Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hey, Jose: Don't go there, man


The Nat Fanatic, over the past couple of days, has blogged on the theme of "Jose Guillen and respect." For instance:


All this translates to respect. You don't worry about teams that you don't respect. You can be sure the Los Angeles Boo-birds of Anaheim would be a lot quieter if Jose was having a bad year. We're certain Mike Scioscia wouldn't have said a word to Frank if he wasn't so absolutely pissed off that his pitcher would do something so stupid. And why did he do it?
Say it with us now...respect.

I like the theme, if not the details.

[Aside: I don't know if the Anaheim (or whatever they are) fans would have been quieter if Jose were having a bad year, though. It might have given them motivation to pile on mercilessly. I seem to recall Minnesota fans doing the same when Chuck Knoblauch was having a terrible year for the Yankees a few seasons back. At any rate . . . ]

But, concerning the bigger matter, we spent way too much time reading superficial funk over the offseason telling us that the Nats would (still) be assigned to peonage, that DC had already lost two teams in the previous half-century, that this team had been stripped of talent, that the GM was a loaner (and a loner), and that we were fans of a fifth entry in a four-team division. It's easy to puff one's chest after-the-fact (or, in reality, during-the-fact, as the baseball season is certainly long), but I'm not talking about that; I'm talking about the junk that was silly at the time it was written, like Baseball Prospectus 05's doomsday scenario of:

---> bad team;
---> apathetic fan base;
---> stadium deal crumbles;
---> vagabond Expos find a new home.

Run differential aside, the Nats are really good right now, but they've always been relevant. If people are just finding this out now, then good; conjuring up respect on the fly is a hard pill sometimes.

_____________

However, that pill can dissolve (work with me figuratively here, people), and in a sense my respect for Jose Guillen is starting to dissolve, as well.

After last night's game (note: after) Guillen opened his trap again and sort of "seconded" Frank Robinson's comments concerning Angels' manager/blowhard Mike Scioscia, except with a bit more characterization:


"Scioscia showed no class, no respect. He was talking to me about respect and class. I really don't care about Mike Scioscia. I have no respect for him any more because I'm still hurt about what happened last year. I don't want to make these comments, but Mike Scioscia is a piece of garbage. I don't care if I get in trouble."

On the contrary; Guillen very much wants to make these comments, and that's why he made them. Does anyone doubt that Guillen circled the dates "June 13-15" in his calendar over the offseason, plopped a conspicuous asterisk, and wrote in the margin in big letters "START SOME TROUBLE"? It's just convenient for him that Scioscia (and Frank Robinson, I suppose) gave him a pretext.

Jose Guillen is a Nat; he's our guy, and I'll root for him. He's vindicating the Rivera/Izturis trade, which needed no real vindication popularly but was viewed with---at the least---skepticism among many bloggers and the more "statheaded" of us.

[Note: Not all bloggers view him skeptically, though; hell, Rocket calls the guy "Pops," a la Willie Stargell.]

Guillen's had some really big hits---none bigger than the homer in the pine tar game---and he's riled up Charlie & Dave something fierce on several occasions with his defense. I'm glad he's on the team, because he can play a bit. But make no mistake:

Jose Guillen is a little, little man.

If you disagree, you might---righty, perhaps---peg me as a bad fan. If so, I'll plead guilty. I love a good argument, and this week's stuff has certainly been entertaining. When else would Frank Robinson be compared to Dennis Rodman---and lovingly, at that?

Just the same, though, Guillen's got leave from me to shut up. Sure, he's still bitter about the incident last September when he was an Angel. Why? I don't know. Maybe Scioscia mistreated him or didn't show him adequate "respect." Maybe Scioscia boiled Guillen's pet bunny. Or maybe Guillen's the Nats' version of C.S. Lewis' eschatological multiple choice question---Guillen is either:

a) a lunatic;
b) a liar; or,
c) the Nats' savior.

This time, I'll bet some money on a) or b).

Tell you what; we'll get back to that. For now, let's just imagine for a second we were fans of, say, the Tigers. Or the Cardinals. Or any other team with no stake in Tuesday night's mess. What would you think of a player who, upon being informed he was being pinch-run for:

1) reacted indignantly;

2) initially refused;

3) threw his helmet into the dugout, in the general direction of the manager (or, if not, then "where the batboy usually sits"); and subsequently,

4) essentially said he didn't want to be part of the team anymore?

If you tone down Step 3 to "turned his back on the manager," you've basically got Tomo Ohka in a nutshell. I wonder if Angels' broadcaster Rex Hudler---like our own guy, Ron Darling---exclaimed, upon hearing Guillen was traded, "You're outta here!" If Darling had cause, then so would have Hudler.

Now, there's any number of ways to reason out of this (other than simply "Guillen's our guy now," though that may do), but they generally boil down to the anger management sessions reforming him and Guillen being an intensely loyal guy who has now found a setting where his loyalty is appreciated. Both rationales might mitigate or even foreclose the thought that Guillen would become a distraction to the Nats.

Well, I'll buy that conditionally, as Guillen hasn't done so to this point---and the team is winning, and you don't get all ulcer-y when the team is winning.

But, in my eyes, that doesn't absolve Guillen of being a jerk. No matter Guillen's intense loyalty, Frank Robinson of all people does not need a lord protector out there or in the media. When we talk about Robinson's stature in the game, we don't refer to him with any of those managerial nicknames we love, like "F-Robbie" (which I just shorten to Frobby for convenience) or "Cranky Old Man." He's merely "Frank," and the name is authority enough. Arguing from authority may be a logical fallacy, but it's also a reality. Anyway, as the old Saturday Night Live joke about another Frank went, Robinson's spit out bigger men than Mike Scioscia in his stools.

Consequently, I'm convinced that Jose Guillen is not fighting Tuesday night's battle. Instead, he's fighting another battle, a battle relevant to a time when Guillen wasn't a member of the team for which we root. What is more, he's fighting a personal battle, and frankly, I don't care about it.

So maybe Scioscia really is a piece of garbage; perhaps his own "gamesmanship" on Tuesday is ample evidence of it. Nevertheless, I'm not sure Jose Guillen is really a great authority on discerning good guys from pieces of garbage.



Comments:
Believe it or not, I agree with most of what you said. Admiring his performance on the field and admiring his intense loyalty doesn't preclude me from saying that he's wrong to mouth off about Scioscia to that extreme.
 
Jose Guillen is a seriously flawed person. His immaturity and subsequent anger will always be his yoke.

Whatever your opinion of Frank Robinson as a manager or person, I give him credit for reigning in Guillen in the manner in which he has, minimizing the weaknesses and maximizing his strengths
 
It's not that unbelievable, Rocket. I was just pointing out that you have been supportive of him this season, when some of us haven't been as much so. All of this was before his comments, of course.

Brian, good points. And, IIRC, you theorized that Frank bargained with Guillen to keep it shut until the series was over. That seems pretty plausible.
 
Sure, Joe Guillen is an immature jerk. But Frank's brilliance is that he's successfully played the father figure, wisely letting the youthful lad blow off steam (during their closed door office chats) in order to be able to assert paternal authority when it matters.

I bet Frank takes Guillen aside today (if he hasn't already) and says look, we won the series. I defended your insane outburst on the field. Now, I don't want to hear another word out of your mouth about this subject, young man.

And truth be told, like father figure, like son. Not that Guillen is half the player Frank was, but he too had a reputation as a flammable jerk who was traded from Cincy to a HOF career in Baltimore.
 
I bet Frank takes Guillen aside today (if he hasn't already) and says [. . . ]I don't want to hear another word out of your mouth about this subject, young man.

I hope so, Eric. I just don't want to see what happens when (continuing the father/son analogy) Guillen rebels from Frank, as sons invariably do. It won't be pretty.
 
I'm betting on Frank with the strap over the psychotic young man acting out his personal demons.
 
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