MORRISSEY: Did the Marlins’ firing make Ozzie untouchable?
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org October 23, 2012 5:00PM
Updated: October 23, 2012 5:42PM
I’m trying to think of environments that would have been more beneficial to Ozzie Guillen’s management career. Enron comes to mind. So does a collapsed mine shaft, the Hindenburg and the Lance Armstrong Public Relations Co.
Anything would have been better than Miami, which is where baseball goes when it feels like dying. The Marlins fired Guillen on Tuesday, just one season into a four-year contract worth $10 million. He gets the money and the permanent stain that goes with having worked for that miserable organization.
Anyone who knows Guillen – which is to say anyone who has listened to him or read his comments over the years – knows exactly who and what he is. But his brief encounter with the Marlins might make him untouchable as a manager, and that’s sad.
He will forever be part of a hellish season that saw the team move into a new stadium, spend the most money it ever had on payroll, fall apart like an eggshell on the field, dismantle a large part of the lineup before August and observe Miamians do what they do most of the time – anything else but watch baseball.
In hindsight, we can see that when Guillen joined the Marlins after eight seasons with the White Sox, it was the worst decision of his professional career. Actually, the second-worst decision. The worst was when he opened his mouth the first week of the season and told Time magazine he admired Fidel Castro. If there’s one thing you don’t do in Miami, the Cuban-American capital of the country, it’s that.
There was more to that story, of course. Guillen’s point was that it was stunning Castro could still be in power after mistreating so many people, but it didn’t matter. The damage was done. He was already on notice in Miami.
From there, the season, the team and Guillen seemed to go into a free fall together. He finally landed with a splat Tuesday, and it was messy, as it’s always going to be with the fiery skipper. He had run-ins with poisonous closer Heath Bell, who lashed out publicly at Guillen. The players backed Guillen on that one. It didn’t matter to owner Jeffrey Loria, who can’t seem to get along with his managers. That group includes Joe Girardi, who has done pretty well for himself with the Yankees.
There was no way Loria, an art dealer, was going to understand Ozzie, who is a riot of paint splashed against a canvas. But what the baseball world sees now is a former manager who couldn’t get along with White Sox general manager Ken Williams and lasted only a year in Miami.
Does Guillen have some soul-searching to do? Absolutely. An Ozzie fatigue had set in Chicago, and it became popular among a segment of Sox fans to rip his abilities, sneer at his tendency to hog the spotlight and conveniently forget about the 2005 World Series he helped deliver. On its own, that was OK.
But he wore out his welcome in Miami at warp speed, and he needs to ask himself how big his role was in that. It’s what other owners and GMs will be asking themselves in the future. If they’re fair to him, they’ll ask the players from his Sox years what they think of Guillen. Those people know him as much more than the character you see erupting periodically on SportsCenter.
The rest of baseball doesn’t right now.
Ozzie’s a good manager. It will take someone who understands his big personality to work with him. I’m not sure anyone will take the time to do that.
That’s the most confounding part of this. Did Loria do his homework before he hired him? Did he not know there would be rough patches and public comments made in the heat of the battle?
When he fired Guillen on Tuesday, it didn’t look as if Loria knew a thing.