Marlins struggle to overcome PR nightmares

Expert: Team needs to win often, big to overcome issues

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MIAMI - Just a week into the 2012 season at their new ballpark, the Miami Marlins are struggling to overcome a series of public relations nightmares, including manager Ozzie Guillen's comments about Fidel Castro

Guillen's comments about Castro and the litany of apology attempts that followed are a climatic moment in what has been a series of perceived blunders and missteps. 

"It's a crisis that will probably be continuing through most of the season," said University of Miami professor Don Stacks, who specializes in crisis management. 

In addition to Guillen's Castro comment, the Marlins are dealing with continued grumbling about the cost of the new stadium. It has been called a "sweetheart deal" and saddled taxpayers with much of the cost. 

"The question of what exactly are taxpayers getting out of this?" Stacks said. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission is now investigating the deal. Community outrage at the time of the deal was so intense that voters booted the mayor of Miami-Dade County out of office. 

"There's a lack of trust. There's a lack of credibility," Stacks said. 

Then, there were the stadium's parking garages. It turns out the Marlins get to keep all the money from fans, and the team had to quickly deflect neighborhood outrage when people living near the stadium learned they wouldn't be allowed to park in front of their own homes on game days.

Then, just last month, the team's president was in the hot seat for comments he made about local officials to a group of business leaders. 

"It's not a media relations problem anymore. It's an actual corporate-to-customer conflict," Stacks said. "I think the missteps all add up. You can only apologize so many times." 

Add Guillen's comments to the cauldron, and there's a pot ready to boil over. 

"You can always recover. It's a question of, how badly damaged is the Marlins' reputation right now?" Stacks said. "I think that the suspension will help. Everyone will be watching from here on out." 

Stacks said that in order to recover, the team needs to win often and win big. 

"We have very short memories when it comes to teams that win," he said.

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