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Guillen still has amends to make, even if his apologies are sincere


Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen apologized over and over and over again at his press conference Tuesday regarding his complimentary remarks about the brutal Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Guillen seemed sincere in his apology, and he pledged to stop talking about things he knows nothing about and also to start working in the Miami community to make it all right.

Let's hope he actually does stop talking, and does start working. That would be a nice switch for him.

It surely won't be easy for Ozzie, who always seemed to think he was an expert in things he knows nothing about, which is about everything but baseball. There is no shame in that. It's pretty good just to be expert in one thing, which he is.

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Let's take him at his word that he didn't really understand anything about Castro and doesn't really believe the brutal Castro is someone to be "loved" or "respected," although everyone in Miami should know this by now. He said he understands that now, and that he didn't mean to say what he said.

OK, fine, but let's keep an eye on him.

Guillen started well in his efforts to make amends. "I'm sorry that I hurt a city, a country," he said to begin. "I hurt the community without any intention. But I did it."

This was the biggest day of Guillen's professional life, and he got through it without any new issues. But the suspension of five games the Marlins imposed isn't necessarily the end of this story.

Guillen was hired partly because Marlins management was expecting the Latin community to embrace him, and instead he has soured the relationship with so many in that community. Guillen has hurt the relationship, and he's hurt the business. Sports tickets are a tough sell in South Florida to begin with, and this doesn't help. He has cost his employers money, maybe more money than he can make back with his funny form of multilingual profanity.

Guillen isn't the kind who apologizes, but he did so profusely, presumably because he grasps the seriousness of the situation. His precise choice of words made that clear. "Very sad, very embarrassed, very guilty," he said to sum up his feelings.

He also spent a few minutes explaining why he was "stupid" but not "dumb." What he meant was that he did something stupid, but isn't ready to call himself stupid, concluding, "If I don't learn from this, then I will call myself stupid."

Guillen is 48. It's never too late to learn.

Guillen, who's never showed much contrition before over his lifetime of over-the-top comments, was contrite as could be this time. "I don't blame the people for thinking what they're thinking," he said. "I hurt a lot of people."

Some folks outside Miami might not quite get what a big deal it is that Guillen told Time Magazine, "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 [expletive] is still there." But Guillen, as a Miami resident, has to know. The only explanation could be that Guillen must not have stopped talking long enough to listen to those around him. Because in Miami, Castro, who's driven tens of thousands out of their homeland and executed thousands more, is a Hitler to many.

Guillen suggested he didn't mean what he didn't really know he was saying, which is hard to believe. But at least he seems smart enough to understand his job status isn't quite all that secure. "It's going to be a very bumpy road," he conceded.

Guillen talked about how he hasn't slept and how much he has "suffered." So he must understand the damage he has done. Maybe he was upset about how he has made others suffer. But he did also note how much he is suffering. And, undoubtedly, he is.

He said he wasn't apologizing merely to save his job. "I'm not here to get out if it," he said. But he had to know this press conference was a prerequisite.

The Marlins suspended him five games without pay, with MLB's approval, so if Guillen didn't get it before, that had to hit home.

Still, he wisely added, "I need to fix my problem with the community. That's more important than my suspension or my money."

He also has to know it isn't over yet. Ultimately, the reaction is going to determine his fate. Guillen may have seemed sincere to most of us, but some in the Latin community may not be as persuaded. There have been threats of a boycott. There have been calls for his firing. Forgiveness won't come easily.

With his loose lips and over-the-top rips, it's a wonder he hadn't planted his size 11's in his mouth before. But now that he has, he needs to confine his commentary to the lineup, the pitching order, the hit and run -- you know, things he knows something about.

He said he will stop talking about politics, though this one time he felt compelled to speak regarding the Venezualan leader Hugo Chavez, if only to prove he has spent the past few decades in a baseball cave, and he correctly said, "I prefer to be dead than vote for Chavez."

But hopefully, that will be the end of Ozzie's political punditry. Clamming up won't be as easy as it sounds for Guillen. We in the press have heard him call every politician in the book an "idiot" or some such insult in the past. But those remarks were off the cuff, and presumably, off the record. This one was to a Time reporter, a serious writer who visited him in a one-on-one setting for hours. If he knows one thing beyond baseball, it is interviews. This one was on the record.

Guillen gets that it was his bad. He said he was there today "on my knee and with my hand on my heart" to ask the forgiveness of the Miami and Latin communities, and except for a brief detour about the way his comments were translated or interpreted from Spanish to English by the interviewer, he took full responsibility. Correctly, he called the E on himself.

"It was an error, a personal error of mine," Guillen said.

Guillen, the former All-Star shortstop, gets that this wasn't just letting a ball slide under his glove, either. And that's a start.


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