Guillen apologizes for Castro comments, still suspended

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Guillen apologizes for Castro comments, still suspended

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended for five games Tuesday because of his comments about Fidel Castro, and he again apologized and said he'll do whatever he can to repair relations with Cuban-Americans angered by the remarks. The suspension by the team takes effect immediately. It was announced shortly before Guillen held a news conference to explain what he said. The 48-year-old Venezuelan told Time magazine he loves Castro and respects the retired Cuban leader for staying in power so long. In response, at least two local officials said Guillen should lose his job. At the news conference, Guillen said his comments were misinterpreted by the reporter, and he doesn't love or admire the dictator. "I was saying I cannot believe somebody who hurt so many people over the years is still alive," Guillen told the news conference. But Guillen took responsibility for the uproar, and said it left him sad and embarrassed. He also said he accepted the team's punishment. "I'm very sorry about the problem, what happened," said Guillen, who is only five games into his tenure with the Marlins. "I will do everything in my power to make it better. ... I know it's going to be a very bumpy ride." Outside an entrance to the Marlins' new ballpark, about 100 demonstrators wanting Guillen's ouster shouted and chanted during the news conference. The team didn't consider firing Guillen or asking him to resign, Marlins President David Samson said. "We believe in him," Samson said. "We believe in his apology. We believe everybody deserves a second chance." With reaction to Guillen's praise of Castro escalating in South Florida, he left his team in Philadelphia and flew to Miami in an attempt at damage control. The Marlins and Phillies had the day off and resume their series in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Guillen said he'll be there to apologize to his players -- but he won't be in the dugout. Bench coach Joey Cora will be the interim manager. "The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen," read a statement from the team. "The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship." Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he supported the decision to suspend Guillen. He called Guillen's remarks "offensive to an important part of the Miami community and others throughout the world" and "have no place in our game." "As I have often said, baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities," Selig added in a statement. "All of our 30 clubs play significant roles within their local communities, and I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game's many cultures deserve." Samson said he expected no further punishment by Major League Baseball. The suspension recalled the punishment given to Marge Schott, the late owner of the Cincinnati Reds. Schott so embarrassed baseball in the 1990s with her inflammatory racial remarks and fond recollections of Adolf Hitler that she was suspended from ownership duties for a season. About 100 reporters, photographers and cameramen attended the news conference. Guillen sat alone at the podium and began in Spanish, speaking without notes for several minutes before taking questions. Shortly after he started, his voice wavered in the middle of a sentence, and he paused to take a sip of water and clear his throat. "This is the biggest mistake I've made so far in my life," Guillen said. "When you make a mistake like this, you can't sleep. ... When you're a sportsman, you shouldn't be involved with politics." The news conference lasted nearly an hour, with about 80 percent of it in Spanish. Guillen said he was suspended without pay, but Samson later said the manager will be paid and will donate the money to Miami human-rights causes. The firestorm came shortly after the Marlins opened their ballpark last week in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. The team is trying to rebuild its fan base with the help of South Florida's large Cuban-American population. Guillen apologized over the weekend after the story broke, but some Cuban-Americans remained upset. One group planned a demonstration Tuesday before Guillen said he would fly to Miami. Francis Suarez, chairman of the Miami city commission, said Guillen should be fired. Joe Martinez, chairman of the Miami-Dade County board of commissioners, said Guillen should resign. Polarizing comments are nothing new for Guillen, who once used a gay slur referring to a reporter, defended illegal immigrants and just last week he said he drinks to excess after road games and has done so for years. Guillen twice appeared on a radio show hosted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in October 2005, when Guillen led the Chicago White Sox to the World Series title. At the time, Guillen said: "Not too many people like the president. I do." Chavez is unpopular with many Venezuelans, especially those living in the United States.

After trading Jimmy Butler, Bulls select Arizona PF Lauri Markkanen

After trading Jimmy Butler, Bulls select Arizona PF Lauri Markkanen

The Bulls enterted their rebuilding phase on Thursday night after trading Jimmy Butler. And with the No. 7 pick they received in that deal, they selected Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen.

Markkanen, a 7-footer from Finland, played one season for the Wildcats, averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game. Markkanen was a sharpshooter, connecting on 42.3 percent of his 163 3-pointers.

His defense is a question mark but his pick-and-pop ability should fit in well in Fred Hoiberg's offense.

The Bulls also received shooting guard Zach LaVine and point guard Kris Dunn in the deal for Butler. The Bulls sent the No. 16 pick along with Butler. They still have the No. 38 overall pick in the second round.

How Cubs reached the breaking point with Kyle Schwarber

How Cubs reached the breaking point with Kyle Schwarber

MIAMI – Theo Epstein scoffed at the possibility of sending a World Series hero down to the minors on May 16, writing the headline with this money quote: “If anyone wants to sell their Kyle Schwarber stock, we’re buying.”

If the Cubs aren’t dumping their Schwarber stock, they’re definitely reassessing their investment strategy, trying to figure out how such a dangerous postseason hitter had become one of the least productive players in the majors.

The overall portfolio hasn’t changed that much since the team president’s vote of confidence, Schwarber batting .179 for the defending champs then and .171 when the Cubs finally made the decision to demote him to Triple-A Iowa. That 18-19 team is now 36-35 and still waiting for that hot streak. 

What took so long?

“The honest answer is we believe in him so much,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday. “He’s never struggled like this. We kept thinking that he was going to come out of it. We got to a point where we felt like mentally he probably needed a break before he could come out of this. 

“The honest answer is patience. We’ve got a guy who’s never really struggled. He was the best hitter in college baseball. He blew through the minor leagues. Last year in the World Series, he performed. We just felt like he was going to turn himself around.

“It just got to a place where we felt like the right way for this to come together was to allow him to get away from the team, to take a deep breath and be able to work on some things in a lower-pressure environment.”   

The Cubs plan to give Schwarber a few days off before he reports to Iowa, an idea that would have seemed unthinkable after watching his shocking recovery from knee surgery and legendary performance (.971 OPS) against the Cleveland Indians in last year’s World Series.

But preparing for one opponent and running on adrenaline through 20 plate appearances is completely different from handling the great expectations and newfound level of fame and doing it for an entire 162-game season.   

This might actually be the most normal part of Schwarber’s career after his meteoric rise from No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft to breakout star in the 2015 playoffs to injured and untouchable during last year’s trade talks with the New York Yankees. 

“There’s been a long and illustrious list of guys that have gone through this,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When a guy’s good, he’s good. Sometimes – especially when they’re this young – you just got to hit that reset button. It’s hard for a young player who’s never really struggled before to struggle on this stage and work his way through it.

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“There’s no scarlet letter attached to this. It’s just the way it happens sometimes. You have to do what you think is best. We think this is best for him right now. We know he’s going to be back.” 

When? The Cubs say they don’t have a certain number of Pacific Coast League at-bats in mind for a guy who’s played only 17 career games at the Triple-A level.

Maddon pointed out how Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee needed minor-league sabbaticals/refresher courses before becoming Cy Young Award winners and two of the best pitchers of their generation.

New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto – another college hitter the Cubs closely scouted before taking Schwarber in the 2014 draft – has gone from the 2015 World Series to Triple-A Las Vegas for parts of last season to potential All-Star this year.

The Cubs fully expect their Schwarber stock to rebound – whether or not the turnaround happens in time to impact the 2017 bottom line.    

“I’m still sticking by him,” Maddon said. “But at some point, you have to be pragmatic. You have to do what’s best for everybody. We thought at this point that we weren’t going to necessarily get him back to where we need him to be just by continuing this same path.

“It’s not a matter of us not sticking with him anymore. We just thought this was the best way to go to really get him well, so that we could utilize the best side of Kyle moving forward.”