Prior to the 2012 season, the Marlins changed their name, their uniforms, their home address and most notably, their locks on the team’s piggy banks. Or to be more accurate, they got rid of those locks altogether, spending money freely to sign, sign and sign some more big-name players. In addition to the well-known players they added to their roster, Miami also added a manager with a championship pedigree in Ozzie Guillen.
Guillen was signed to a four-year contract in the hopes that he would lead his ragtag bunch of Marlin misfits to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. But Guillen lost control of his players and the team just lost. A lot. The Marlins finished in last place without Guillen in 2011, and at 69-93 in 2012, they finished in last place with him. They won’t do the same thing in 2013.
On Tuesday, the Ozzie Guillen era came to an end in Miami, as the Marlins terminated their headline-grabbing manager with three years and $7.5 million left on his contract. Upon hearing the news, I had just one word to say about the firing.
As Mets fans, it’s not very hard to hate anyone and anything associated with the Marlins. If you didn’t hate them before 2007, you certainly had reason to despise them after then. But even before then, they weren’t easy to like.
Although no one expected the Mets to do much in 1997, they competed for the wild card until the final week of the season. They didn’t win it, but the Marlins did. And they rode that wild card all the way to the World Series title.
In 2004, Armando Benitez signed as a free agent with the Marlins, just months after the Mets had traded away their boo magnet across town to the Yankees. He proceeded to thank the Mets by recording 11 saves against them in ’04, to go with a 0.68 ERA and 0.30 WHIP.
And then there was 2007. Which was followed by 2008. Nothing further needs to be said about those years and how the Marlins fit in.
But Ozzie Guillen wasn’t part of the Marlins’ 1997 World Series-winning wild card team. Nor was he anywhere near Miami when Armando Benitez turned into Sandy Koufax against the Mets. 2007 and 2008? Both seasons were Ozzie-free.
So why do I hate Ozzie Guillen so much? It’s because I have a long memory. And I remember that he was an Atlanta Brave for one full season and part of another. His full season came in 1999. And if you’ve been a Mets fan as long as I have, you know exactly where I’m taking this.
In 1999, the Mets and Braves hooked up in a classic National League Championship Series. The Braves won the first three games of the series before the Mets pulled out a Game 4 victory with two late runs. Game 5 was a rain-soaked extra-inning thriller, with Robin Ventura sending the series back to Atlanta with his Grand Slam Single.
Game 6 saw the Braves take a quick 5-0 lead. The Mets cut the lead to 5-3, but the Braves tacked on two runs in the sixth inning to up the lead to four. Atlanta’s lead was short-lived, as the Mets put up a four-spot to tie the game in the seventh. One inning later, the Mets took an 8-7 lead before the Braves tied it in the bottom of the eighth. The see-saw game went into extra innings, with the Mets taking a 9-8 lead in the top of the tenth. New York was only three outs away from becoming the first team in baseball history to force a seventh game in a best-of-seven postseason series after losing the first three games. But Armando Benitez was pitching his second inning of relief. And he didn’t exactly pitch well in big games. Yup. Poop happened.
Andruw Jones led off the tenth with a single. Two batters later, Benitez issued a one-out walk to Ryan Klesko. Walt Weiss was due to bat, but Braves’ manager Bobby Cox sent up a pinch-hitter for Weiss. That pinch-hitter was Ozzie Guillen.
Guillen delivered a game-tying single off Benitez, sending the game to the 11th inning. The Braves won the game in their half of the 11th when Kenny Rogers forced in the pennant-winning run by walking Andruw Jones with the bases loaded.
Everyone remembers ball four to Andruw Jones. But you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who remembers that it was Ozzie Guillen’s run-scoring single in the 10th that made the 11th inning possible. Oh, and for the record, that hit was Guillen’s only hit in the entire 1999 postseason. He went 0-for-8 in all other plate appearances that October. It was also Guillen’s last hit as a Brave, as he was released by Atlanta the following spring.
So you can hate Guillen for all the times he’s stuck his foot in his mouth. You can hate him for wearing the uniform of the despised Marlins, even if he only managed them for one season. But the main reason why all Mets fans should not feel sorry for Ozzie Guillen is because he was instrumental in denying the Mets an opportunity to play for a National League pennant in a potential Game 7 in 1999.
To be sad about Ozzie Guillen being fired is tantamount to shedding a tear whenever Yadier Molina plays his last game. Good riddance, Ozzie Guillen. This Mets fan won’t be missing you.