I’m in a minority here, but I think Ozzie Guillen is one of the best things going in baseball right now. True, he has a crazy streak and an on-field presence that can get irritating. But his outspokenness is admirable and his social consciousness goes far beyond the limits of most baseball players, who year after year endorse God n Guns and little else.

credit: Chicago Sun-Times

Baseball guys can be a little, um, unique in public statements (Zack “Crazy Train” Greinke, anybody?). But only Ozzie seems to keep everyone’s collective one eye on him. Publicly giving out his email. Demanding his son be removed from the big league organization. Proclaiming his love for Bed Bath and Beyond and saying Comcast sucks. And now, suddenly, Ozzie’s becoming a leading voice in immigration. What the hell.

Earlier this spring, he had an almost immediate response to the Arizona Immigration Bill. While others, such as 1997 All-Star Game hero Sandy Alomar Jr. publicly said we should all just go back and focus on the game, Ozzie took it upon himself to be the Latino’s mouthpiece, praising their work ethic compared to Americans who “want to be on the computer and sending e-mail to people.”

Ozzie: As scrappy as the southside itself credit: chicagonow.com

But today he’s addressing workplace disparities. Now asserting that Asian free agents are treated better than Latinos, Ozzie could probably get off his trojan horse when saying he’s “the only one” telling young Hispanic players to stay away from PEDs but fairly rational otherwise.

The junk about translators is understood, but where Ozzie wins out is the acceptable age range of prospects. From ESPN.com,

“Guillen also said players from Latin America are considered too old to sign if they’re past 16 or 17, yet college prospects from the U.S. are often signed at age 22 or 23.”

An incredibly true statement. Latino players are operating on an entirely separate dynamic from their American counterparts. It’s the reason why many of the big leaguers from Latin America now made their debuts around the ages of 20-21 as opposed to native born players who, thanks to Billy Beane’s theory that college draft picks will have a bigger payoff, often won’t come up until around the ages of 24-25. Furthermore, Latino players handpicked by scouts from their homelands at younger ages have a greater loyalty to their original franchises. Take for example, my hometown Indians. Reports from last summer said Victor Martinez was in tears following his trade to Boston, saying how much he loved the Tribe and wanted to spend his entire career there. Around that same time, Cliff Lee wasn’t exactly making the same statement.

About two years ago, ESPN.com did a series comparing sports culture in the 1980s to today. And while they undoubtedly favored the modern age in most regards, the 80s won out when it came to activism. As Scoop Jackson pointed out, Arthur Ashe and Julius Erving spoke their minds when given the chance, but no high-profile athlete today is making a legitimate charge. So I’ll continue to encourage Ozzie for putting his neck out there. No other sport has as significant a Latino presence as baseball, and as an immigrant himself, Ozzie has been Americanized enough to be more aware of what’s going on and be able to speak for his players, players throughout Major League Baseball and millions of Hispanics as a whole. ESPN will more than likely cover it as sensational, “WTF did Ozzie say now?!?” news, but I can’t expect much from a network who’s becoming increasingly afraid of responding to real issues within the sports world. He can continue to piss a lot of people off, I don’t really care. Ozzie Guillen is saying something intelligent, and his voice is entirely unique in this ongoing debate.