Heath Bell wasn’t punished by the Marlins for saying it was “hard to respect” manager Ozzie Guillen. Not formally. But Bell was made to pay in a way that was potentially more painful.
He was made to listen to Guillen talk about it.
As Bell sat in front of his locker before Tuesday’s game in Atlanta, unidentified teammates cranked the volume on Guillen’s weekly radio call-in show on 790 The Ticket to force him to listen to their manager answer questions about the controversy.
Asked if he still respected Bell, Guillen replied, “As a player, yes. As a guy, I don’t know.”
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Guillen also said that Bell had a habit of throwing others under the bus.
“I am the No. 10 guy he’s talked about this year,” Guillen said in answer to another question. “This kid has been saying so many things all year about a lot of people. It was my turn this week.”
Reporters walked in unknowingly on the awkward clubhouse scene before being detected by players and ushered back out by Greg Dobbs. But sources said the point was for players to show they supported their manager and to humiliate Bell.
And Bell acknowledged later that, in the aftermath of his incendiary comments ripping the manager, his teammates probably had little respect for him anymore.
“Yeah,” Bell said, “I’ve pretty much lost all that.”
Bell tried to soften the damage Tuesday, saying some of what he said in his interview on WQAM 560 was taken out of context and that “I’ve always given Ozzie respect.”
Bell said he phoned Guillen on Monday night to say he was sorry.
Guillen said he didn’t answer because he didn’t recognize the number. He also said that, by accident, he erased the message that Bell had left thinking it was from a media outlet wanting to talk to him about the incident.
“No matter what he said,” Guillen said, “it’s not going to resolve anything.”
Guillen said the comment from Bell that bothered him most was one in which the reliever said, “It’s hard to respect a guy that doesn’t tell you the truth or doesn’t tell you face to face.”
Guillen said that he’s truthful, sometimes to a fault.
“When you say I’m not honest with players, that I never tell people to their face how I feel, you have to have a lot of doubts on that one,” Guillen said.
Guillen said he will continue to respect Bell as a player, but less so as a person because of the way Bell has blamed others for his failures, from pitching coach Randy St. Claire, to the training staff, and even Showtime’s The Franchise, which he complained portrayed him in a negative light.
“It was my turn this week,” Guillen said of Bell’s latest criticism. “Last week it was somebody else, the pitching coach. The week before it was the catchers, and the week before that it was the scouting report. When all these things pile up, then you don’t have respect for someone. When you read every week, it’s another [excuse], another, another ... all kind of stuff. You have to have principles. You have to look yourself in the mirror and blame yourself.”
Guillen said he felt he had the support of many of the rest of the players. Many, he said, texted him to say they were with him. Justin Ruggiano and Brett Hayes tweeted their support on Twitter.
“He got himself in trouble,” starting pitcher Mark Buehrle said of Bell. “He put himself in this mess. I’ve never looked at Ozzie the way he’s saying.”
Buehrle played under Guillen with the Chicago White Sox.
“I can’t answer for anybody else, but I feel if I’d wanted to talk to him [to air out differences], I’d go to him and not through you guys [reporters],” Buehrle said.
Bell vowed that he would not only refuse to answer reporters’ questions for what little time is left in this season, but through the remainder of his contract, which expires after the 2014 season. By then, Bell will likely be long gone from the Marlins, who hope to trade him.
“I’m pretty much done talking,” Bell said. “After today, after the next two minutes, you guys are done.
“You won’t hear from me until 2014 plain and simple. You guys are going to write what you want to write because apparently all year long you have.”