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Marlins suspend Guillen for Castro comments

Marlins suspend Guillen for Castro comments

Marlins suspend Guillen for Castro comments
PHILADELPHIA -- The Marlins suspended manager Ozzie Guillen on Tuesday for five games, effective immediately, for comments he made about Cuban leader Fidel Castro that appeared in a Time magazine article.

"The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen," the team said in its statement. "The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship."

Guillen traveled to Miami on Monday night to address the media and the people of the Cuban community regarding his comments. Initially, he planned to meet with the media in Miami on Friday before the Marlins face the Astros at Marlins Park, but instead, he was to do so on Tuesday after talk surfaced of potential protests at Marlins Park.

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The Marlins held a news conference at Marlins Park on Tuesday. Guillen headed to Miami after the Marlins-Phillies game on Monday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

"I was planning to do something on Friday," Guillen said. "Tomorrow we have the day off, and I want to make everything clear about what's going on. Then people can see me and talk. I've already talked to people. But I think it's best, the proper thing for them to see my eyes. They can see me and they can ask whatever questions they want. I think the sooner, the better.

"People have to know what's going on. We'll let them know exactly what is going on in my mind and what I believe."

The Time article, which appeared online on Friday, begins by quoting Guillen as saying, "I love Fidel Castro," and then continues with further explanation.

"I respect Fidel Castro," Guillen said in the article. "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 on Saturday apologized and clarified what he meant in the story. The Venezuela-born manager spoke with reporters before the Marlins played the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

Guillen also went on Spanish-language radio in Miami on Saturday to clarify his remarks about Castro.

"Whoever got hurt or misunderstood, I want to apologize for the things that hurt somebody's feelings," the Marlins manager said on Saturday. "I want them to know I'm against everything the way he's treated people the last 60 years. I've read a lot about him."

Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney told ESPN.com via e-mail that MLB was "reviewing" the option of disciplining Guillen. The Marlins released a statement Friday in response to the article.

"We are aware of the article," the team said. "There is nothing to respect about Fidel Casto. 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."

Guillen's decision to return to Miami comes at a time when reports in South Florida say that the Cuban-American group Vigilia Mambis plans to boycott and demonstrate against the Marlins. The group plans to be at Marlins Park on Tuesday.

Guillen will speak at the news conference, but he also said he wants to talk directly to the public and anyone who might take issue with his comments.

"You know a lot of people, when they do something, they have their wife next to them or they have somebody else," Guillen said. "No. I'm going to do this by myself. I don't want anybody's support. I want the Cuban people to understand what I say. What I'm going to say is 100 percent true and very honest."

Since the story was released, Guillen says he has not slept well for three nights.

"I have to wear it. I have to face it," he said. "I have to grab the bull by the horns. I will do it tomorrow. They asked me about media. I want the people there. Whoever feels like asking me a question, I will answer."

Guillen had not spoken with team owner Jeffrey Loria, but he had several conversations with team president David Samson.

"Here's the problem: One of the big reasons he was hired was his ability to connect not just with his players but with this particular diverse, multicultural fan base -- particularly the portion of that fan base that speaks Spanish," Jayson Stark wrote for ESPN.com. "And now he may have irreparably damaged his ability to make that vital connection.

"So for Ozzie Guillen, his defining moment as manager of the Marlins may already have arrived -- less than one week into Season 1.

"You know, he has spoken about 97 billion words in his never-a-dull-moment managerial career. But here's the one thing all 97 billion have in common: None of them will be as important as the words he speaks in Miami on Tuesday morning, because this time his future, and the future of his franchise, are riding on them.

Guillen said the toughest thing he's had to do was apologize to Hall of Fame Marlins Spanish-language radio voice Felo Ramirez, who was born in Cuba. Guillen also apologized to Yiky Quintana, Ramirez's radio partner.

"The saddest part of this was to apologize to Felo Ramirez," Guillen said. "That was hard. Face to face. Yiky, face to face."

Phillies Spanish-language radio announcer Rickie Ricardo, who was born in New York but whose family migrated from Cuba, told the Herald that Marlins' image could be damaged by Guillen's comments.

"Let's hope Ozzie addresses it and clears things up," Ricardo said. "That's a subject that's untouchable. This team could go 0-50 and it wouldn't hurt the Cuban community as much as him saying something like that."

Said Spanish-language baseball announcer Amaury Pi-Gonzalez, who left Cuba in 1961 and lived in Miami for five years:

"It's like going to New York's Jewish district and saying, 'Hitler wasn't so bad. He managed to stay in power for a few years," Pi-Gonzalez said to ESPN.com. "Even a 9-year-old knows better than to say that in Miami. But I don't think he's really a fan of Castro or meant any harm. It's just that he talks so much that sometimes he says things without thinking about them."

As for the Time story, Guillen didn't claim he was taken out of context.

"I think it was kind of a cheap shot, but I have to face it," Guillen said. "The reason I want to go there tomorrow is because it makes me feel good, and I want to make people feel good about themselves.

"I will say what I said a couple of days ago. I don't want to make a statement, because I think when you make a statement, it's a bunch of [garbage]. I want people to look at my eyes and look at my face and see what's going on. And tell them what the deal was, and that's it."

Shortstop and Cuban native Alexei Ramirez, who played for Guillen for four seasons with the White Sox, said his former manager deserves forgiveness.

"I think apologizing is a good first step," Ramirez said through a team translator, according to ESPN.com. "I feel everyone has their opinion, but I also feel people should be forgiven. Hopefully it will be accepted."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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