Friday, February 17, 2006

Just Guillen Being Guillen

Dave Sheinin has made it to beautiful Vierra, Fl, and he starts out by looking at Jose Guillen. It's a fascinating article, but an infuriating one. Sheinin lets Guillen hang himself with his own words, as he comes across as trying to be the big man. But he words belie some troubles laying below the surface. (Distinguished Senators has a probably much more entertaining hack or two at it, too)

As good a player as Guillen is (and he's damn good) Sheinin's lede shows the tension beneath the surface:
Jose Guillen is a guy you want to keep happy. Other teams have seen what has happened when he is unhappy, and it is messy. The Washington Nationals, however, don't have to worry yet. As Guillen sat in the team's near-empty clubhouse Thursday morning at Space Coast Stadium, following another lonely workout on his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, an occasional smile still crept across his face. But from where this Guillen sat, it was possible to see that Guillen lurking menacingly in the distance.

Then, when Sheinin asks Guillen about the surgery on his torn labrum, which was much worse than initially expected, he simmers over, not quite at a rapid boil"
"It was pretty ugly. I saw the pictures," Guillen said. "It was not a slight tear, like [the team's medical staff] said. It was pretty much broken in half. . . . I was kind of mad at those guys, because they should know what was going on in there. But I really blame myself, because I was the one who wanted to keep playing.

Oh my. Where to begin.

I can understand his frustration with the medical staff. That's probably something they should've caught -- and given how the team doctor was overruled by three specialists, including James Andrews with respect to Jose Vidro's rehab, maybe there are bigger questions to be asked. But Guillen should not be the one to ask them.

As far as blaming himself, that's something he's done before, and, putting on my armchair shrink's cap, that just seems like another case of him trying to be 'the man'. Frank Robinson ultimately bears the responsibility for that. After an All-Star-quality start to the season, Guillen fell off the table in the second half, so much that by the time Sept rolled around, he was done, completely unable to hit.

Frank should have stepped in before that. I can remember one game, right after his injury, where they had announced that they were going to bench Guillen for rest for 4 or 5 games. Two nights later, Frank had an injured Guillen up at the plate in a key pinch-hit situation. It's admirable that he's such a gamer, but at some point you need to lose a battle here or there to win a war. As it is, those meaningless ABs last year stand a good chance of keeping Jose out for the beginning of this season.

Jose continued:

"But one thing that bothers me is that a lot of people don't know what I went through last year. I bet you there was nobody in baseball -- nobody -- who could play through this injury. Only my family knows how much pain I was in every day after games. I don't like to make excuses, but my doctors said they don't know how I could have played with that injury."

As much as I like Jose's bat, it's this attitude which makes it hard for me to root for him as a person, even if I'm cheering for the number on the uniform.

While I'm sure that playing with a shredded labrum hurts like hell, what does it prove? That he's a man? So what? I don't care how big his balls are, I care what he produces on the field. And the fact is that with that shredded labrum, he was no better than Cristian Guzman for that final month of the season. He hurt the team because he wanted to be the macho man. Self before team? That's never good.

Keep that "but" from the last sentence in mind. He's fond of using 'buts'. When we use 'buts' (keep the jokes to yourselves, children!) we mean "I really mean what's on the right side of the 'but' but I want you to think that I really mean what's on the left side."

Here's an extension of Jose's but (Stop snickering, damn you!):
"Everybody knows about this ballpark, how many home runs I lost there," he said. "I'd like to see somebody coming from another team [where he has hit] 40 home runs -- let's see how many home runs they hit here. I'm not going to mention no one's names. But just come here. And we'll see who has the real power here."

STILL with the farkin' ballpark? Does he wake up in cold sweats? Yes, Jose. We know you can't hit at RFK. Get over it. The opposing team's pull hitters didn't have a problem hitting there. Nick Johnson didn't have problems hitting there. I'm not going to rip his 'manhood' (like he seems to think the ballpark is doing), but his swing just isn't right for the park. Unless a healthier shoulder (and a competent batting coach) allow him to pull the ball more, he's not going to have a ton of success at RFK. He needs to realize that that's the reason, and stop worrying about whether others think that he's 'the man'.

Is it reading too much into it that he feels somewhat threatened by Soriano? Is it a case of salary? That A-Sor (thanks to TP for that one!) is more popular nationally?

Regardless, it seems like he's not too thrilled with his new teammate, or at least the situation:
"It's something Jim is going to have to fix," Guillen said. "Because everybody knows it's going to become a controversy. And we don't want that to happen here. We have a great group of people here. It's going to be a distraction for this team when those guys start taking ground balls at second base. It's the best thing for the team and the best thing for those two guys to fix that before spring training starts."

He's worried, justifiably, about the distraction.

Shenin ends with an ominous note:
Guillen is not choosing sides -- just hoping everyone gets along. And he is not unhappy with the organization, really. But he could be a whole lot happier.


What happens if the team tanks? If Frank gets the axe? If Soriano and Vidro are a problem? If Soriano outhomers Guillen? If Frank needs to bench Guillen for a few games?

Lots of questions.... and I fear that we might not like the answers to some of them.

Hopefully they'll stay in the realm of the hypothetical.

Guillen has done well to rehab his image over the last year or so. But this is a scary portent.


  • My favorite part of the article is where Sheinin writes something like "If he's not going to use the injury as an excuse he certainly won't use the ballpark" right between where Guillen talks about the injury and the ballpark effecting his play. Zing.

    By Blogger Harper, at 2/17/2006 10:07 AM  

  • I'm pretty sure that they spell Viera with one "R" not two, unless that's another one of those oh-so-witty inside jokes that only insiders are in on. Those insiders.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/17/2006 12:50 PM  

  • Would it be rude of me to ask why the heck this team's accounting department is still, right now, located in Canada, and not maybe somewhere just a little closer to Washington?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/17/2006 1:40 PM  

  • They blew their funding on the extra "r."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/17/2006 1:59 PM  

  • It's not my fault that they don't know how to spell their own city. Maybe you should be reading their Chamber of Commerce's blog?

    Oh to be an insider....

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 2/17/2006 2:14 PM  

  • What are you looking at?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/17/2006 2:53 PM  

  • C'mon... whoever wrote that missed the joke. It's funny, but even funnier would've been:

    Panera Brread.

    I'm disappointed.

    I'll go back to being an insider now -- if only 'they' will return my phone calls! :P

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 2/17/2006 2:59 PM  

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