Ozzie Guillen's steady stream of inappropriate comments has generally been forgotten, but watching his press conference from Miami on Tuesday, you get the idea that the Cuban community that hates Fidel Castro is not going to be as forgiving.
Guillen, the 48-year-old and Miami Marlins manager, spent 50 minutes apologizing in English and Spanish for his remarks in Time magazine about how he loves and respects Castro, the dictator that destroyed thousands of lives after he took over Cuba.
Covering Guillen, reporters get used to his never-ending "f-bombs" and unbelievable thoughts, but this was his all-time worst. The Marlins have opened a publicly-financed stadium in Little Havana and Guillen was hired to appeal to the Cuban-American baseball fans.
Now Guillen, who is suspended for five games and can't return until April 17, is going to have to spend the summer wooing them back. The story to watch is how the fans will react to him when he returns.
A few thoughts:
- Guillen didn't blame the reporter, but he did say he was thinking in Spanish and speaking in English, so he said he wasn't interpreted correctly. But how can the statement, "I love Fidel Castro,'' be interpreted any other way? Guillen should have said, "I understand how Castro is hated, but how can he still be alive?''
- Guillen is a baseball manager and not qualified to talk politics. His comments were made because of ignorance of Castro's ruthless behavior. Ouch.
- Then again, how could Guillen call Miami home and not know how inflammatory a pro-Castro comment can be?
- Guillen was also questioned about his relationship with Hugo Chavez, the controversial leader in Guillen's home country of Venezuela. When Guillen managed the White Sox to the 2005 World Series title, Chavez called Guillen to congratulate him. Guillen wound up answering questions about his relationship with Chavez, although the only thing Guillen has ever said about Chavez is that he's a big baseball fan. Guillen said Tuesday he'd rather die than vote for Chavez.
- Guillen's best accomplishment with the Marlins so far is getting Hanley Ramirez to realize that third base is a good position for him. Now, Guillen is going to have to get the Cuban community on his side.
- For me, the Marlins' five-game suspension of Guillen is enough. He's spent almost an hour calling himself "stupid'' and "embarrassed.'' It is the most contrite reporters have seen Guillen.
- He promises to learn from the situation. He hasn't learned from past statements, but given how he offended the anti-Castro Cubans, who have basically built Little Havana, he'd better learn. "If I don't, I call myself dumb,'' Guillen said.