MIAMI: Not a word of English was spoken for 10 minutes. Sitting in front of a standing room only crowd of reporters, Ozzie Guillen spoke without a prepared statement and apologized for comments he made in a Time magazine article. In the piece, Guillen was quoted as saying he loved Fidel Castro. A comment he claimed today he did not make, saying his words were misinterpreted because of the translation between his native Spanish and English.
This was not a sitcom. This was very much reality. Just before the press conference, the Marlins suspended their skipper for five games effective immediately.
Ozzie has always been known to put his foot in his mouth over the years. That must really hurt when you are wearing spikes.
His words have hurt the Cuban community here in the United States. His ignorance regarding Castro continued through the conference. At times he said he hated Castro because of what he did to his own citizens over the years. At other points in the presser, he stated he didn’t know about actions of the former Cuban president. The contradictions were striking.
I did find Ozzie to be genuine in his remarks today. He seemed to truly be upset about the hurt he has caused the Cuban-Americans, the Marlins and his family. He took full responsibility for his remarks.
He did take it like a man.
He played that way. He has managed that way. He has spoken like one too. Sometimes he has come off like an uniformed one. But when you were a uniform and you speak you mind, you garner attention. His style is the reason he has been a polarizing figure.
The fact that he is Latin-American is the very reason that the Marlins hired him as their manager. The two individuals in charge of this twenty year old franchise went hard after Guillen because they felt with their new ballpark in the middle of Little Havana they needed Latin flair to bring the fans to the stands.
Jeffrey Loria and David Sampson have gotten what they wished for and they have to live with the aftermath. They have a shiny new stadium and they have a shiny new controversy to deal with only days into the season. Ozzie made the statement he called “The biggest mistake of his life.” He said it, they made it possible.
Guillen begged the community for forgiveness. He said that today would be the last time he speaks of politics. If he wants to help the healing process, I don’t see how he can avoid talking politics in the future. The process of mending the outfield fences must include a continued dialogue and learning more about the atrocities that Fidel Castro is responsible for over the years.
Many in the Cuban community, many that live near the new Marlins home want Guillen to be fired. Reaction is already mixed about the five game suspension. I find the handful of games as a token punishment by the Marlins brass. It’s a slap on the wrist. Loria and Sampson made a baseball decision. Is it a business one? That remains to be seen. How many of the protesters outside of the stadium will not enter it until Ozzie Guillen is not Marlins manager?
Ozzie being Ozzie got him the job. Ozzie being Ozzie created this firestorm. Ozzie being Ozzie will define his future. It will no longer be defined by wins and loses. It will be defined by not only his future actions, but his future words.
The question that remains is if he will ever be able to take the spikes out of his mouth.[photo courtesy of Bruce Silverman]