White Sox Manager Guillen, Pitcher Suspended

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Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen this week released a tirade, swearing and referring to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti with an offensive homosexual slur. On Tuesday, he also ordered White Sox Player David Riske to bean St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Chris Duncan with a pitch. Guillen and Riske will be suspended for their actions.

NEAL CONAN, host:

Ozzie Guillen is known and loved in the city of Chicago as the man who led the White Sox to victory in the World Series for the first time in almost a century. He's also a man known for his candor.

This week, he got a little carried away. Guillen released a tirade, swearing and calling Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti - well, we can't tell you exactly what he said. Suffice it to say that included an offensive homosexual slur.

On Tuesday, he also ordered White Sox player David Riske to bean St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Chris Duncan with a pitch. ESPN Radio in Chicago is reporting that Guillen and Riske will be suspended for their actions.

We want to get your thoughts on this. Is Major League Baseball being too soft on Guillen? What should Commission Bud Selig do about this sort of misconduct from a manager of a team? 800-989-8255: 800-989-TALK. E-mail: talk@npr.org.

And we turn for more on this to Phil Rogers, who writes about baseball for the Chicago Tribune. He's with us by phone from his home in Naperville, Illinois. Nice of you to join us today.

Mr. PHIL ROGERS (Columnist, Chicago Tribune): Thank you very much. I feel a little bit silly with what I do following your last topic, but we'll plunge on.

CONAN: Well, a mutual understanding is important in baseball too, and there seems to have been a lack of it, historically, between manager Guillen and sports columnist Jay Mariotti.

Mr. ROGERS: Well, I think that's probably fair to say. And, you know, there's really not much relationship there. You know, I think this was, this story is about more than just what Jay wrote about Ozzie in the particular column that set Ozzie off, but I think its also kind of about his methods. And Jay is not a guy that visits the clubhouse very often or that builds the relationships that a lot of other reporters and columnists build. And I think it was the lack of the relationship there, and the lack of an opportunity from Guillen to discuss his feelings or his motivations, or a situation that kind of set Guillen off.

CONAN: Because a lot of ball players and managers will say, look, if you've got criticisms, you bring them here. You tell me to your face - to my face, or at least once you print them, at least let me talk to you about it.

Mr. ROGERS: Right. You feel like you at least have a little more accountability if the guy is going to be there the next day or, you know, you're going to have a chance to say hey, I didn't like what you wrote. That exact situation happened with me yesterday, involving the other manager at that series, Tony LaRussa, the St. Louis manager, who was upset about the way I, what my column off of the bean ball battle that led to Guillen's current suspension, not maybe the next one he's going to get for his tongue. But, you know, I was there and Tony LaRussa was able to get it off his chest, and I think we're going to move on and no big deal.

CONAN: But, to be fair to Jay Mariotti, his relationship with Ozzie Guillen, he says he can't go to the Chicago White Sox clubhouse to talk to people because he's been threatened there and that manager Guillen has done nothing about it.

Mr. ROGERS: Well, I don't know about that, and, you know, I (unintelligible)...

CONAN: I'm just saying that's what he said.

Mr. ROGERS: ...I know I'm not around the team every day, but I've been around the team for a long time and I see a pretty civil working environment. And, you know, if there had been these threats and these problems then nobody else in the media is aware of it. And, you know, the one incident that people are aware of occurred in 1997, and I would say it was no worse than, you know, a lot of situations that happen with reporters. It's often a confrontational, adversarial relationship. And, you know, I would be surprised if Jay was at much more risk than any of the rest of us.

CONAN: we're talking about the situation with the manager of the Chicago White Sox, Ozzie Guillen, with Phil Rogers, a baseball reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Anyway, with that background, what happened was that after the start of the bean ball wars, Mariotti wrote a column, said that Ozzie Guillen ought to be suspended for intending - instructing his pitcher to throw at a player, even if he didn't hit him. And then Ozzie Guillen responded with this tirade against Jay Mariotti.

And at this point, is the belief in Chicago that, you know, in addition to the second bean ball war, for which he reportedly is going to be suspended, that he's going to have to do some time for what he said?

Mr. ROGERS: Well, I think somebody has to hold Ozzie Guillen accountable for his choice of words in critiquing Jay's journalism. And the White Sox do not appear to have chosen to do that.

CONAN: Um-hmm.

Mr. ROGERS: And I think that puts the ball in Major League Baseball's lap. And I will be surprised if there isn't, at the very least, a significant fine. You know, possibly some sensitivity training is, you know, what would happen in another field. You know, and I don't rule out that he could get a suspension as a result of his, you know, his comments, which were...

CONAN: Well, John Rocker...

Mr. ROGERS: ...(unintelligible).

CONAN: ...John Rocker, a player, was suspended, oh I think baseball wanted to suspend him all of spring training and 28 games - that was reduced, I think substantially, by an arbitrator. Managers don't get to go to arbitration. But that's what, for what he said about African-Americans. A player!

A manager using slurs - that's different.

Mr. ROGERS: Well and, you know, there's the history of Marge Schott, the Cincinnati Reds owner, who was suspended, I believe, for a season, for her pattern of slurs. And a distinction, I think, in this case, is, you know, the slur was used as an invective toward one person.

CONAN: Right.

Mr. ROGERS: It wasn't, you know, used toward a whole group that somebody had a problem with, which was the case, apparently, with Rocker. But you know, I mean, these are slippery lines, and you don't want to be on the, any side of, you know, any side of people, of the debate.

CONAN: Yeah, let's get a call in. this is Timmy - Timmy calling from Bayside in New York.

TIMMY (Caller): Yeah, how're you doing?

CONAN: All right.

TIMMY: I've been following this situation, you know, but, Mariotti and this, the coach have been going at each other for months, years, you know. He always takes shots at him, never agrees with his tactics. Bean ball has been - baseball's past time has been going on for years. That's just how the game is played, you know?

CONAN: So have suspensions for throwing them. But yes, go ahead.

TIMMY: No, you know, you get a judgment from the game, and that's the way you go. But, with, well what he called him?

CONAN: Um-hmm.

TIMMY: That was off the record, so, but now nothing's really off the record. And it's also kind of freedom of speech. And now there's, they got shows, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? When was it right to call someone a queer?

CONAN: Well, it might be, to some degree, a question of intent. But...

TIMMY: Yeah, I understand. But you understand what I'm saying, though?

CONAN: No, I understand. Phil Rogers, was this off the record?

TIMMY: It was also just a term. Words are also taken differently nowadays. It's clubhouse talk.

CONAN: I don't think that applies to the n-word. Fighting words are fighting words. But Phil Rogers, was Ozzie Guillen's comment off the record?

Mr. ROGERS: No. But I will say, he has said it was at a session. He sat on the bench and talked to reporters for maybe half an hour. He was there for a very long time. At the start there were TV cameras on him and there were clearly radio interviewers asking him questions. And I think by the time he got, he wound down and said these things, got caught talking about Jay, there were only newspaper reporters there.

And I think he did perceive that it was a more comfortable situation. I don't think he would have said this with the TV cameras on...

TIMMY: Yeah.

Mr. ROGERS: ...but certainly no reporter there granted him any off the record. And I know there was a, you know, if it had been something he had said to one reporter in passing in the clubhouse or something, I don't know if it would've been published. But the circumstances pretty much, you know, answered the question of whether it was, you know, it was suitable for publication.

CONAN: All right. Timmy, thanks very much for the call.

TIMMY: No problem.

CONAN: And, just finally, Phil Rogers, as we wrap up with you, if baseball doesn't do anything, if the Commissioner's office doesn't do anything, it's going to sound as if they're condoning this kind of language.

Mr. ROGERS: Yes, I would totally agree with you. And, you know, there are groups in Chicago, and I'm sure, groups elsewhere, offended by the comments. And, you know, the longer Ozzie Guillen talks, the more people he seems to offend. I mean, and part of his defense was, hey, I go to WNBA games, which, you know, that league is trying to get from under its reputation for the sexuality of its players, so I don't know that that does him any good.

And, you know, it seems to me like, yes, this is a situation where somebody has to make a stand. And it doesn't look like his bosses are going to make it, so I think the organization, you know, that the umbrella over the top is going to have to do something.

CONAN: Phil Rogers, thanks very much. Appreciate your time.

Mr. ROGERS: Thank you.

CONAN: Phil Rogers reports on baseball for the Chicago Tribune, and he joined us today by phone from Naperville, Illinois.

Ira Flatow's going to be here with SCIENCE FRIDAY tomorrow. We'll see you on Monday. I'm Neal Conan, this is NPR News in Washington.

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