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Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Marlins did right thing to suspend Guillen

By David Schoenfield


Ozzie Guillen flew from Philadelphia to Miami to meet members of the media and address the Miami community about his Fidel Castro comments. He said he wanted to look people in the eyes as he apologized. He said he was embarrassed. I have no reason not to believe him.

"I feel like I’ve betrayed my Latin community. ... I’m here to say I’m sorry with my heart in my hands," he said, speaking in Spanish at the outset of the news conference. "And for all the Cuban families, I’m sorry. I hope when I get out of here, people will understand who Ozzie Guillen is. I’m here to face you person to person."

He seemed contrite. He seemed hurt by the five-game suspension the Miami Marlins have given him. "I respect the decision. I’m not in a position to complain," he said.

It was the right move by the Marlins to suspend their manager. This should be viewed as a local issue, among Guillen, the Marlins and the Cuban-American community in Miami. Yes, Guillen has a right to express his political opinions; the Marlins also have a right to protect their product. Considering their new park was built in Little Havana, and the feelings in that city toward Castro, Guillen's words were obviously sensitive and controversial in nature. If the Marlins had continued to ignore the situation, the controversy would have only grown and potentially turned into a public relations disaster for the ballclub.

It does bother me that Major League Baseball was reportedly investigating the situation. There is the possibility it applied pressure to the Marlins to suspend Guillen. If true, this is certainly more problematic, especially considering the existence of this photo of Bud Selig and Orioles owner Peter Angelos with Fidel Castro in 1999, when the Orioles traveled to Cuba for a couple exhibitions. It seems hypocritical to tacitly endorse Castro by letting the Orioles play in Cuba then condemn Guillen for complimenting him.

Guillen will undoubtedly have to make reparations with the Cuban community. "I will do everything to make things better," he said. "I will help the Cuban community, the Latin community, like I always do."

Later on, he said he's learned a valuable lesson: He'll never talk about politics again. I'm not sure that's really the lesson to be learned here, and I would hate to think MLB's agenda is to prevent managers and players from expressing political views, even if uncomfortable or something we might personally disagree with. But there is a lesson that managers and players should have a proper understanding of a team's place in its community. I'm sure Guillen has learned that lesson about Miami. Whether that will be enough to placate the Cuban-American community remains to be seen.