Monday, July 24, 2006
JOSE! JOSE!! JOSE!!! JOSE!!!!--He's Gone--AWAY!!
Although expected for a few months, I don't thing anyone figured that Jose Guillen's career with the Washington Nationals would end with season ending and possible career threatening Tommy John elbow replacement surgery. Recovery time from 8 to 18 months. Since Jose's contract expires at the end of 2006, you can bet he regrets, BIG TIME, he didn't sign the Nats 3 year offer earlier in the year.
And that's really too bad, as Jose, in 2005, was truly the Nationals TEAM LEADER. The new face for a franchise looking for a new identity in their new home, Washington, DC.
Guillen was kicked out of Anaheim by the Angels in 2004 after the last of a series of tirades against Angels management, Coaches, Players and finally a drop down, drag out screaming brawl, in public view, with Angels Manager Mike Scioscia. Anaheim was so fed up with him they suspended Jose for the remainder of 2004, despite the fact Guillen had hit 27 homers, driven in 104 runs and was batting .294. And, the Angels were playoff bound and serious World Series Contenders at the time.
Nats Interim General Manager, Jim Bowden, having had a good relationship with Jose when both were in Cincinnati, traded for Guillen in late 2004 for Expos reserve outfielder, Juan Rivera and young shortstop, Macier Izturis. Looked like a steal at the time, as Jose came to the Inaugural Nats PreSeason ready to play and struck up a close relationship with Manager Frank Robinson. Unlike, most any coach that Jose had played for over the previous 9 years and 6 different franchises, Frank was able to reach the inside of Jose--and to this day there is such a respect between the two that Guillen would definitely take a bullet for Frank.
The Inaugural 2005 early season Nats success had alot to do with Jose Guillen. At times he carried the weak hitting team on his back, and the Nats responded with just enough pitching to soar to a 51-30 first place record at the halfway point of the season. And, there is No ONE in this town that did not believe a SAVIOR had come to town. In his return to Anaheim on June 14, he was the instigator telling Frank that Angels pitcher Brendan Donnelly was using tar in his glove illegally. This lead to the famous Frank, Scioscia face to face shout out. Guillen coming to Frank's rescue, like a WILDMAN!! and being pulled/yanked and downright hogtied by Nats players/coaches from the field so he would not be ejected. This would lead to Jose's BEAUTIFUL SWING HOME RUN off Scott Shields in the 8th to give the Nats the lead in an eventual 6-3 win. Guillen yelled and screamed the entire time running around the bases, pointing decisively at the Angels bench. Rex Hudler on the Angels Fox Sport West Broadcast would say it was the FINEST HOME RUN SWING HE HAD EVER SEEN!! Guillen would later call Scioscia a "piece of garbage" This was probably the HIGH POINT OF THE SEASON. Memorable on so many levels.
Jose became the ORIGINAL POINT MAN for the cheering that began among the Section 320 faithful. By early May--2005 there was not a single time Jose Guillen came to the plate at RFK Stadium that we did not sing the JOSE, JOSE, JOSE, JOSE, JOSE, JOSE!! Song--NOT ONCE. Not even through 2006. The Jose Song would be sung by those fellow 320's that attended all 3 Nat/O's Games at Camden Yard this season. And, could be clearly heard on both the radio and tv broadcasts. And, the Jose Song would be sung by me, solo, last September 13 at Shea Stadium, NY, when the Nats beat the Mets, 4-2 when I had a seat right behind the Nats 3rd base dugout. Livan Hernandez and Carlos Baerga, looking over the dugout, got such a kick out of it that Livan said to me (in his fabulous broken english) "You one brave dude!!" At which Baerga responded "Or just plain stupid" We all laughed mightily. As RallyTimeRIchard said on more than one occasion--"JOSE IS THE TEAM LEADER!! He is the focal point for everything else" And, it was very true. Jose would tell SayHeyKlib's Hotel Driver from the Mandarin Oriental that he loved the JOSE SONG!! Made him feel welcomed, from the start. And, to keep it up!!
With Guillen's success eventually came more inside pitches at his wrists. And, since Jose crowded the plate, he would be hit often, especially by the Mets Pedro Martinez. How many times did you see Jose sprawling, lying down on the ground, hurting, then get up and continue playing in 2005. He seemed like it occurred every single game.
But Jose, would explode on his own teammates on July 5, 2005 in an RFK Stadium game against the Mets and Pedro. Pedro would
hit Jose in the very first inning again. And Jose got pissed, not only at Martinez, but Esteban Loiaza and Brian Schneider when the 2 did not throw at Pedro, when he came to bat in the 3rd inning that night. An, in your face spat began between the 3 teammates began, sour feelings soared, but Loiaza refused. Jose took it personally. Loiaza would actually go on to pitch his FINEST GAME FOR THE NATS that night, going 8 strong innings, matching Pedro pitch for pitch, allowing 1 run in a 3-2 victory over Martinez. Loiaza was quoted after the game saying "I was amazing tonight, best I ever felt, no way I am hitting Pedro."
Little did anyone ever realize that this was the beginning of the end of the Nats GLORIOUS first half run. The Nats would tank the rest of the way, and Jose went into a full fledged funk. Always injured the rest of the season, Guillen would never regain his early 2005 form. On July 24, in a excruciating 14 inning loss to the Astros at RFK, Jose would take a serious pitch right off his right wrist by Dan Wheeler and go down like he was shot. Guillen would continue to come back too soon and just not help the team. Despite all that, he lead the team with 24 Home Runs and 76 RBI.
He would have 2 off season surgeries and started the 2006 season on the DL. Again, Jose came back too soon, and continued to get hurt and play hurt. Had another near brawl with Pedro the first week of the season. But, Jose was not playing well. As the trading deadline neared, many expected Guillen to be traded to a contender, another chance to be a hero, although Jose has said that he wants to stay in Washington. Guillen was not helping the team, and when he threw out his right elbow on a throw from right field against Florida last week, his playing time came to an end in WASHINGTON.
Jose Guillen is a facinating, hot tempered, proud personality, passionate player, great skills, 4 tool player, but has never been able to put it all together consistently. Liked him alot, despite the many times he would hit into a double play to kill a rally. Every time I went to a team function, Jose had the Biggest SMILES and Strongest Handshakes. Number 6 WANTED TO BE THERE. He didn't go just because he was told. Wish him well. Jose will always be remembered in SECTION 320 and especially by me. LOVED SINGING THE JOSE SONG!! JUST LOVED IT!! And, so did everyone else that heard it at RFK.
HIP HIP JOSE!! HIP HIP JOSE!!!