out- I want more sports figures to be as fearless as him! I just also want them to say more interesting, useful things, and will feel the freedom to call them on it when they don't.

Seriously, that was going to be my whole post on the matter last night.

Then, I read today's headlines, and saw that the whole damn world has gone on a jihad about Ozzie.

The Marlins had already apologized, and Ozzie had already walked back his statements. He also spoke to the team's Spanish language broadcasters (both Cubans) to apologize, and will apparently fly back to Miami in the middle of a road trip to apologize (which might be his second or third apology, depending on how you feel about "if anyone was hurt" apologies). I don't really mind any of that; Ozzie, like the rest of us, has to be held to account for what he says.

But now, one columnist has appointed himself the voice of all Cuban Americans and said Ozzie's apologies weren't enough. He may have a point, as a Cuban group is planning to march on Marlins Park and threatening a boycott of the team until Ozzie steps down. And Ken Rosenthal is calling for a one-month suspension.

This is getting ridiculous. Ozzie's statement was stupid and I fully encourage all of the people noted above to criticize him for it, even harshly. But it's not Ozzie's job to say intelligent things about international politics, so why should he lose his job for his failure to do so? I'm not comfortable with firing someone for performing not-their-job poorly. I understand that this creates a PR issue for the Marlins, but I'm even less comfortable with firing someone just because some people are offended by a dumb and irrelevant statement.

Moreover, ruining someone's career because they're not bellicose enough against Communism? Haven't we seen this movie before?

The worst part is, for 90% of baseball fans, this is a non-issue. Did you know Guillen has said superficially nice things about Hugo Chavez, too? No, you didn't, 'cause who cares? He's a baseball manager, not an Assistant Secretary of State. The only reason THIS one is a controversy is because some loudmouths who insist that they speak for every Cuban in Miami demand that every public figure in southern Florida publicly bray for Castro's blood.

But if the loudmouths want to fire a baseball manager because he said something stupid about a topic that has nothing to do with baseball, it pretty well illustrates why they should just be ignored.

UPDATE 4/10/12: Ozzie has been suspended for five games, effective immediately. Team decision, not league, so no appeal. Also, check the bottom of the link- this isn't the first time Ozzie's said nice things about Castro (though I wonder if Castro would agree that you can separate him from his philosophy quite so easily). Not sure how much of a fan I am of any punishment beyond reputation damage here, but I can live with this (and since Jeff Loria definitely thinks about my opinion, that's good). Of course, if your line-up is pretty set and you platoons are fairly well-defined, a manager doesn't need to do much on a day-to-day basis anyway, so we can argue if this is even that much of a punishment.


  1. I think you're being a little heavy handed in saying that George Diaz has "appointed himself the voice of all Cuban Americans." Diaz is sharing his personal experience and his disappointment in Guillen. Diaz isn't calling for Guillen's head. The last thing most columnists of color want is to claim they're speaking for all of people of their race or ethnicity. I just don't see it here.

    1. Conceded. And Diaz does explicitly say Guillen doesn't deserve to be fired, which is good. But I'm still rankled by the headline (which I know may not be Diaz' doing) and the "people like me will never forget" rhetoric at the end.

      Still, it's very likely that my opinion of the column only suffers when it's placed in context of the boycott, march, and 2012 Ozzie Guillen Apology Tour. Viewed in isolation, it's much less objectionable.