Will Castro controversy finally force Ozzie to clam up?

This weekend’s column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

Will Castro controversy finally force Ozzie to clam up?

By Dave Wischnowsky


April 14, 2012

During his tempestuous tenure with the Chicago White Sox, Ozzie Guillen could often be quite difficult to fully understand. But the problem with the controversial comments that Guillen made about as regularly as pitching changes was rarely the translation from Spanish to English.

Rather, it Ozzie’s own translation from dumb to stupid.

Last week, just a few days after being introduced to their baseball team’s new manager, the residents of Miami officially met Ozzie Guillen.

With his dumb – and stupid – “I love Fidel Castro” comments published in Time Magazine, Floridians quickly discovered just what the Mouth of the South (Side or Beach) is really all about.

Bienvenidos a Miami, Ozzie.

And Miami? Bienvenidos a Ozzie.

But as Guillen sits out a five-game suspension for his remarks, the most intriguing question as we move forward is whether this incident will finally force the Miami Sound Machine to change his tune and actually watch his mouth.

Beyond that, is he even capable?

This past Monday, Chicago Tribune baseball writer Phil Rogers pointed out that Guillen’s Castro comments were really nothing out of the ordinary for the fiery Venezuelan.

“A Time Magazine reporter simply didn’t do Guillen the favor that so many of us have done on an almost daily basis around the ballpark, letting his stream-of-consciousness rambling go in one ear and out the other,” Rogers explained.

Nor was this instance even the first time that Guillen had publicly professed his admiration for the Cuban strongman. In September 2008, while interviewing Guillen for a Q&A that ran in Men’s Journal, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander asked, “Who’s the toughest man you know?”

Guillen replied: “Fidel Castro.” And when asked why, the White Sox manager elaborated, “He’s a (expletive) dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him. Everywhere he goes, they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy; I admire him.’’

Guillen’s own carpet wasn’t pulled out from under him with those comments because he was managing in Chicago at the time. But for him to echo those same sentiments while now managing for the Marlins – who built their new ballpark in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood – is almost beyond comprehension.

More than 850,000 Cuban-Americans live in the Miami area, and for Guillen to praise the brutal dictator who drove many of them from their homeland and killed countless others is about as bright as Penn State’s new football coach announcing after a week on the job how he, in fact, has great admiration for Jerry Sandusky.

That’s not going to go over well.

With a World Series ring on his finger, Guillen may be a talented baseball manager. But throughout his career he’s never proven himself to be particularly bright, although his right-hand man, Joey Cora, who will manage the Marlins during Guillen’s absence, believes this verbal misstep will change him.

“I think he learned a lesson on this one,” said Cora, who added that he sensed a difference in Ozzie’s demeanor after the Castro story broke. “I’m pretty sure he’s a better man today than he was yesterday. He learned from this one …

“I’m pretty sure he won’t get into this kind of trouble anymore. This was big, and he felt it from the beginning. … Hopefully he makes amends with the community, and he will.”

Guillen, who has always done his share of charitable work, no doubt will try to make amends in South Florida. But there’s only one surefire way for us to know if Ozzie truly has changed.

And that’s if we don’t hear from him at all.

Will Ozzie Guillen finally zip his lip?