Let Ozzie be Ozzie: Not in Miami, you don't

It didn't take Ozzie Guillen long to step in it.

The new manager of the Miami Marlins, who have a brand-spanking new ballpark in that city, has been suspended for five games.

Did he fail a drug test? No.

Did he smack an umpire? No.

Did he refuse to endorse a brand of ice tea or sunflower seeds favored by three out of four ballplayers? No.

It's worse; he angered an important political constituency in his new hometown. He made the mistake of expressing a certain amount of respect and praise for Fidel Castro, the retired, longtime dictator of Communist Cuba and the biggest bogeyman in Miami, outside of the deadly drug dealers and car-jackers.

Angry Cuban-Americans in Miami, many of whom fled or whose families fled Castro's tyranny, have called for Guillen's head. To placate them so that they don't mind forking over $9 for an imported brew at the new park's refreshment stands, the Marlins suspended Guillen. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig says he agrees with the move.

Guillen, who is from Venezuela, where Castro chum President Hugo Chavez rules the roost, has apologized.

"This is the biggest mistake I've made so far in my life," Guillen said. "When you make a mistake like this, you can't sleep. ... When you're a sportsman, you shouldn't be involved with politics."

That seems like a pretty good apology; the outspoken Guillen even left room in there for making another, bigger mistake that can only generate more furor (read: publicity) for baseball and for the Marlins.

But the fuss is far from over. Protestors in the hundreds have rallied outside Marlins Park, Cuban-American community leaders want him fired, etc., etc.

It's all reminiscent of that unpleasant Marge Schott, the late owner of the Cincinnati Reds. She got bounced from the owner's box for a year for making racist remarks and speaking sort of fondly of Adolf Hitler.

Now, I can't say I have a soft spot in my heart for despotic, murderous leaders or the folks who admire them.

Yet … suspending Ozzie Guillen for expressing an unpopular political opinion doesn't seem like the kind of thing that should happen in a democracy.

Rather, it's the kind of thing you'd expect to happen in Castro's country.

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