By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) On the official website of the Sunshine State, a cheery message declares that, “Florida is known around the world for its balmy weather. The state’s mild winters have made it a haven for retirees.”
More than three million of them, in fact, according to published reports. Or, in other words, nearly triple the number of fans that will buy tickets to watch the Florida Marlins play this season in Miami, home to the nation’s most disinterested sports fans.
(Yeah, that’s right, LeBron.)
With an average of just 18,197 fish aficionados filing into cavernous Sun Life Stadium per game this season – the worst attendance figure in baseball – the Marlins are in need of a draw.
Coincidentally, recent Cubs “retiree” Carlos Zambrano is in need of a change of scenery, while his pal, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, is in need of a change of pace.
So, might the duo retire from Chicago this winter, pack a suitcase full of sandals and black socks (sox?) and take their tempers to South Beach for 2012?
The Marlins likely would welcome the hot-headed Venezuelans with open arms – and a nice two-bedroom condo next door to the Seinfelds and Klompuses in Del Boca Vista.
“There’s a lot of people thinking (about) what he said (about retiring),” Guillen mused this past weekend after Zambrano claimed he was hanging up his cleats following last Friday’s ridiculous meltdown in Atlanta. “I did a lot. You know how many times I wanted to quit? But I can’t because I love this game. So does he.
“I guarantee you in two or three more days, he’ll be thinking, ‘Oh my God, what I did?’ And believe me, I don’t know why, I don’t know what really happened, but I guarantee he’ll feel more embarrassed than anything. Knowing him, I’m pretty sure that’s the way he’ll feel.’’
If anyone knows Zambrano, it’s Guillen. Not only has the Sox manager had more than his own fair share of comparable outbursts during his eight controversial seasons in Chicago, Guillen also counseled Zambrano over dinner last summer when Big Z blew up during a game at U.S. Cellular Field and was placed on the restricted list by the Cubs.
This time, he was placed on the disqualified list.
Now, I’ve been in Zambrano’s corner this season, defending him for being the only Cubs player who has seemed to care enough about winning to call out the team for acting like a bunch of losers. But then Zambrano, in spite of last season’s anger management treatment and this season’s relatively good behavior, went and acted like a child again last Friday.
With that inexcusable behavior, the 31-year-old man-child is out of second chances – or is that seventh chances? – and quite simply has to go now, no matter the financial cost to the Cubs.
Guillen, meanwhile, has appeared burned out all season long managing this underachieving White Sox team, and he seems to me like he’s just ready to go.
So, is it possible that birds of a feather might migrate together – and make their way to Miami?
With a new ballpark opening in 2012 on the site of the old Orange Bowl in Little Havana, the Marlins (where Guillen coached in 2003) surely would love to have a pair of colorful, Spanish-speaking personalities headlining their ballclub and helping to actually attract some fans.
And while Zambrano may no longer be a headliner as a pitcher, he is, you know, a retiree – so the Marlins could market him to state’s robust AARP crowd. Carlos could travel South Florida on his off days playing shuffleboard at retirement communities, appear as the featured speaker during early-bird dinner specials, hawk FiberCon …
Heck, the possibilities are endless. And if it does happen that Big Z and Guillen matriculate to Miami next spring, the only shame will be that Zambrano won’t have a fellow retiree joining him for leisurely strolls along South Beach while they’re dressed in polyester.
Brett Favre really missed his chance with the Dolphins.