The new Miami Marlins manager has always been voluble and controversial, but he's been given a bigger platform than ever in recent weeks as the national media has focused its attention on the Marlins, their new stadium, new players and yes, new manager.
But it was his comment in the current issue of Time that he "loves Castro" that has put the new skipper in serious hot water in South Florida. In the same article he said, "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.”
Now a Cuban exile group described as "hard-line" says they'll protest the Marlins game Tuesday night in front of the team's sparkling new ballpark, calling on Marlins management to can the new skipper.
Realizing he had stepped into it, Guillen, a native of Venezuela who has been extremely critical of Castor's pal Hugo Chavez, did an about-face, saying he respects all presidents, including Chavez.
'I said I respect this man because. … I respect (President) Obama, I respect (Venezuelan president Hugo) Chavez because I always respect people,” he said. “Meanwhile I disagree 100 percent what he is doing to the country.”
Realizing that words of praise could seriously alienate the fan base they're hoping to grow (the new park is in Little Havana), the Marlins released this statement on Friday:
“We are aware of the article,” it said. “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.”
"I think when I was talking about that specific man, it was personal. It wasn't politic. I don't believe in politics. I come from a place that has been very, very struggle in politics. I'm against the way he (Castro) treats people and the way treats his country for a long time. I'm against that 100 percent. I'm not crazy or stupid or ignorant to say I love somebody. It don't just hurt Cuban people. It hurt a lot of people, and Venezuelans. The statement I make, whoever got hurt or whoever misunderstood, or whoever can take it the way the way they want to take it, I will apologize for the thing. I will apologize if I hurt somebody's feelings, or I hurt somebody's thought. I want them to know I"m against everything 100 percent — I repeat it again — the way this man be treating people for the last 60 years.
"The reason I say I admire him is because a lot of people want to get rid of this guy and they couldn't yet. It was kind of personal, not political. If you not read the article, it sound ugly, because the first time I read it I thought 'Wow, that going to get me in trouble.' I understand that. And I'm not hiding from anybody, especially the people in Miami. I just finished up talking to the Spanish people (media). With the bottom of my heart, if they want to believe me...if they're disappointed or upset at what I say, I don't blame them. But I live in Miami for 12 years. I know exactly what this man (Castro) means to the town.
Read more in the Miami Herald.
Guillen is catnip for reporters, a non-stop politically incorrect commentator who says anything and everything that pops into his head, even when it gets him in trouble. In the current New Yorker magazine, Guillen makes a host of outrageous (and hilarious) comments. And to CBSSports.com, Guillen said he gets drunk at the hotel bar after every game and has been doing so "for 25, 28 years. It doesn't change."