"Ozzie's back at it"
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 00:04
Little Havana cannot wait for the Marlins to get back in town. The team has sensational new players, a new stadium and high expectations to win, which have avoided Miami since the team arrived in the early 1990s. And on Monday, the Marlins beat the Phillies—the reigning NL East champs—in Philadelphia, 6-2.
Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen is in a particular rush to get back to South Beach. TIME Magazine published an article about Guillen Sunday, in which he said, “I love Fidel Castro.” The four-word comment incited Cuban-Americans, especially those living Miami, to rain criticism down on the Marlins new manager.
Guillen, a Venezuelan, said to reporters in Philadelphia Monday that the TIME reporter took a “cheap shot” using the Castro quote, according to an ESPN report. He also profusely apologized for his pro-Castro comments, claiming he felt “guilty” and “embarrassed” about what he said.
Guillen flew back to Miami after the Phillies game Monday, and plans to hold a press conference today at Marlins Park at 10:30 a.m. He thought issuing a statement would not be appropriate...So Ozzie.
“I don’t want to make a statement, because I think when you make a statement it’s a bunch of crap,” Guillen said to reporters at Citizen Bank Park Monday. “I want people to look in my eyes, look in my face and see what’s going on, tell them what the deal was.”
On Monday, Guillen said he absolutely opposes the way Castro, who appointed his brother, Raul, head of state a few years ago, governed Cuba. The Cuban-American advocacy group Vigilia Mambisa plans to boycott Marlins games and protest outside the stadium until Guillen is fired.
Despite Ozzie’s in-your-face comments throughout his managerial career, even he knows he messed up. Praising Castro as the manager of a baseball team in a city where thousands fled Castro and hate Castro is just stupid.
As the new face of the team, Ozzie has a responsibility to help sell tickets. This public relations nightmare shows he did not recognize that responsibility. But I give Ozzie credit. He is doing his best to dig himself out of the hole. I believe most managers would hide behind their team’s press secretary, release a statement and briefly address the issue a week later. Not Ozzie.
After the Marlins beat the Phillies Monday, Guillen flew back to Miami for the press conference Tuesday. After he’s done answering questions, he will return to Philly to rejoin his team. And he welcomed the public to attend the press conference. In some ways, it’s a very Ozzie-like response: I am not hiding anything, and I will tell you exactly what I am thinking. You can’t say he is not trying to amend the situation.
On the other hand, Guillen is doing something he rarely does: backpedal. I find it hard to believe that Guillen’s views on Castro have changed in a one-month time span from the time of the interview to now.
And sorry Cuban-Americans, but Guillen’s views are OK. Castro and his legacy carry different meaning to people in different countries.
Do not mix up my words though: I am not a fan of Fidel Castro. His stubborn leadership chartered Cuba into severe poverty once the Soviet Union collapsed.
Sports and politics rarely mix, and when they do, its brief. But I wonder, what if Guillen was Cuban and said this? Would the reaction be different? Would Cuban-Americans be split on the issue? I guess we’ll never know. One thing is certain: Guillen will keep the conversation on baseball, and only baseball, for the rest of his time in Miami.