Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, no stranger to the spotlight, looked to be under serious duress Tuesday as he apologized for making insensitive comments to Time magazine in support of Fidel Castro. Guillen claimed that his remarks were misinterpreted.
Guillen, who left his team in Philadelphia for the news conference in Miami, was suspended by the Marlins for five games as part of the team's continuing efforts to satisfy an outraged Cuban-American community in South Florida. That won't happen overnight. Guillen answered questions from reporters for roughly an hour, switching between English and Spanish.
The 48-year-old Venezuelan, in his first season as Marlins manager, also had been criticized for going on a radio show with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez after leading the White Sox to the World Series title in 2005.
In the Time story, Guillen said, "I love Fidel Castro . . . I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that ---- is still there.''
In trying to explain those comments at Tuesday's news conference, Guillen said, "I was saying I cannot believe somebody who hurt so many people over the years is still alive.''
Outside Marlins Park, the team's new $515-million stadium built in the Little Havana section of Miami, demonstrators rallied as Guillen spoke inside the building. The Marlins moved south from the Miami Gardens area and dropped the Florida from their name to appeal to the city.
Some local politicians and community leaders have called for Guillen's resignation or for the team to fire him. Marlins president David Samson said, "We believe in his apology. We believe everybody deserves a second chance.''
"I'm very sorry about the problem, what happened,'' Guillen said. "I will do everything in my power to make it better . . . I know it's going to be a very bumpy ride.
"This is the biggest mistake I've made so far in my life,'' Guillen continued. "When you make a mistake like this, you can't sleep . . . When you're a sportsman, you shouldn't be involved with politics.''
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement that he approved of the Marlins' decision to suspend Guillen without pay. "Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities,'' Selig said. "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.''
Joey Cora, the team's bench coach, will be the interim manager in Guillen's absence.