Over the course of his eight years with the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen said plenty of cringe-worthy things. Most (but not all) of the time, we could collectively roll our eyes and chalk it up to Ozzie being Ozzie.
His comments about Fidel Castro might have been brushed off in Chicago. In fact, it already happened, and it didn't make waves here. That's Ozzie. He has strong opinions, and he's not shy about voicing them. And he doesn't choose his words carefully.
But his latest round of comments about his admiration for Castro are a completely different animal. He not only offended a large part of the fanbase Miami is trying to win over, he alienated them.
Guillen seemed sincere in his apology, but that he's made these comments about Castro before makes his contriteness seemed canned, forced by a team that's in desperate need of a PR save. This may not have been one of Guillen's trademark off-the-cuff riffs that he may or may not mean. This smells of something Guillen has believed for years.
Cry freedom of speech all you want. Guillen had every right to say what he said, but the Marlins had every right to punish Guillen. He damaged their brand. For a team that's aggressively trying to gain a foothold in the Miami market, these comments were a significant blow.
Guillen was one of the central parts of those marketing efforts. Like it or not, he's one of the faces of the Marlins. And one of the faces of the team has given the organization a black eye not even a week into the regular season.
Maybe Guillen's apology will be accepted -- although the early returns aren't good. Maybe winning will cure everything. Or maybe this will all blow over in a few weeks.
Or maybe it won't. If the Marlins don't win, it'll only give Guillen's opposition more ammo, not that they exactly need any right now. But keeping a manager who not only said he supports Fidel Castro but also led the Marlins to a fourth-place finish? Not even a sharp new park will keep fans coming out for that.
Guillen said those comments were the biggest mistake of his life. He just might be right about that.