The mess surrounding Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen can’t be easily resolved with just apologies and a five-game suspension. On Tuesday, the club announced Guillen would miss those games as disciplinary action for his comments last week regarding Fidel Castro.
The comments incensed the Cuban-American community (which is particularly large in Miami), and Guillen apologized and tried to clarify what he said.
In 1993, I was in a very similar situation when then-Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott made racially insensitive remarks regarding African-American players as well as Adolf Hitler. I was a rookie general manager with a rookie field manager dealing with an owner who honestly could not fathom what she did wrong. Frankly, it was a nightmare.
The situation parallels Guillen’s situation in the sense that baseball should have made this an industry issue rather than a club issue. The club-mandated five-game suspension on Guillen falls short of the penalty levied on Schott, as well as the consequences faced by former Los Angeles Dodgers GM Al Campanis when he made racially insensitive remarks about African-Americans to Ted Koppel on "Nightline" almost 25 years ago.
Like Schott, Guillen has alienated a section of the fan base and he will never win all of them back. For that reason, if I was sitting in the GM’s chair, my initial reaction would have been to give him the opportunity to resign before terminating him. After all, in Campanis' case, he was allowed the opportunity to resign or face termination. In Schott’s case, MLB suspended her for the 1993 season and fined her $250,000. She later was banned from baseball in 1996 after a second incident.
I know baseball isn’t politics, but you can’t have a manager (or any employee for that matter) making insensitive comments that will offend the fan base.