Suspended Guillen addresses Castro remarks

Suspended Guillen addresses Castro remarks

MIAMI - Ozzie Guillen returned to Miami to apologize to South Florida's Cuban community and face a five-game suspension handed down by the Marlins on Tuesday for comments he made about Cuba's Fidel Castro.

While his team was in Philadelphia, Guillen was in Little Havana expressing remorse in a news conference at Marlins Park. The manager was quoted in Time magazine saying, "I love Fidel Castro."

"I hurt a lot of people's feelings, a lot of victims," Guillen said. "I've apologized twice and I meant it.

"I say a lot of things and I never apologize but now I have to because I did the wrong thing. I'm behind the Cuban community. ... How am I going to make it better? ... I'm going to show the community that I support them 100 percent."

The Marlins announced Guillen's suspension, which will begin immediately, in a statement prior to the press conference. "The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen," the team said in a statement. The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship."

Major League Baseball, which had said it was reviewing the possibility of disciplining the manager, issued a statement by Commissioner Bud Selig.

"Major League Baseball supports today's decision by the Marlins to suspend Ozzie Guillen. As I have often said, baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities. All of our 30 clubs play significant roles within their local communities, and I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game's many cultures deserve.

"Mr. 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."

Bench coach Joey Cora will manage the team during the suspension. Guillen, who said he will apologize in person to his team in Philadelphia on Wednesday, will be eligible to return to the dugout next Tuesday for a home game against the Cubs.

"These things just aren't tolerated. We swiftly moved under Jeffrey's leadership," Marlins president David Samson said, referring to Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. "His extreme disappointment is not about how this impacts the team on the field. His extreme disappointment is knowing the impact those comments have on the community."

The Time story had more of Guillen's thoughts on the Cuban dictator, with Guillen saying, "I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here."

Guillen flew back to Miami following the Marlins' 6-2 victory over the Phillies on Monday. While his team was in Philadelphia having a day off, Guillen was in Miami trying to fix things. The 48-year-old Venezuelan frequently was choked up and in tears over what he had done.

"I'm very embarrassed," Guillen said. "Very sad. In this room, what I have seen in the past was all good. It was Opening Day. Everybody was happy. Every question I was asked was very positive. Now I'm sitting here a few days later very embarrassed and very sad. I thought the next time I would see this room with this many people it would be with a World Series trophy next to me and it's not."

Guillen and the Marlins have been trying to limit the damage since his comments surfaced online Saturday. The manager first tried to clarify his comments, saying to reporters on Sunday, "I'm against the way he [Castro] treats people and the way [he has treated] his country for a long time. I'm against that 100 percent."

Guillen's comments have caused an uproar among the heavily Cuban population in South Florida. Cuban exile groups have organized protests and are threatening to boycott the Marlins. At one point, protestors stormed the doors of their new ballpark and threatened to break some of the glass windows in the West Plaza.

Jay Fernandez, 68, was one of about 200 protestors who chanted for Guillen to resign or be fired outside of Marlins Park on Tuesday. He did not believe Guillen was being contrite when he met with the media and members of the community for more than 50 minutes on Tuesday.

"Of course not," Fernandez said. "He's trying to save his life. Let him go. End of story. ... You screw up, you go. That's what happened to Howard Cosell, Rush Limbaugh and so many others who have made similar comments in the past."

Local politicians have also voiced their opinions, with mayor of Miami-Dade County Carlos Gimenez asking the Marlins to "take decisive steps to bring this community back together." Joe Martinez, chairman of the Miami-Dade board of county commissioners, released a statement calling for Guillen's resignation.

"I don't blame those people to think what they think right now because I hurt a lot of people and I'm aware of that," Guillen said. "When I came from Chicago here, my thought was to be in Miami for the rest of my life. No matter if I leave the Marlins or they leave me, I'm going to be a Miami guy for the rest of my life. I'm going to meet the community every day because I live here."

Guillen, less than a week into his first season managing the Marlins, said he has felt terrible about what he said. Prior to his news conference, the Marlins manager met with several Damas de Blanco, a group of women who have family members jailed in Cuba for being dissidents toward the Castro regime. Guillen said he was in tears as he apologized to the group.

"I am a strong person and when I cry, I really cry," Guillen said. "They understood me and I spoke to them honestly. When a person speaks to another person, they look in their eyes to know if they are being sincere. I was unable to look at their faces. It wasn't because I was lying but because I was so embarrassed about what I had done that I could not look them in the eyes."

The Marlins released a statement shortly after Guillen's comments were published, saying, "There is nothing to respect about Fidel Castro. He is a brutal dictator who has caused unthinkable pain for more than 50 years. We live in a community filled with victims of this dictatorship, and the people in Cuba continue to suffer today."

Beyond asking for forgiveness, Guillen also asked the public to focus their disdain toward him and not the Marlins organization.

"Because I made a mistake, a big one, don't take it out on the ballclub," Guillen said. "Mr. Loria, Mr. Samson, the Marlins, Larry Beinfest, the players, they have nothing to do with this. I will take full responsibility for it. Continue to support the Marlins, the players; they have nothing to do with this."

Guillen said he will try to mend his relationship with the community. He also said he learned to keep his comments focused on things he knows about, like baseball.

"Today is Tuesday, April 10. Today is the last time in my life that I will speak about politics," Guillen said. "I know there are plenty of people who have tried to get me to talk about politics in the past. Hopefully this horrible situation has taught me to not speak about things that I don't know about."

David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.