Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
July 11, 2008 2:57 PM
Posted by Geoff Baker
So, just got done talking to Jose Guillen in the Kansas City clubhouse. Quite the interesting conversation, as you might imagine. Lots of subjects. He was happy to see the media from Seattle. Been having a rough time in Kansas City. But when I arrived today, he was surrounded by the local media. Looked like a one-man press conference in front of his locker. He assured me it was the first time in two weeks he's even spoken. Caused a fuss earlier this year for calling out some of the team's younger players for not working hard enough. Used some colorful language that didn't go over all that well with some of the good midwestern folks in this neck of the nation. There was more focus on his language at the time than his message.
Then last week, Guillen got into a verbal confrontation with Royals pitching coach Bob McClure. Guillen had been giving an interview saying that coaches didn't need to be getting in the players' faces, that they knew they had to play hard and were trying. Anyway, there seems to be a common theme here. A theme missing in Seattle this season. When controversy erupts with the Mariners, it's usually because no one is calling anyone out for not playing hard.
Former GM Bill Bavasi said as much and then, the day he was fired, said that letting Guillen leave as a free agent might have been his biggest regret.
So, how surprised is Guillen to see what's happened with the Mariners? Very. Says he didn't see it coming.
"I just cannot believe it,'' he said. "It was such a great team. A veteran club, got some great pitching this year. Has some good offense. I was totally surprised to see that team have pretty much the worst record in baseball. I did not see that coming, trust me.
"I just feel bad for Mac and Bavasi. Such great baseball guys, to see tham go like that...it's not their fault. It;s the players' fault. We all have to realize and understand that. Thet are not the ones playing. I know they're the ones putting the team together, but if you don't come to play hard and play to win every day, what do you think is going to happen?''
Guillen said that, when he was there last year, he made sure the team played hard every day. He got on players like Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt in the second half, pushing them to show more focus. Got on others as well.
Did the same things with the Royals.
"If you let some of these young players go and do whatever they're going to do and you don't say anything, they're going to keep doing it every day,'' he said of the Royals. "Fortunately, I don't like that. I'm not that type of player. I make a lot of money but I play hard every day, I play hurt.''
Guillen said the players he called out on the Royals "got the message.''
"This clubhouse has changed, has been turned around 100 percent,'' he said. "Now you see the way these guys play. Now, you see the way these guys go about their business.''
Royals manager Trey Hillman said as much this week, praising his players for not giving up the fight despite their 41-52 record.
"We don't have the greatest team,'' Guillen said. "But trust me, we're going to go out and play hard.''
So, here's the kicker question.
Last year, in the Mariners clubhouse, who helped Guillen when it came to "policing" and telling guys they had to play hard? Who got in players' faces?
"I believe it was only myself,'' he said. "Because you had a lot of nice people who pretty much just like to be nice. In this game, sometimes, when you make a lot of money, this is not about being nice. It's about doing your thing. Earning your money and doing your job.''
Could Adrian Beltre do what Guillen did? Could he police the clubhouse?
"He can, but I think he's way too nice too,'' he said, laughing. "But when he gets mad, you don't want to be around him.''