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May 21, 2007 at 9:17 AM

Guillen’s way

A few of you have written in, or commented, about Jose Guillen taking steps to become the clubhouse “leader” this Mariners team appears to lack at times. Much oif it stems from these quotes, taken from an MLB.com item yesterday:
“I just don’t see that kind of fire in here,” Guillen said. “I’m a pretty fiery guy, and I’m just getting to know this group and these guys, but this is a great team and I hope we start getting fired up because the team that we have, sometimes we lose some games that I don’t think we should be losing.”
The article goes on to state that Guillen hopes to see more fire, and if it doesn’t surface soon, he may take matters into his own hands.
“It’s a good fire, and I just wish I could see that a little bit more in here,” Guillen said. “I really want to help the team win. That’s one of the reasons I chose to come here, because I really like this team and I’m really enjoying myself so far.”
Interesting comments. I agree with Guillen that this is a very different clubhouse from others I’ve been in. Had a conversation a couple of weeks back with a team insider, which is how I’ll identify him for now because he certainly doesn’t want anyone to know who he is. You’ll see why in a minute. All I’ll say is that this person (no, it’s not Guillen) has firsthand knowledge of what goes on behind the clubhouse doors. Not a clubhouse attendant, but could be a player, coach or executive. That’s all I’ll say.
He told me that what the Mariners lack, to put it bluntly, is more jerks. He didn’t use the word “jerks” — more like a word that rhymes with manholes. Anyway, this insider also didn’t mean jerks like the kind who go around getting into bar fights, driving drunk and such. Just guys with a little more edge to them. Put simply, the Mariners “are too nice” is what he concluded.
Since that exchange, I’ve paid extra close attention to the demeanor of these Mariners, save for Julio Mateo getting arrested and all. And I have to say, the guy was bang-on. These Mariners really are a nice bunch of guys. Yes, they do run away and hide after losses, dodging the media more than other teams I’ve covered. But Adrian Beltre, among the worst offenders in this category, is still a very nice, polite guy to talk to when you can pin him down. Very articulate, extremely unselfish and self-effacing.
Richie Sexson has gone out of his way to be more media-available this year, as any player earning the team’s top salary should be, strictly from a fan relations point of view. But even before he made that effort, I still found Sexson to be extremely polite, articulate and all the things I just mentioned about Beltre.
I can’t really think of any “jerks” in that clubhouse. And that certainly wasn’t the case elsewhere I’ve worked. The point my “insider” was trying to make, though, is that nice guys lack the unselfishness needed to sometimes pull them through the rough spots. When Sexson and Beltre beat themselves up in public, it isn’t because they’re trying to score brownie points and take less of a beating. They really are overly harsh on themselves and sometimes, it has a negative long-term impact.
Guillen has been an interesting guy to talk with this season. I expected a monster based on reputation, but he is also a very pleasant guy to have a conversation with. But the one difference with Guillen, as opposed to the other players mentioned, is that he doesn’t seem to care as much about what others think of him. This is obvious any time he gets into a conversation about the Angels. He could take the diplomatic route and mend some fences. But he doesn’t. He simply lets the whole world know how much he hates them each and every time out. Does this make him a team leader?
No siree. Too many teams played for in his career. There is a reason he keeps moving on, not always his fault but sometimes yes. He’s only been here a few months and I doubt he and Jarrod Washburn even speak to each other based on their past history — though both have made an excellent effort at keeping personal differences quiet.
Still, I think Guillen and the “edge” he brings is something this team lacks. He isn’t altogether selfish. Nor is he a choir boy. But I really don’t think he cares what you, or I, the Angels, or anyone else thinks about him. He is what he is. That kind of attitude allows players to toughen up and ride out the bad times. Or to toughen up and beat the tar out of a hated opponent. So, in that respect, no Guillen is not a team leader by true definition. But can his “fire” or “edge” or whatever you call it make these M’s better over the long-term? Yes, it can.
And right now, this team needs whatever edge it can get. Mike Hargrove uttering profanities walking into a press conference isn’t quite going to get the job done. Unless he’s thinking about stepping into the batter’s box again. I’d rather see Sexson.

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