Ozzie Guillen suspended five games
MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins have suspended manager Ozzie Guillen for five games for comments he made in which he expressed admiration for Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
"The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen," the team said in a prepared statement announcing the move. "The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship."
Marlins bench coach Joey Cora will be the interim manager during the suspension. Guillen said he would fly back to Philadelphia, where the Marlins resume their series with the Phillies on Wednesday, to address the team.
Speaking first in Spanish on Tuesday morning in Miami, Guillen apologized to the city, its Cuban-American community and all Latin Americans for the comments, which were published on Time magazine's website last week.
"I feel like I betrayed my Latin community," Guillen said, according to ESPN's translation of his comments in Spanish. "I am here to say I am sorry with my heart in my hands and I want to say I'm sorry to all those people who are hurt indirectly or directly."
"I'm sorry for what I said and for putting people in a position they don't need to be in. And for all the Cuban families, I'm sorry," he said, according to ESPN's translation. "I hope that when I get out of here, they will understand who Ozzie Guillen is. How I feel for them. And how I feel about the Fidel Castro dictatorship. I'm here to face you, person to person. It's going to be a very difficult time for me."
In a prepared statement, baseball commissioner Bud Selig said MLB supported the suspension. He said baseball as an institution has "important social responsibilities," and he expects those representing the game to show respect and sensitivity to its many cultures.
"Guillen's remarks, which were offensive to an important part of the Miami community and others throughout the world, have no place in our game," said Selig, who, with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, sat with Castro when Baltimore played an exhibition game in Cuba in 1999.
On Tuesday, Guillen said repeatedly he does not admire Castro. Guillen, whose first language is Spanish, said when the comments were made, he was talking about how he was surprised Castro was able to remain in power so long, given the number of people he had hurt since taking power.
"The interpretation didn't come out as I wanted," Guillen said in Spanish, according to ESPN's translation. "I was thinking in Spanish and I said the wrong thing in English."
Asked how the statement "I love Fidel Castro" could be misconstrued, Guillen once again said he was talking about how surprised he was that Castro had been able to stay in power for so long.
"Everybody in the world hates Fidel Castro, including myself," Guillen said. "I was surprised that he's still in power. That's what I was trying to say to the journalist. And that's the first thing that came out of my mouth. I admit it. It was the wrong words."
There was no immediate response to an Associated Press request for comment from government and sports officials in Cuba.
In Cuba, the evening newscast aired an interview by Venezuela-based Telesur with Emilio Garcia, a Cuban journalist in Miami.
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"It is another sad page in the history of this community (Miami) that more and more is transforming into a banana republic," Garcia said. "It was pathetic this morning to see this sportsman humiliate himself, humiliate himself to the core to try to keep his job."
"How does the much-ballyhooed 'yankee' freedom of expression look now," Cuban anchor Julita Osendi said in summary before moving on to the next item.
A Cuban-American advocacy group in Miami, Vigilia Mambisa, has said it would boycott and demonstrate against Guillen until the Marlins fire him.
Francis Suarez, chairman of the Miami City Commission, said Guillen should be fired. Joe Martinez, chairman of the Miami-Dade County board of commissioners, said Guillen should resign.
Outside an entrance to the Marlins' new ballpark, about 100 demonstrators wanting Guillen's ouster shouted and chanted during the news conference. But the team didn't consider firing Guillen or asking him to resign, Marlins president David Samson said.
"We believe in him," Samson said. "We believe in his apology. We believe everybody deserves a second chance."
Guillen's comments were particularly personal for White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, a Cuban. Still, he's ready to forgive his former manager.
"Apologizing is definitely a big first step," said Ramirez, who played for Cuba in the Athens Olympics. "Everyone has their opinion. But I also feel people should be forgiven. So if he's going to apologize, I feel that, hopefully, he'll be accepted."
Cuban-born Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, a former manager of the Marlins, said he watched some of the news conference and could tell it was difficult for Guillen.
"He came out and faced the music," Gonzalez said. "It's going to take awhile, but hopefully he can win those people back somehow."
After the comment was published, the Marlins subsequently issued a statement clarifying the organization has no respect for Castro, calling him "a brutal dictator who has caused unthinkable pain for more than 50 years."
Guillen said Tuesday he respected the Marlins' decision to suspend him and was not concerned about the salary he would lose in the process, because repairing his relationship with the Cuban-American community was more important.
"I will do everything to try to make things be better," he said. "I'm willing to do everything in my power, in the Marlins power, to do everything I can to help this community."
Speaking to a packed audience in the media room at Marlins Park, the team's brand-new stadium in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, Guillen remembered being in the ballpark for Opening Day and what a happy occasion that was. "Now, I'm sitting here a few days later very embarrassed. Very sad," he said.
"This is the biggest mistake of my life. When you make a mistake this big ... I will learn from this," he said.
Guillen said he was disappointed he let his players down and asked the team and the organization not be blamed for his mistake.
"I'll be back after five games. I just hope they do their job. What else can I say? Keep playing and I'm going to try to put this problem behind me," he said.
Guillen will be eligible to return from the suspension on April 17, when the Marlins host the Chicago Cubs.
It's not the first time Guillen has praised Castro publicly. In a Men's Journal interview in 2008, Guillen was asked to name the toughest man he knows.
"Fidel Castro," he said. "He's a bull---- dictator and everybody's against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him. Everywhere he goes they roll out the red carpet. I don't admire his philosophy. I admire him."
Guillen, who is from Venezuela but became a United States citizen in 2006, also praised controversial Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in 2005. He had appeared on the leader's radio show twice and when asked about it, he said: "Not too many people like the president. I do."
Guillen since has been critical of Chavez. During his first news conference as Marlins manager in September, he bristled at a suggestion he supports Chavez.
"Don't tell my wife that, because she hates that man. She hates him to death," Guillen said. "I supported Chavez? If I was supporting Chavez, do you think I would be manager of the Marlins? I never supported Chavez."
Guillen, who is a U.S. citizen, was asked Tuesday several times about Chavez. He said he doesn't support Chavez, who sees himself as a protégé of Castro, and that he writes for a newspaper in Venezuela that is anti-Chavez. He also said he would not vote for Chavez.
"This is the last time this person talks about politics," he said, according to ESPN's translation.
Guillen's outspoken manner has gotten him into trouble in the past. In 2006, he was fined and ordered to undergo sensitivity training by Major League Baseball after using a gay slur during a rant aimed at a Chicago-area newspaper columnist.
Information from ESPN.com baseball writer Jayson Stark, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney, ESPNChicago baseball reporter Bruce Levine and The Associated Press was used in this report.