Monday, October 09, 2006

What Do We Do With The GUZ??

In the Inaugural 2005 Washington Nationals Season, he was easily their most vilified player. Couldn't hit a lick, terrible in the clutch, and certainty couldn't bunt. Overweight, this shortstop's range was not as good as his previous years playing on the slick artificial turf of the Minneapolis Metrodome.

Number 15--Cristian Guzman, I couldn't stand the guy. Until the total second half collapse after the terrific 50-31 start, there could not been anyone following the Washington Nationals that did not believe the Nats may well have won 55 of those first 81 games, if Guzman had just carried his own weight. No one in the Majors, with his 450 at bats had a worse year.

The Guz did Finish fast though, raising his average above .200 in the final weeks of the season--I remember vividly, MickNats, NatsDelNegro and I pounding the seats in front of us, cheering wildly on September 4, 2005, in yet another loss to the Florida Marlins. Cristian getting 3 hits, keeping a rally going in the 9th during the 8-4 loss, but getting his average to
.203 at the end of the night. We made so much noise about it (screaming TWO OH OH!! over and over), the video guys put us up on the scoreboard for most of the inning.

Still, Guzman was terrible, and with General Manager, Jim Bowden, giving him a 4 year, $16 million contract, we were stuck with him. The Guz was so bad, that for 2006, the Nats brought in veteran retread, Royce Clayton, in an effort to spark some life into Cristian. Guz came to camp 10 pounds lighter, with off season laser eye surgery. Guzman claiming that he had vision problems in 2005 that effected his hitting. "THE NEW GUZ" as he called himself. Too his credit, Cristian did come to camp with a good attitude, wanting to help and deliver in 2006, something he never provided for the Nationals in 2005.

But, like so many other players involved with the Nationals under MLB ownership, a "so called" minor arm ailment, thought to keep him out for only a few days, led to a week, then two, and finally the doctors opinion that Guzman had a torn labrum and needed surgery--out for the season.

Guzman out for the season, which, except for The African Queen and NatsDelNegro, brought smiles to just about every Nationals fan. Sohna and NatsDelNegro supported that man through thick and thin. GUZ WAS MY PERSONAL 2005 Whipping BOY!! There could not been many that rode him as badly as I did. Royce Clayton started 2006 at short--and was mediocre at best. Later, Clayton was traded to Cincinnati in the big trade that brought Felipe Lopez, Austin Kearns and Ryan Wagner to Washington.

FLop proved to be a talented but incredibly erratic fielder. Lopez making some of the most mindboggling errors both fielding and making throws than I have ever seen from a Major League Player. At the same time, Jose Vidro was proving that his range at second base is now, nonexistent. Bernie Castro, terrific range and speed, replaced Vidro down the stretch, but Castro has no arm and no power at the plate. When Nick Johnson was so horribly injured, breaking his leg in New York in September, Vidro moved over to 1st base for the remainder of the season.

Now, as the off season begins, the Nationals have 3 major decisions to make concerning their roster.

1--Need Starting Pitching Badly
2--The Resigning or Letting Alfonso Soriano Walk
3--What do the Nationals do with The Guz??

Guzman is the most perplexing, as whether or not Cristian is with the Nats in 2007, he changes the makeup of the team, on the field drastically. Vidro can not play second anymore, that was proven undeniably in 2006. FLop has terrible range for a shortstop. But, is better suited for 2nd base. One thing that Guzman did have in 2005 was good range, and a nice ability to make the difficult play in the field, especially hard one hop smashes.

Guzman is untradeable--unless the Nats pick up most all of his remaining $8million salary. I just can't see The Lerner's doing this. At the same time, I can't see Jimbo trading one of his boys--Felipe Lopez. So, it comes down to whether the Nats can trade Vidro for something of value. As surprising as it is for me to say--Cristian Guzman will most likely be the Nationals Starting Shortstop in 2007. FLop the Starting Second Baseman.

Jose Vidro may come in handy, if Nick Johnson is not available at the beginning of the 2007 season, which I see as a good possibility. So Jose could play first, for a while. If Johnson comes back, and Vidro or Guzman get hot during the early part of the season, maybe one or both would be better suited for a trade--then.

Team President, Stan Kasten and GM, Bowden, have alot of player decisions to make over this winter. The Guzman Saga will play out until late next spring--and, whatever final decision these two come to, it might be their most important decision of the upcoming year.


Nat del Negro said...

Guzman is my boy!!!

Nice post, thanks for pointing out that out of everyone in RFK, only Sohna and I were actually yelling "GOOOOOZ!"

It was cool to see him try at the end of '05, and get better. IF he goes back to his early '05 ways, then I think there should be a new category for MLB:

As it stands in the NL, I'd think it's Guz, second only to Bonds; and then A-Rod for the AL...


SenatorNat said...

If one were to take BowBow at his word, Vidro is part of Nats plan next year - now probably as a reserve for second and first and DH in AL-NL games, unless they get something real for him.

Guzman can definitely field, if healthy, and Lopez is overall better at second (more power, speed, even range) than Vidro - so this all makes sense, until the 16 year old drafted and signed becomes 19...

Soriano is gone - those are definitely the vibes: one factor, though, changing the huge free agent signing picture is the concept of A-Rod going to the Angels - this means Soriano not going there, which would have been the most logical team. Red Sox and several others, even the Mets, definitely will look at him, of course. Girardi may like him for the Cubs, too.

Should A-Rod go, Yanks are in play, one would presume. Still - it may reduce the bidding war, since the Angels had the most reason to make him an offer virtually unmatchable...

Does the choice of new Nats manager matter in the dynamic? One would have to concur with Anonymous that the team will settle on another teams's coach, all other things being relatively equal, in order to pay a little more than Frank was making, but not much more, and stay well under $1 million.

Joey Cora, Tony Pena, and Terry Pendleton are my guess as final three. Pendleton seemingly doesn't wish to be away from Atlanta for an entire season, as he has three young children; Pena knows BowBow from Pittsburgh days, but Kasten may veto based on his abrupt quitting in KC in 2005. Leaves Cora, who has managed at the minor league level, is 41 (translated: economical!), and would hopefully combine attributes of his current boss, Guillen, and the 2006 prototype, Willie Randolph.

Nats are going young and younger: thus, Soriano gone, Zimmerman and perhaps new youthful, aggressive manager the face of the team - keeps payroll where it is, and enables Kasten to explain that this is how it gets done, pointing to Tigers this year...2007 will be the Year of Fan Experience (translated: "Mrs. Zimmerman's favorite recipes cookbook" giveaway night and the like...)

farid said...

I believe that not only will Guzman start for the Nationals next year, he'll thrive as well. He began the 2005 season batting 2nd for the Nationals, no place for the relatively light hitting Gooz. His numbers looked good in Minnesota, but at least 10-15 points of his batting average came from the fast astro-turf that the Twins played on. He was asked to do too much in 2005.

Lopez is a below average short stop but would be an above average 2nd baseman. A great many of his errors were throwing. Put him nearer first and he's going to cut down on those errors.

Guzman made half as many errors in '05 year as Lopez made in 2006.The two would make a strong double-play combo for the Nats.

Offensively, Guzman would likely bat 8th in the lineup and hit well enough for that position. He'll certainly hit .250 or so, enough for a player no longer counted on to carry a large part of the team's offensive burden.