The firebrand manager has a history of outspoken outlandishness, and it was only a matter of time before he would go off.
Even so, given Miami's situation—the team just moved to a shiny new ballpark in Guillen's inaugural season at the helm—the brazen manager could have said almost anything without fear of reprisal from above.
Unfortunately for him, Guillen picked the one taboo subject anyone managing in the heart of Little Havana should avoid—Fidel Castro.
For the uninitiated, after spouting off about getting drunk after every game on the road—you know, just your ordinary, everyday Ozzie Guillen quote—he decided to talk about Castro.
Specifically, in an interview with Time magazine, Guillen said that he loves Castro. As reported by USA Today:
Two days after saying he gets drunk every night the team's on the road, Guillen apologized for comments he made in a Time magazine story, in which he's quoted as saying, "I love Fidel Castro."
Later in the article, Guillen said, "I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (SOB) is still here."
This must have been one of those moments where he immediately regretted opening his mouth, as offhanded as those comments probably were.
You see, Fidel has held his island country in poverty and despair for over 60 years. He is the reason there is a Cuban population in Miami, living in exile all the while despising the man who drove them there. There are few men more reviled in the world than Castro by Cuban Americans.
My mother is Cuban, and she immigrated here when she was nine years old. My grandfather had come a year and a half ahead of them to make some money as a construction worker in New Jersey. His wife—my grandmother—was a factory worker, and her mother was a seamstress.
After a while they made enough money to open up a grocery store above which they lived. They finally moved to Miami, closer to home, after selling off the business. My grandfather installed cabinets and then eventually opened up a roofing business, while my grandmother continued as a factory worker.
My family had to work their way up from nothing here—and I am blessed as a result—because of Castro's regime in Cuba. My story is not unique.
I called my mother today to ask her what she thought of Guillen's comments. Of course, since she does not really follow sports or watch the news, I had to tell her.
Her reaction? Instantaneous anger. There was no question in her mind that he must be fired. I would wager to say the vast majority of Cubans over 40 feel the same way.
Guillen has lived in South Florida for 12 years. He knew what sort of reaction this would provoke, hence why he claims he has not slept since that day. Ozzie is not a particularly calculating man when it comes to speaking in public, and his penchant for provocation really came back to bite him this time around.
In a morbidly ironic twist, the manager Jeffrey Loria hired to appeal to the Hispanic community in Miami, in part, made enemies of the biggest demographic among them.
Whatever the policy on mixing politics and anything else might be, Ozzie Guillen's comments are an example of the extreme end of the spectrum. Guillen provoked a truly visceral reaction from a group of people who will not go quietly into the night.
While the younger Cuban generation in Miami might not care enough about the situation to do anything about it, you can bet that the old guard will be out in force. There are a lot of old Cubans in Miami with plenty of influence, whether it be monetary, political or both.
Will that be enough to get Guillen fired? He was riding high on a wave of support because of the team's new direction, and that may ultimately save him. Had this happened in the middle of his second or third season, he would not be nearly so lucky.
Perhaps because I am part of the younger generation, I do not believe Miami should fire Guillen.
For one, he seems to genuinely regret his words. Whether or not he simply regrets saying it rather than keeping his beliefs to himself is something we will never know, but the remorse is there.
From an organizational standpoint, while firing him would not be a violation of his First Amendment rights—yes, Guillen is a naturalized citizen, in case you were unaware—it would represent a big stumble for the Marlins so soon after opening a new stadium.
Of course, keeping a manager that most folks in Little Havana suddenly revile might not be good for the bottom line either.
Contrite as he may be right now, Guillen will always be outspoken. Whether it landed him a pink slip this time around has yet to be determined, but Miami had better get used to the idea of Ozzie Guillen's mouth if he sticks around.