Earlier today, the Miami Marlins announced that Ozzie Guillen would be suspended for five games for his inflammatory remarks about Fidel Castro (and Bud Selig subsequently rubber-stamped the decision). This comes as no great surprise for two consequential reasons. In terms of general insensitivity and idiocy, there is a very significant Cuban expatriate community within Miami (not to mention the fact that Marlins Park is essentially located in Little Havana). Guillen certainly crossed a line in his praise for Castro, regardless of how back-handed the remarks may have been, and it is unsurprising that such statements would reverberate throughout the Cuban community – as well as the greater Hispanic community at-large, a great deal of which is all too familiar with the perils of unchecked dictatorships. It would be quite difficult to imagine a greater ‘perfect storm’ of offensiveness when considering the locale, the population … and the target demographic of the team’s marketing efforts.
Furthermore, Major League Baseball has reacted strongly to such transgressions in the past. Most recently, Marge Schott, the former owner of the Cincinnati Reds, was suspended for the entirety of the 1993 season for a series of racially charged remarks. The detestable Schott admittedly referred to outfielders Eric Davis and Dave Parker as “million-dollar ******,” and, after stating that the statement was a joke, alleged that Adolf Hitler’s early impact in Germany was positive. While the latter could be argued by an eloquent historian, it must be noted that both statements were made by a woman who allegedly displayed a Nazi Swastika and would not hire African-Americans in a management capacity. Ozzie Guillen’s remarks were, at least in my mind, far less appalling. Similarly, the source must be considered, and we must distinguish between a not-so-closeted racist and a noted sufferer of foot-in-mouth disease.
Despite what the title of this post and the distinction above may suggest, I do agree that some action needed to be taken with Guillen. The potential ramifications of his remarks – particularly in the Hispanic community, but beyond as well – cannot be understated. I do not think that a year-long suspension or termination is necessary, however, and I do feel that the condemnation at the hands of the Miami Marlins organization, Major League Baseball, and countless players is a fairly weighty (if ephemeral) punishment. In an ideal scenario, Guillen would learn a great deal from this, serve his suspension with quiet dignity, and we would all forgive … but not necessarily forget.
That being said, I cannot in good conscious detach the proactivity of the Marlins organization and Major League Baseball here from the veritably blatant disinterest in matters of genuine illegalities and character flaws.
Over the past five years, neither the Commissioner nor the organizations themselves have done much of anything about the disconcerting trend of public drunkenness, drunk driving, and general reprehensible behavior that has tainted the image of the game.
In 2007, Scott Olsen was arrested for driving under the influence, resisting arrest, and fleeing a police officer. That same year, Tony La Russa was charged with driving under the influence. In 2008, Josh Lueke was arrested and charged with rape (though he eventually plead no-contest to false imprisonment with violence). Coco Crisp and Adam Kennedy were arrested for driving under the influence just prior to the 2011 season. Derek Lowe and Shin-Soo Choo were arrested for the same during the 2011 season. Miguel Cabrera was detained in 2009 for allegations of domestic abuse, and once more in 2011 for driving under the influence. And this past March, Bobby Jenks joined this ignominious group with a DUI.
What do all of these instances of criminal activity have in common (with the exception of the obvious that is alcohol)? None of these offenses were met with any repercussions from either Major League Baseball or the respective organizations of the offenders.
This may seem a confusing topic on which to place my soapbox, as I do not take umbrage with Major League Baseball taking a stand against the Guillens and Schotts in the game. However, the inaction with respect to what amounts to an endemic of criminality within the game is simply unforgivable – particularly on the heels of the tragic death of Nick Adenhart only a year and a day ago … at the hands of a drunk driver.
As Bud Selig pointed out today, “baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities. All of our 30 clubs play significant roles within their local communities, and I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game’s many cultures deserve.” For this, it is respectable that the Marlins took action. Sadly, it seems as if Mr. Selig and the rest of the baseball community is unwilling to apply the old adage “actions speak louder than words” to those that risk substantial bodily harm to themselves and others.
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