Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has made headlines over his years in baseball, as a player, coach and manager.
He is not one to hold back his feelings and thoughts, much to the delight of the media and fans, but not always to ownership and Major League Baseball.
This past Sunday, speaking to the press in the daily pregame Q and A session, Guillen spoke of what he views as disadvantages for Latino players when compared to players from other countries who come to play pro ball in the U.S.
Most cited was his query as to why Japanese players always had translators while Latinos did not. While that garnered attention, it was not the big issue to which he spoke.
More important were his comments about the use of performance-enhancing drugs by aspiring Latino players.
“It’s somebody behind the scene making money off those kids and telling them to take something they’re not supposed to,” Guillen said. “If you tell me, you take this and you’re going to be Vladimir Guerrero or you’re going to be Miguel Cabrera, I’ll do it. Why? Because I have seven younger brothers that sleep in one bed in the same room. I have to take care of my mother, my dad.”
He is very right about that problem and he doesn’t think MLB is doing enough.
The list of players suspended for 50 games at the minor league level for use of such drugs continues to grow.
When Guillen spoke Sunday, that list included 67 minor leaguers and 49 of them were Latin players.
Looking at past years, that percentage doesn’t change much.
That creates a real conundrum for MLB.
The 50-game suspensions for those caught is not going to stop the kid from using the drugs if he, as Guillen correctly notes, believes that is the only way out of a life of depravation.
Even if caught, once the suspension is done, they are back on the field, believing that but for the drug use they might never have been there in the first place.
So does MLB institute a harsher ban, like one for life? Would even that stop the use?
Guillen sees the problem as one of education. That is where he finds fault with MLB, despite recent efforts to increase such educational programs.
“I’m the only one to teach the Latinos not to use,” said Guillen. “I’m the only one, and Major League Baseball doesn’t [care]. All they care about is how many times I argue with the umpires, or what I say to the media. But I’m the only one in baseball to come up to the Latino kids and say not to use this, and I don’t get any credit for that.”
Credit is not what Guillen wants. He wants Latino players to stop using performance-enhancing drugs. For that effort he deserves credit.
Reading between the lines, Guillen is saying MLB likes him as the attractor of media attention, until the subject becomes substantive.
Baseball might do well to make Guillen the leader in the education effort with Latinos against performance-enhancing drug use.
Guaranteed, he would have something to say and he would be heard.