Jason Beck caught up with Carlos Guillen late last week and a maelstrom was the result. Guillen wasn’t happy with the way Jim Leyland handled things at the end of the year. Leyland explained his side. The two talked. Leyland says everything is fine. Guillen isn’t saying much else. Guillen was wrong to go public with this. He’s wrong about his own abilities. But he’s far from a selfish teammate.
Guillen was displeased with a couple aspects down the stretch. He was upset that as a left fielder he didn’t get regular playing time and he was upset about the shuffling of the lineups.
From the original article Guillen was quoted as saying:
“Before he points the finger at the offense, he’d better look in the mirror and see what he did,” Guillen said Sunday. “I don’t want to make an excuse, but nobody in the big leagues feels comfortable when you play [lineups] that way. It’s not fun to play like that.”
He also said a lot more about his role as a left fielder
“I don’t want to play left field,” Guillen told MLB.com on Sunday, “because it’s going to be the same stuff this year, the same excuses. He doesn’t have confidence in me [in left field].”
“I never asked to change positions,” Guillen said Sunday. “I decided to play a different position [when asked]. I want to win. But I don’t want to play [left field] when [Leyland] uses it as an excuse. … “I did the best I can. I made the move for the team. When I was playing shortstop, I stayed healthy.”
Guillen has said things which could be construed as selfish in the past and has usually recanted them to some extent. Guillen also takes a lot of pride in his ability. When after the 2007 season and he was asked to move to shortstop because of a barrage of throwing errors he said he’d only do it for a “Gold Glove” caliber player.
Where Guillen is wrong is that he didn’t stay healthy at shortstop (knees, hamstrings) and he had so many struggles that he couldn’t stay at the position. He couldn’t stay healthy at third (back, hemorrhoids), and he hasn’t been able to stay healthy in left field either. I don’t think it is for lack of effort or conditioning. He’s just one of those players. So as much as he wants to play everyday, he has to be able to play everyday. Early in the season he told Jim Hawkins he could barely walk because of his achilles tendon. This was even before the shoulder injury.
“Sometimes I feel good, sometimes I can hardly walk,” said Guillen, who has been hobbled since Opening Day by an injured Achilles tendon in his lower right leg, where, he said, he has now developed tendinitis. “It just hurts.” As a result, Guillen has spent more time serving as the Tigers’ designated hitter than he has playing the outfield. And adjusting to the role of DH has not been easy. “I’m used to being in the field every day,” Guillen said. “You feel more in the game when you’re in the field. I don’t feel comfortable as the DH. Maybe one or two days would be okay. But everyday? It’s not me sometimes.”
In that same April article the manager who Leyland is criticizing mentions looking out for Guillen
“Every team gets nagging injuries,” Leyland said. “But I believe Guillen played hurt all last year. I think his back really bothered him. And it showed. I don’t want him to have to go through that again. That’s not fair to him.”
Guillen didn’t need to air these things in public. That’s not to say he didn’t have reason to be frustrated. He couldn’t crack the lineup when the Tigers faced a string of left handers (prior to his return to switch hitting) and he could barely even get pinch hitting duty because Leyland was worried about them bringing in a lefty – but Aubrey Huff would still get to play. He was lifted for a pinch runner in Game 163. He saw his friend and the hottest hitter on the team forced into a platoon role and become a 3 plate appearance per game hitter.
There were certainly grievances to be had, and things were exacerbated by missing the playoffs and what had to be a second consecutive season of frustration for Guillen. Jason Beck told WDFN that things had been simmering since early September but Guillen stayed quiet so as not to be a distraction (h/t Bless You Boys).
Leyland responded to the criticism by naming Guillen the everyday left fielder. That really isn’t that much of a surprise and it doesn’t mean a whole lot in October. But this is a delicate situation for Leyland because Guillen is a leader in the clubhouse and generally seems to be a good teammate.
When Sheffield started talking about Latin American players being easier to control than African American’s, Guillen came to Sheffield’s defense. When Bonderman underwent emergency vascular surgery it was Guillen who hung Bonderman’s jersey up in the dugout. When Miguel Cabrera was being hounded by the press it was Guillen trying to get him some privacy. When there were problems on the Venezuelan WBC team Guillen was among a group that called for change. He sticks up for his teammates.
In the end I don’t think this will amount to much of anything. Guillen will likely start the majority of games in left field when he’s healthy. He’ll probably start a game or two per week at DH. He probably will get lifted as a defensive replacement, but it probably won’t come until the 8th or 9th inning, though he could mitigate some of that by improving his defense.
Based on last year he’d be a win below average in left field. Whether he can improve remains to be seen but a)he lost valuable practice time due to the WBC and b)he was never really healthy enough to play more than a month at a time in 2009. There were a few pretty poor plays and he played too deep, but visually I didn’t think he was as brutal as everyone made him out to be.
He shouldn’t have taken things public, but it became a bigger story because there just isn’t a whole lot to talk about right now.