Friday, June 23, 2006

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ First Amendment

Personally, I'm stunned.

No, wait. Even better than that. I, for the first time in recent memory, am speechless. Though I don't believe that will keep me from ranting about it for awhile.

Ozzie Guillen just got fined and ordered to sensitivity training for speaking his mind about Chicago columnist Jay Mariotti. In a country where speaking your mind is apparently no longer allowed. Amazing.

I have the rare luxury of being able to say whatever I please at any time, since this is a blog site and not a newspaper or corporate online webspace. But I can guarantee you one thing - if Jay Mariotti had written anything even close to what Ozzie Guillen verbalized last week, the Chicago Sun Times, its editors, and everyone involved would have backed Mariotti and used the First Amendment as a shield. But because Ozzie spoke his mind, and because he has a penchant for mild outbursts and not holding anything back, he has been fined and ordered to attend sensitivity training.

[Random sidebar here - the FX TV show "Rescue Me". (Wait, it'll make sense in a second). I've tried multiple times to get involved with this show, because I like Denis Leary and Lenny Clarke. Unfortunately, I've only watched one episode start to finish, and it happened to involve sensitivity training for a squad of NYC Firefighters. Possibly the funniest hour of television I've ever seen. If you know what episode it is, please tell me so I can rent that season and watch it again. OK, back to the rant...]

Is the First Amendment dead? Has it devolved into "Freedom of Speech - as long as what you have to say doesn't offend anyone, anywhere, anytime"? Are we no longer allowed to speak our minds for fear of being labeled a sexist/racist/ageist/homophobe/xenophobe/or just plain anti-social?

Personally, I'm behind Ozzie Guillen here. And not just because I don't particularily care for Jay Mariotti. I believe that Ozzie Guillen, as a US Citizen, has the right to say whatever the hell he wants, and not be forced to apologize if someone takes offense at it. That's what made this country great in the past - the free exchange of ideas. The ability to criticize without fear of retribution. The right to say whatever the hell you want to say about anyone or anything without having to ask permission first.

Listen, I understand that Mariotti & Guillen aren't exactly good buddies. For that matter, after watching Mariotti on "Around the Horn" for a few years, I doubt he has any good buddies. Mariotti's probably the second most abrasive man in Chicago sports, right behind Ozzie himself. And when two personalities like that clash, it can get ugly.

Well, it just got ugly. Mariotti has no problem taking shots at players, coaches, owners, GM's, ball-boys, fans, and anyone else that might fall onto his radar screen. But the minute he is the target, he crawls under the table, and immediately calls for Guillen's suspension (and my guess is he originally wrote "firing" before toning it down, seeing as how Guillen won the World Series last year and all.)

And that's what it's going to come down to. Ten-plus years ago, John Rocker went absolutely berserk in a limousine while being interviewed by Sports Illustrated. He insulted every group of people in New York City that wasn't a Straight White American Republican Male (also known as SWARM, and yes I just made that up). He not only made the comments, but afterwards, when he had to pitch in New York, he seemed to almost relish the attention and the absolute vitriol that spewed from the stands. He had to be surrounded by NYC cops at all times in the stadium (most of whom, I'm sure, wouldn't have minded if a few fans managed to peg Rocker with a battery or a beer). But Rocker eventually flamed out - he lost command of his pitches, he lost his spot in the Braves bullpen (and every bullpen thereafter), and eventually became nothing more than a minor-league sideshow. He is a pariah in every sense of the word.

And that's the difference. Guillen is a World Series winning manager. He is the manager of the best team in baseball right now. And winning has a way of glossing over things like this. He will continue to speak his mind, and probably continue to be suspended, fined, and ordered to undergo electric shock treatment until he admits that Freedom of Speech is only applicable as long as what you say doesn't offend anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

Of course, if he keeps adding rings to each of his fingers, maybe people will start calling him names instead

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A few random thoughts about the season and the impending trade deadline to throw out there for your reading pleasure...

-- Where the hell did the Twins come from? I know Santana is among the elite pitchers in the game, but this Liriano kid, I mean, wow. If Brad Radke can find anything left in the tank, they've got a nasty, nasty rotation to contend with any in the game. Reminiscent of Pedro/Schilling in '04 or Johnson/Schilling in '01. Look out for them in the AL Wild Card chase (sorry, I believe in the White Sox, and they've almost got the division wrapped up already)

-- I'm still high on the Mets, and my Preseason Prediction of a White Sox / Mets World Series is looking pretty good halfway through the season... I can't wait for the game on June 28th - Petey back in Fenway. Something tells me he'll get a little better reception than Johnny Damon.

-- Good chance I was wrong about the Texas Rangers this year (just like the Tigers). Texas has a pretty nice record (39-34), all while playing the hardest schedule in the entire major leagues. Just imagine where they'd be if Mark Teixiera could remember how to hit! Scary - for a team supposedly built around offense, only two players have an OBP over .370 (DeRosa & Matthews)

-- I wasn't very high on the Reds before the season started (I believe I predicted 72-90... oops.) I don't believe they'll be there in the end, either for the division title or the Wild Card. But I do believe they've got something nice to build on for next season and beyond.

-- This hurts me to say, but the Braves are D-U-N done. I picked them to win 88 - I'd be happy to see them win 68 the way they look right now. Time to ship off Smoltz and the Jones', and start looking ahead to 2008 for another division title. 14 years - nice run fellas, but it had to end sometime.

-- I'm sure we all know, somewhere in the back of our minds, that the Royals are terrible. I just didn't really understand how terrible they are until I looked at the standings - they just passed the 20-win mark on the season this week. Mid June! They're on pace for about 50-55 wins, and all it would take is one more 15+ game losing streak to propel them back into the discussion about the worst teams ever. At least they made a nice pickup by trading for Joey Gathright this week.

-- And finally, the Cubs. I thought they would reach about 77 wins - They're on pace for just over 60 (28-43 as of today). Wood is done for the year, and probably for his Cubs' career (I can't see how they would pick up his option). Prior got shelled in his first start of the season this week. Lee is coming back, but I doubt he can carry them back into anything even resembling contention. Time to cut bait - trade Maddux, Pierre & Jones, if you can find takers (rumor has it that George Steinbrenner is enamored with Jacque Jones, following in the long line of lousy mid-season outfield additions for the Yankees; names like Matt Lawton, Shane Spencer, and Ricky Ledee). Build for about 2009, because nothing's going to happen until then.

Lata.