The Marlins took the “first step toward trying to heal the rift” caused by manager Ozzie Guillen’s recent comments on Fidel Castro by suspending the manager for five games beginning tonight, according to a front-page piece by Beasley & Leon of the MIAMI HERALD. Guillen will “not collect a paycheck while suspended; instead, the team will donate about $150,000 to human-rights charities.” In his first press conference yesterday since his comments appeared in Time magazine, Guillen said, “I’m very embarrassed, very sad and I’m very, very, very sorry.” Marlins President David Samson said that the team “never considered firing Guillen, who was notified of his suspension during a frank conversation with team owner Jeffrey Loria Monday night.” Samson said that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig “contacted the Marlins to express his ‘extreme disappointment’ over Guillen’s remarks ... although the league is not expected to take further action.” Beasley & Leon report there was a “raucous rally” of around 200 people organized by the anti-Castro group Vigilia Mambisa outside Marlins Park yesterday, the new taxpayer-supported facility that “sits in the heart of Little Havana,” and the protest was the most visible evidence that Guillen and the team “still have much work to do to win over their most vocal critics.” Even “beyond the Cuban-American community, Guillen’s remarks have quickly become Miami’s No. 1 topic of conversation this week,” and some have “marveled at the public relations disaster the team is facing just days after riding high on Opening Night at its glittering new ballpark" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/11).
THE DETAILS: The Marlins released a statement that read in part: “The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship." Selig in a statement said, “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.” In Ft. Lauderdale, Joseph Schwerdt notes Guillen’s comments were “particularly stinging to a Miami-Dade community that helped finance” the team’s new $515M ballpark. It hurts the Marlins' attempt "to market the team to Miami-Dade’s Latin community and in Latin American countries.” Guillen said that he would “take full and sole responsibility for his comments and attempted to deflect criticism from the organization and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.” Guillen: “Continue to support the Marlins. Continue to support the players. Continue to support this great thing right now” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/11). Samson said the five-game suspension shows “we take this very seriously” and Loria’s “extreme disappointment is a total understanding of this community and the impact those comments, however interpreted, have on the community.” In Ft. Lauderdale, Davis & Rodriguez write whether or not “that begins the healing process will become clearer when the team returns Friday” for its next home game (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/11). Samson said, "We believe in his apology. We believe everybody deserves a second chance'' (NEWSDAY, 4/11).
THE FALLOUT: In N.Y., O’Keeffe & Vinton write Guillen “appeared stunned by the backlash his comments in Time caused in South Florida,” and his apologies are “not likely to soothe South Florida Cuban-Americans who have called for his job” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/11). In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib writes Guillen’s apology “appeared unwelcome by a couple of hundred protesters outside the new Marlins Park in Little Havana.” At least once during Guillen's news conference, their “shouts for his ouster could be heard through the glass inside the packed interview room” (PALM BEACH POST, 4/11). In DC, Amy Shipley writes Guillen’s remarks “seemed to further damage what had been a distant, if not contentious, relationship between this city and its baseball team.” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said, “I’m putting this squarely on the Marlins. They need to do right by the community. I think the current ownership doesn’t get it. They may be a decent baseball organization, but they’re not a good community organization. They are hypersensitive to criticism and insensitive to the community.” Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners Chair Joe Martinez: “The five-game suspension really doesn’t address the magnitude of his statements. I guess they figured it would be enough to calm the people. … The people will let him know” (WASHINGTON POST, 4/11). In N.Y., Thompson & Macur in a front-page piece write Guillen’s predicament for the Marlins and MLB “represented a marketing nightmare.” The Marlins are “a team whose lifeblood just happens to be the biggest Cuban community outside Havana.” Thompson & Macur: “Such a combustion of sports and politics is not common” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/11).
TIMING IS EVERYTHING: FOXSPORTS.com’s Greg Couch writes the suspension is Loria’s “way of buying time to see if the Cuban community in Miami will cool off, whether the protests and boycotts will go away” (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/11). ESPN.com’s Howard Bryant wrote suspending Guillen was “the prudent, image-conscious reaction for the Marlins, but now we'll find out just what kind of crisis manager Loria is.” Bryant: “Perhaps the conservative Cuban exile community will not forgive Guillen, causing the Marlins to suffer financially. If that proves true, Guillen will not survive as manager, regardless of apology or contrition” (ESPN.com, 4/10). ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden wrote the discipline “should’ve been a little stronger, and perhaps a 60-day suspension from the league without pay might be more appropriate” (ESPN.com, 4/10). In Chicago, Mike Imren writes some Cuban-Americans “called for Guillen to be fired and instead he was suspended for five games.” Somewhere in between “would be more appropriate, like a month suspension.” Five games “aren’t enough time to accomplish much healing” (CHICAGO DAILY HERALD, 4/11). ESPN.com’s Israel Gutierrez wrote “to fire Guillen would set a different precedent.” One that “doesn't allow for mistakes, even ones this explosive in nature” (ESPN.com, 4/10).
ENOUGH ALREADY: In DC, Deron Snyder writes five games is “Guillen’s price for now." It is a “fair amount that, unfortunately, might increase if pressure doesn’t decrease” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 4/11). A MIAMI HERALD editorial was written under the header, “Ozzie’s Big Mouth.” The editorial: “The Marlins, for their part, did right by suspending their manager for five games. They say his salary for those five games will go to charity. Good” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/11). In Miami, Greg Cote writes “passion and apology met at the intersection of Sports & Politics outside the new Marlins Park.” The Marlins, who are “scrambling into damage-control mode, were smart to immediately denounce Castro and Guillen’s comments, and smart to suspend Guillen.” It is now “time for Miami to be bigger than that mistake,” and it is “time to accept his apology as sincere and move on” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/11). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes, “There’s no defending Guillen’s comments. And there’s no forgetting them. And there’s no guessing where he goes from here.” But Hyde adds, “Enough. Move on, At some point there’s nothing else to say” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/11).
Guillen if protests do not calm down
AN OZZIE IN ANY OTHER UNIFORM: In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes the Marlins “can't immediately part with him ... because they clearly knew what they were buying.” Loria “did not show up for Ozzie's press conference,” while Samson and Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest “stood quietly to the side as their manager talked and left without comment to the media” (PALM BEACH POST, 4/11). In Chicago, Barry Rozner writes Guillen’s comments “can’t be a surprise to Miami owner Jeff Loria, because Guillen has done this for decades.” Rozner: “They thought hiring a wacky manager would be entertaining and profitable, and docking his pay is at the least unfair and probably hypocritical.” The team will suspend him for five games “in hopes of appeasing the Cuban community, but such pandering is transparent and ineffective,” as those insulted “will not likely be assuaged” (CHICAGO DAILY HERALD, 4/11).
GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR: SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg wrote the Marlins “did not just get what they deserved,” they got “what they hired” (SI.com, 4/10). In Chicago, Steve Rosenbloom wrote, “Whether they meant it or not, and I’m doubting their sincerity, the Marlins seized a great opportunity to act like sensitive members of a local community teeming with Cubans.” He added, “Gain some good local publicity. Make nice with the expatriates. And all the while revel in the jackpot of being able to punish the man for doing exactly what they hired him to do” (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 4/10). Also in Chicago, David Haugh writes the Marlins “got exactly what they paid for: $2.5 million a year worth of distractions that have absolutely nothing to do with baseball” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/11). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes the Marlins “wanted the outrage of Guillen and now cannot distance themselves just because Guillen didn’t understand the bounds of what too far were.” Loria and Samson “thought they would be scooping up their own winnings by investing in an outrageous man without an editing valve named Ozzie Guillen.” They should “not be able to walk away as if they didn’t understand there was gambling going on with such a hire” (N.Y. POST, 4/11).
THE BLAME GAME: In DC, Mike Wise writes Selig and MLB are “the bigger jokes.” Baseball’s “protective media, the people who enabled Guillen’s vulgarity over the years, also need to take blame." Wise wonders: “When are baseball and its gatekeepers -- some of whom held microphones Tuesday -- going to apologize for letting Ozzie Guillen and his big mouth stick around this long to begin with?” (WASHINGTON POST, 4/11). In Baltimore, Steve Gould noted Selig “sat with Castro and took in an exhibition game Baltimore played in Cuba in 1999.” Gould: “Obviously, it's not the same as Guillen declaring his respect for the dictator, but Selig attended a public event with Castro in the very country where Castro has terrorized his own people for decades” (BALTIMORESUN.com, 4/10).