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May 21, 2007 at 4:11 PM

More on Guillen, toughness

Game about to get underway at Jacobs Field and Richie Sexson, as I figured, is back in the lineup. At the clean-up spot. Not sure that’s the best way to get him out of this slump. A guy struggling to hit all year in the middle of the order will have enough issues to work through in facing C.C. Sabathia. Doesn’t need the extra pressure of having to carry the lineup. Not when he’s scuffling like this. But, I’m not the one getting paid to make these decisions. My opinion is just that. An opinion. But I agree the team definitely needed Sexson back in there tonight. Sitting him a third straight game would have equated to a forfeit the way the Indians hit. The M’s need all the home run guys in there they can get. Even the ones struggling right now. Though, the one thing I can see in the reasoning behind leaving Sexson at No. 4 is that Raul Ibanez is still out. If he was in there, I’d really be surprised to see Sexson hitting fourth. Without Ibanez, the number of clean-up candidates, as we mentioned on Saturday, dwindles considerably.
Back to Jose Guillen, I was thrilled to see so many of you lining up on both sides of this debate. A couple of you emailed privately to berate me on the whole “team chemistry” thing. Not sure why. Never mentioned the word “team chemistry” anywhere. This isn’t about forcing a bunch of guys to get along. It’s almost the opposite. We’re talking about throwing a little combustion into the soft-purring engine. The point my “insider” made about “manholes” (as we’ve come to refer to them on this site based on the comments I’ve read — pretty funny) is not that he wants to see guys who will repulse the fanbase. He wants guys with an inner toughness. Guys who aren’t all people-pleasers and who beat the stuffing out of themselves every time they mess up.
He’d rather have guys who take it out on the other team when they mess up. Is this what Carl Everett brought to the Mariners? Heck, no. Last I checked, Jose Guillen had an on-base-plus slugging percentage of .811. He ain’t no Everett. Sorry to some of you. Guillen and Everett are not even in the same league in the topic we are talking about.
Everett was a tough-talking guy who used to put up huge numbers, then played like a washout in Seattle. Guillen is not doing that.
Can you measure stuff like inner toughness, explosiveness and edge? It’s a very hard thing to do. Pretty much impossible. But to pretend it will not impact the outcome of a sporting event is ludicrous. Mental toughness is the key to any sport. The team with the best pitchers doesn’t always win the World Series. And please, no pot shots about “grit” and the like. We’re talking about mental toughness. The ability to shut out whatever the world is saying about you and perform on a consistent level day-in, day-out. The point my “insider” was making is that the players who don’t care what others think about them and don’t try to place the responsibility of the world on their shoulders tend to have an easier time of it (see the “new and improved” A-Rod as an example).
Those who burden themselves with fan expectations, try to please everybody and beat themselves up over every slump have a much harder time. Please, let’s not try to to confuse the issue by making this a debate about “leadership”. I already crossed Guillen’s name off as a potential leader of this entire team, given his short time here, past history and such. But his inner toughness, edge, or whatever you want to call it does bring something to the Mariners. And I happen to think it’s a good thing. Too much of the same kind of player doesn’t always work out in baseball. Clearly, a Mariners team that finished last in the AL West three years in a row could benefit from a change or two. You didn’t have to be here the last 10 years to figure it out. It’s not like anybody outside the Seattle area, or around baseball, was getting fooled by this club. We all picked them to finish last and we all knew why. When you’re at the bottom, change can only better you. It’s not something to fear.

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