All offseason long, the Miami Marlins looked like a disaster waiting to happen. From their ultra-extravagant, ultra-expensive ballpark, to their roster that relies on a few star players, and not a great deal of depth, it seemed certain that things were going to blow up in their faces by the time July rolled around.
Instead, it happened 3 games into this season.
Yes, Marlins manager and noted cursing enthusiast Ozzie Guillen made some perplexing remarks last week, in which he stated that he “respected” Fidel Castro, primarily due to his ability to stay alive as long as he has. An overrated skill, as anyone has watched a new Simpsons episode, or seen a recent Rolling Stones tour will tell you.
What made these remarks so shocking is that, well, he’s in Miami! If there’s ever a place where a pro-Castro comment isn’t going to be taken lightly. It would be like bashing corn in Iowa, or praising rationality in Kansas. It simply wasn’t going to fly. Sure, enough it sparked outrage among Miami’s very large Cuban community, and Miami responded by suspending Guillen for five games, creating more inconsistency for an already fragile team.
Here’s the difficult question: is any of this especially important? Well, not being a Cuban who escaped to America to get away from Castro, I really couldn’t tell you. What I do know is that Guillen saying things that piss people off is a big part of what he does. During his time as the Chicago White Sox manager he treated fans to numerous expletive-laden rants, frequently going after the media, as well as his own players. So, to use a rather worn-out cliche, Guillen is the kind of guy who’s not afraid to tell it like it is. It’s just that in this case, he told it like it wasn’t, praising a man who most people would agree is an asshole.
Did he deserve the suspension? Hard to say. Part of me thinks that unless someone is either openly critical of the owners, or says something downright hateful (which I don’t think this qualifies as), they probably shouldn’t suspend that person simply for making people uncomfortable. At the same time, I do understand why the Marlins brass made the decision. The team is in the midst of a serious identity change, going from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins, and going from a tiny, low budget team who wins by building a strong farm system to a team that spends money freely, signing Jose Reyes, and almost getting Albert Pujols, too. The team is trying to fundamental change who they are, and to become more popular by doing so. As a result, when one of the team’s most visible faces says something that pisses off an enormous portion of their fanbase, I could certainly see why they would feel the need to respond. And besides, it’s only five games, so it’s not like the Marlins are making some drastic decision that will alter their entire season.
Quite frankly, no matter how the team reacts to the Castro kerfuffle, I think they’re screwed. Everything about this team is just too damn fragile. It’s sounds great in theory — a world series winning manager in Guillen, a top-notch free agent in Reyes, and talented young guys in Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison. Unfortunately, there’s not much beyond that. The Marlins may hover around first place in May, but by the time the all-star break rolls around, they’ll probably be in 3rd place at best. The best the Marlins can hope for is that Guillen can go the rest of the season without talking about how Pinochet “always seemed like a cool bro.”