Ozzie Guillen to return to Miami

Updated: April 10, 2012, 10:31 AM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, facing criticism over comments published last week in which he expressed admiration for Fidel Castro, says he intends to fly back to Miami to answer in person for his statements about the Cuban leader.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is reviewing the situation, a source told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.

Guillen told Time magazine for an article published last week that he loves Castro and respects him for staying in power so long. It's not the first time that he 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 has since 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, speaking Monday in the Marlins' dugout before their afternoon game against the Philadelphia Phillies, said he felt "guilty" and "embarrassed" and wants to address questions personally. He planned to return to Miami after Monday's game and speak at a 10:30 a.m. ET news conference Tuesday at Marlins Park.

Guillen I don't want to make a statement, because I think when you make a statement it's a bunch of crap. I want people to look in my eyes, look in my face and see what's going on, tell them what the deal was.

-- Ozzie Guillen

"I want to make everything clear what's going on. Then people can see me and know what I think," Guillen said. "I think it's the proper thing so people can see my eyes and ask every question they want to ask.

"I want to get the thing over with. I told the Marlins I want to fly (back) as soon as I can, and tomorrow's a day off," Guillen said. "I don't want to (talk about it) in Philadelphia. I want to be in Miami and clear everything up."

Guillen also said he doesn't want to limit his appearance in Miami to the media.

"I want the people there. Whoever feels about it, ask me any questions," he said. "I want you to ask what you ask, because I feel bad? Yes. I feel embarrassed? Yes."

A Cuban-American advocacy group in Miami, Vigilia Mambisa, has said it would boycott and demonstrate against Guillen until the Marlins fire him.

The Marlins subsequently issued a statement clarifying that the organization has no respect for Castro, calling him "a brutal dictator who has caused unthinkable pain for more than 50 years."

State Sen. Rene Garcia, chairman of the Florida Hispanic Legislative Caucus, described Guillen's comments as appalling and insulting. In a letter to Marlins president David Samson, Garcia said he expects the Marlins to punish Guillen.

Shortstop and Cuban native Alexei Ramirez, who played for Guillen for four seasons with the White Sox, said his former manager deserves forgiveness.

"I think apologizing is a good first step," Ramirez said through a team translator. "I feel everyone has their opinion, but I also feel people should be forgiven. Hopefully it will be accepted."

Guillen said that when he read his comments Friday, he felt sick because he knew how people would react.

"I will apologize if I hurt somebody's feelings, or I hurt somebody's thought," Guillen told writers on Saturday. "I want them to know I'm against everything 100 percent -- I repeat it again -- the way this man [has been] treating people for the last 60 years."

On Monday, Guillen said he was not surprised by the reaction. "No, not really. I talked to the media already in Cincinnati about it, and I expect this was going to happen. I feel badly, because I don't want to say [it was taken] out of context. I think it was kind of a cheap shot. But I've got to face it," Guillen told reporters.

Guillen also said he felt it's important to answer questions in person, rather than issue a statement.

"I don't want to make a statement, because I think when you make a statement it's a bunch of crap. I want people to look in my eyes, look in my face and see what's going on, tell them what the deal was," Guillen said.

"Like I said, I feel sad and (for) a couple days, I feel sick to my stomach, not because of what I did. Just because I know I hurt a lot of people."

The hardest part, Guillen said, has been apologizing to Cuban-American members of the Marlins' organization.

"The saddest part of this was to apologize to (the Marlins' Spanish-language broadcasters) Felo Ramirez and Yiki (Quintana). That was hard. And I did it, face to face. I just talked to (pitcher Jose) Contreras a couple of minutes ago. And Jose was laughing, kinda like, 'Don't worry about it.' But every Cuban-born and Cuban-born family that I know -- they know who I am."

The Marlins next play in Miami on Friday, when they will start a three-game series against the Houston Astros.

Guillen, a former major league shortstop, skippered the Chicago White Sox to a World Series title in 2005 -- the franchise's first since 1917. He left for Miami following last season, amid tensions with White Sox general manager Kenny Williams.

Guillen's comments have gotten him into trouble before. 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.

Jayson Stark is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney, ESPNChicago baseball reporter Bruce Levine and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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