Associated Press , Published October 23 2012
Castro comments help oust Marlins' manager after one seasonMIAMI — Ozzie Guillen was fired Tuesday after one year as manager of the last-place Miami Marlins, whose promising season began to derail in April when his laudatory comments about Fidel Castro caused a backlash.
Miami's next manager will be the fifth for owner Jeffrey Loria since early 2010. Two managers he fired made the playoffs this year. The Marlins still owe Guillen $7.5 million for the three years remaining on his contract.
“After careful consideration following the disappointment of the 2012 season, we decided to dismiss Ozzie,” president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said in a statement. “Our managerial search begins immediately and our hope is that a new manager, along with roster improvements, will restore a winning culture.”
The franchise was supposedly transformed by an offseason spending spree and the move into a new ballpark, and the Marlins expected to contend for a playoff berth. But a dismal June took the Marlins out of contention for good, and management dismantled the roster in July.
The season went sour from the start. Guillen's comments praising Castro in a magazine interview angered Cuban Americans, who make up a large segment of the Marlins’ fan base. The Venezuelan manager apologized repeatedly at a news conference for his remarks about the former Cuban leader. Guillen then began a five-game suspension only five games into his stay with the team.
“That was a very, very hard situation for me and the people around me,” Guillen said in September. “It was maybe the worst thing I ever did.”
The Castro episode was a factor in the decision to fire Guillen, Beinfest said.
“It was not a positive for the team; it was not a positive for Ozzie,” Beinfest said. “It was a disappointment, no doubt about it.”
There had speculation that Beinfest's job might also be in jeopardy, but he said he'll continue in his current role.
Guillen left the Chicago White Sox a year ago after eight seasons. Some 24 hours later he sealed a four-year deal with the Marlins, where he was a third-base coach for the 2003 World Series championship team.
“I feel like I'm back home,” he said at the time.
Loria traded two minor league players to obtain Guillen and gave him a team-record $10 million, four-year deal.
But by June, the Marlins had fallen below .500 for good.
“We all felt we had a pretty good ballclub coming out of spring training, and we just didn't play well,” Beinfest said. “We all share in this. This is not a fun day for me, certainly not for Ozzie or Jeffrey or anybody involved. This is an organizational failure. But we felt like we needed to make this change so we could move forward.”
Despite the frustrations of losing, the talkative, opinionated, profane Guillen kept his cool for the most part, and he repeatedly accepted responsibility for the team's performance.
Mindful of speculation his job might be in jeopardy, he said two weeks before the end of the season he was glad he rented a house in Miami rather than buying when he took the job.
“With the job I did this year, do you think I deserve to be back here?” Guillen said on the final day of the season. “Of course not. But I'm not the only one. ... Let's start from the top. The front office failed, Ozzie failed, the coaching staff failed, the players failed, everybody failed.”
In December, the Marlins signed All-Stars Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to contracts worth a combined $191 million. But Bell was a bust as the closer, and the Marlins were plagued by poor hitting, especially in the clutch. Bell was traded last week to Arizona.
In the Marlins’ 20 seasons they have reached the postseason only twice, as wild-card teams in 1997 and 2003. Both times they won the World Series.
This year they finished last in the NL East at 69-93, their worst record since 1999. Their loss total rose for the third year in a row.
The search for a new manager has just begun, Beinfest said.
“We need to find a way to re-ignite our winning culture,” he said. “We don't need to necessarily talk about winning divisions or winning wild cards or winning this or winning that. We need to win period.”
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