"I love Fidel Castro," Blurts Ozzie Guillen, the new manager of the Miami Marlins, in his Jupiter, Fla., spring-training office before an early-March team workout. During a typically stream-of-consciousness Ozzie oratory, he has covered some favorite topics, such as his passion for bullfighting ("You're giving the animal an opportunity to kill you"), disdain for sports shrinks ("You're 4 for 4, you don't need psychology. You're 0 for 4, you need a f---ing guy to get you ready to play?") and the benefits of brutal honesty ("I told my wife, 'I don't like the perfume you're wearing.' She was mad, but meanwhile, I don't have to sleep with her every night and smell that s---").
Now he is riffing on politics. And yes, the new jefe of the Miami baseball team, which will start playing in a sleek new stadium in the Cuban community of Little Havana on April 4, just professed his adoration of the leader reviled by his new neighbors.
After a second of reflection, the most unfiltered figure in baseball, if not sports, wants a do-over. "I respect Fidel Castro," says Guillen, a Venezuela native who also says he respects Hugo Chvez. "You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother------ is still here."
The profane, unpredictable clubhouse raconteur whose bilingual Twitter ramblings have spawned over 200,000 cult followers now runs a club that has spawned a massive amount of indifference since joining the majors almost 20 years ago. The Florida--now rebranded Miami--Marlins played in a cavernous football stadium before a smattering of spectators and usually spent peanuts on players. That the team has won two world championships, one during a rare payroll splurge in 1997, after which former owner Wayne Huizenga gutted the team, is an affront to baseball purists. Loyal Cubbies followers have suffered more than 100 years, and that team in teal has already tasted glory? Twice?
The arrival of the mouthy Guillen--and $191 million worth of premier free agents--has made the Marlins the talk of baseball. Besides spending $10 million for Guillen, who in 2005 managed the Chicago White Sox to their first World Series win in 88 years, Miami spent big for Jose Reyes, the dynamic New York Mets leadoff hitter who won the N.L. batting title last season; Mark Buehrle, Guillen's former ace in Chicago; and All-Star closer Heath Bell from San Diego. "New uniform, new stadium, new look, new manager," says Bell. "We're sexy." (The rotund Bell, who loves his beer and bowling, is decidedly not.)