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Tasser’s Take: Marlins should have known

Donnie Tasser | April 11, 2012    

Miami Marlins, you knew it was coming.

Ozzie Guillen, major league baseball’s big-mouth… Miami Marlins, you knew it was coming.

Ozzie Guillen, major league baseball’s big-mouth manager best known for hot-headed tirades and not thinking before he speaks, let another gem fly the other day when he proclaimed his admiration for Fidel Castro.

After his tearful apology to the city of Miami and the Latin American community on Tuesday, the Miami Marlins suspended Guillen for five games. But the hypocrisy of the whole situation is ridiculous.

Although publicly expressing support for a Communist dictator who held power in a repressive regime for more than 50 years is obviously a moronic, insensitive and politically incorrect thing to do, issuing a suspension for it is even worse. Granted, Miami’s huge Cuban population makes it the one city where you would definitely not want to utter such a remark. But this is precisely the reason Ozzie was hired.

The Marlins have just moved into a brand-new stadium (that has so many over-the-top features that it’s a veritable Frankenstein of ballparks), revamped their logo, team colors and team name (previously the Florida Marlins) and spent lavishly on several high-profile free agents in an effort to renew their failing fan base — seriously, their contests used to make Pirates games look crowded.

And then owner Jeffrey Loria, ignoring the fact that Guillen’s antics grew old in Chicago, found a high-profile manager whose antics can draw a crowd by themselves. Loria wanted zany sound bites and colorful on-field explosions, but he never expected the first one to alienate the fan base that the team was trying to reclaim. He should have.

This is not the first time Guillen has initiated controversy, and it is not the first time that he has expressed his fandom of Fidel Castro. In 2008, the Venezuelan-born Guillen told Men’s Journal that Castro was the “toughest man he knows” because of his ability to remain in power despite the constant attempts to remove him. (For the record, he also said, “I don’t admire his philosophy; I admire him,” in that interview.)

But Guillen had also expressed admiration for the controversial Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2005. In both instances, he has retracted his statements. On top of that, in 2006 Guillen was fined by the league and ordered to undergo sensitivity training after using a gay slur in a post-game rant aimed at a reporter.

The most troubling thing about this whole situation is not that Guillen is being suspended for doing what has been expected of him; it’s the outrage that has come from the remarks.

No, we shouldn’t praise a dictator (although it’s difficult to argue that Castro is worse than the violent and militaristic U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista regime that he replaced), but since when did we ever let what Ozzie Guillen — or any professional athlete — might say affect us?

This man is paid to fill out a lineup card, set a pitching rotation and choose pinch hitters (and yes, provide colorful post-game sound bites). The most difficult thing he has to do is figure out exactly what a double switch is. We expect, even enjoy — in a self-pitying, reality TV kind of way — listening to his outrageous, off-the-wall, idiotic opinions, to which he is more than entitled. But why do we get angry when he says something we don’t agree with?

Come on, people. We’re better than that.

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