Daily Herald
Guillen deserves credit for his courage
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 8/2/2010 3:59 PM | Updated: 8/2/2010 11:49 PM

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White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf often refers to outspoken manager Ozzie Guillen as the "Latino Jackie Mason."

A Jewish comedian known for saying anything and everything that pops into his mind, Mason has taken the proverbial stick and poked more than a few hornet's nests during his 50-year run on the stage.

So in that sense, Reinsdorf is right about Guillen, who actually patterns himself after Latino comedian Carlos Mencia.

For as outrageously raucous as he is - and Guillen has no equal in the grind-it-out world of major-league baseball - the Sox' 46-year-old manager does have his serious side.

It came out on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.

Asked about rookie third baseman Dayan Viciedo before the White Sox went out and beat the Oakland A's, Guillen hit a familiar button - only this time he pushed it hard and kept his finger on it.

Viciedo is a 21-year-old budding star from Cuba, and he speaks very little English. The same is true for his locker mate, shortstop and fellow Cuban Alexei Ramirez.

And the same has been true for countless players Guillen has been managing and playing with since he broke into professional baseball in 1981 as a skinny 17-year-old shortstop.

Ozzie never went to high school in Venezuela, but he taught himself to speak English and has been communicating in his unique fashion for nearly 30 years.

Guillen is living proof that a young player from Latin America can make it in the States - and make it big. But there are some huge hurdles that need to be cleared.

"Don't take this wrong, but they (MLB) take advantage of us (Latinos)," Ozzie said. "We bring a Japanese player and they are very good and they bring all these privileges to them. We bring a Dominican kid - go to the minor leagues, good luck. Good luck. And it's always going to be like that. It's never going to change.

"Very bad. I say, 'Why do we have Japanese interpreters and we don't have a Spanish one?' I always say that. Why do they have that privilege and we don't?"

Most of the responses to Guillen's comments I received on Monday were negative, which is not surprising.

There is a huge immigration issue going on in the United States right now, and it's no different in baseball.

"Speak English or go home," was the overwhelming reply to Ozzie's latest take, which is the same thing you're likely to hear at the corner tavern or supermarket down the street.

I remember what catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. said in 2003, when he was in his first tour of duty with the White Sox.

Alomar would just shake his head in disgust when he'd see reporters try to get a comment from Bartolo Colon, a well-paid veteran starting pitcher who had no use for learning to speak English.

"This is major-league baseball, we're getting paid a lot of money to be here," Alomar said. "Have some pride and learn how to speak the language."

Ozzie doesn't dispute that. Rather, he lashed out at Major League Baseball for failing to help the young players coming from Latin America.

We'll keep an eye on this, because it's a story that's not going to be swept under the carpet.

Major-league teams spend millions on talent coming from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Can't they spend a little more and teach these kids how to speak English and warn them of the consequences of using performance-enhancing drugs? Can't each team hire an interpreter to aid in the process?

I think it's a good question, a fair question. Kudos to Ozzie Guillen for having the courage to ask.