This time Guillen has gone too far

Published Apr. 9, 2012 1:00 a.m. EDT

(Editor's note: senior baseball writer Ken Rosenthal wrote this column before the Miami Marlins announced manager Ozzie Guillen's punishment.)

The Miami Marlins should suspend Ozzie Guillen. A one-month suspension would send a powerful message that Guillen’s thoughtless remarks on Cuban dictator Fidel Castro will not be tolerated. A one-week suspension probably is more realistic.

Yes, we live in a free country, but the Constitution protects free speech only from restriction by the state and federal governments. The Marlins, a private entity, presumably can impose the penalty of their choice on Guillen, who is a management employee, not part of the players union. Still, I’m not confident the Marlins will take action, not when their expectations for the team are so high, not when they just opened their new ballpark.

And not when Guillen is trying his best to make things right, telling reporters, including’s Reid Forgrave, that he will fly to Miami on Monday night and answer questions from the public directly at a news conference on Tuesday, a day off for the team in Philadelphia.


“I don’t want to make any statement. Because I think when you make a statement, it’s a bunch of crap,” Guillen said Monday before the Marlins’ game against the Phillies. “I want people to look in my eyes, to look in my face, and see what’s going on.”

Guillen said that he feels “bad” and “embarrassed” and that he hasn’t slept in three days. I don’t doubt that he is sincere, but he’s engaging in typical crisis management. Apologize and move on . . . it’s the new American way.

In 1993, Major League Baseball banned the late Reds owner Marge Schott from the team’s day-to-day operations after she said, among other things, that Hitler initially was good for Germany.

Guillen is an employee, not an owner. This is a team matter, a matter that the Marlins should address. Baseball need not interviene.

I normally cringe at politically correct overreactions, particularly in response to mindless, preposterous remarks from people who are just spouting off. But when Guillen told Time Magazine, “I love Fidel Castro . . . I respect Fidel Castro . . .” for surviving “when a lot of people have wanted to kill him,” well, that’s about as extreme and insensitive as it gets.

Guillen apologized and the team issued a statement condemning his words, saying, “There is nothing to respect about Fidel Castro. He is a brutal dictator who caused unthinkable pain for more than 50 years. We live in a community filled with victims of his dictatorship and the people in Cuba continue to suffer today.”

The Marlins, however, merit no sympathy. In fact, they will get what they deserve if an anti-Castro, Cuban-American group boycotts and demonstrates against them until Guillen steps down, a plan that is in the works, according to

You hire a loudmouth, you live with a loudmouth. Until, of course, you can tolerate him no more.

For the Marlins, that day likely will not come anytime soon. They are all-in on Guillen, and not simply because he just started the first year of a four-year contract.

Guillen, 48, is the centerpiece of the Marlins’ rebranding efforts in Miami, a bilingual Venezuelan native and attention magnet who recently made the cover of Sports Illustrated with shortstop Jose Reyes — and, ahem, even warranted Time’s attention.

Yet, here’s Guillen alienating the very community that the Marlins are desperate to embrace. If the Marlins don’t punish him now, when will they? Ask the Chicago White Sox, who allowed Guillen to get away with one indiscretion after another before finally deciding that the relationship needed to end.

The Marlins probably had pre-written apologies ready to cut and paste the day they hired Guillen, but his remarks on Castro were beyond the pale. If he wants to get drunk at the hotel bar every night, as he told, that’s his business. But Castro is a flashpoint for a community in which he has lived for 12 years.

I’m not sure even what Guillen was trying to say to Time – that Castro is what, a survivor? Whatever Guillen’s point, it’s almost unthinkable that the manager of the Miami Marlins could say such a thing, particularly when he effectively acts as the spokesman for the team.

I like Guillen. I worked with him when he was an analyst for FOX during the 2010 World Series. I’ve shared many a laugh with him, and yes, chuckled at his creative use of vulgarity and some of his inappropriate remarks.

Guillen is non-stop energy, mostly harmless. None other than Eddie Einhorn — vice-chairman of the White Sox, the team that traded Guillen to the Marlins — pulled me aside at the opening of the Marlins’ new ballpark and said quietly, “He’s a good person.”

Well, good people make mistakes, and Guillen just made the biggest of his career. Chances are the matter will blow over; everything seems to blow over in this society of limited attention spans. But the Marlins shouldn’t allow it to blow over. No, the Marlins should take a stand.

Suspend Guillen.

Not because a protest group wants him out.

Because it’s the right thing to do.