Ozzie's back! The Miami Marlins' manager returns Tuesday from his five-game, team-imposed suspension for blathering stupidly about Fidel Castro. And while the team will be playing on the field, the focus will be on the stands, the fans, and Ozzie's famously big mouth. The question is: has Ozzie learned his lesson? And, more importantly, will he keep his mouth shut?
In case you missed it, last week the Marlins got at least half of what they hoped for when they hired Guillen as the team's new manager in the fall. They wanted someone who was going to be as good at focusing players on winning a pennant as he was at focusing attention on the team. Now all that's missing is the pennant.
This time, the infamously sharp-tongued Ozzie, who has always fired off rapid-fire bursts of bombast faster than he can think of the consequences, struck at the very heart of the team's fan base. In an interview that appeared on Time Magazine's website, Guillen said "I love Fidel Castro - I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother****** is still here."
It was like throwing chum in a shark tank. The press and politicians pounced. Protesters swarmed (not many, about 200, but still).
But that may only be the beginning.
The Marlins have the next-to-worst attendance in the league - 29th out of 30 - and a brand-new, taxpayer-funded $634 million stadium they're hoping to fill. But now, thanks to Ozzie, its most dedicated fans - Cuban exiles and their children - are threatening to tear up their tickets to let the sea of empty stands show their outrage.
Of course, if the stands are empty at a Marlins game, who will notice?
What happens next is really up to Ozzie. He apologized, which is not something he often does. And the five-game timeout the team gave him was a nice and symbolic slap on the wrist. The truth is, the team¿s owners couldn't have been hugely surprised. Ozzie's blistering tongue is part of the package. It's not like he suddenly started speaking up in ways that offend. It's what he does.
But it has to be scary for them to have him offending the people who just dropped more than a half-billion dollars building them a brand new stadium, and who they wanted to come sit in it.
And it has to be even scarier to know that Ozzie's mouth is sure to fly open again, probably soon, and spew another outrageously insulting, disparaging, mocking and, yes, just plain stupid comment. It's not really a question of will it happen or not. It's more a question of when, and who will be the target.
Source: Carlos Harrison