First, Carlos Guillen let it be known that he wants to be an everyday player next year.
According to him, being taken out of games in late innings for defensive replacements or pinch-runners didn't allow him to prove he was fully healthy. And apparently, Guillen told Jim Leyland as much after the final game of the season versus the Twins.
Yet can Leyland be entirely blamed for not trusting Guillen's health? Guillen played in only 81 games this year, missing almost three months of the season due to a shoulder injury. And even when Guillen was activated in late July, that shoulder was still problematic enough to prevent him from playing left field or batting right-handed, which kept him out of the lineup whenever the Tigers faced a lefty pitcher.
It took 17 games before Guillen saw the field again, when he got a start at first base. In another six games, he finally started in left field, the position he was expected to play this season. It took 39 games before he was able to bat right-handed. So there was plenty of opportunity for Leyland to get used to playing someone else.
When told of Guillen's comments, Leyland said that he'd love to see him play everyday too. But staying healthy and producing was a part of that.
To stick up for himself, Guillen mentions that he's played several different positions over the past couple of years, moving from shortstop to first base, then to third base, and then to left field. In fairness to him, he's been moved around quite a bit and did so willingly. However, it's also worth pointing out that those position changes were made out of necessity, as Guillen showed diminished range at shortstop and third, and had problems with his footwork at first base.
Apparently frustrated that he'll be pushed into the same role in 2010 that he played in 2009 (sharing the left field and designated hitter spots), Guillen told Jason Beck over the weekend that he didn't want to play left field next season.
"I don't want to play left field," Guillen told MLB.com on Sunday, "because it's going to be the same stuff this year, the same excuses. He doesn't have confidence in me [in left field]."
The "excuses" Guillen refers to are presumably taking him out of the game for defensive or pinch-running purposes. But perhaps what Guillen seeks most is some respect from his manager for changing positions to help the team, moves which Guillen seems to think are behind many of his recent injuries.
"I never asked to change positions," Guillen said Sunday. "I decided to play a different position [when asked]. I want to win. But I don't want to play [left field] when [Leyland] uses it as an excuse. ...
"I did the best I can. I made the move for the team. When I was playing shortstop, I stayed healthy."
Guillen played in 153 and 151 games in 2006 and 2007, when he was the Tigers' full-time shortstop. Yet he also had league-leading error totals (first in '06, second in '07) at that position in those seasons. No, errors don't tell the complete story of a player's defensive abilities. But in Guillen's case, the majority of those errors were fielding, not throwing mistakes, which would seem to indicate he was having difficulties at shortstop. (UZR/150 doesn't look too kindly upon him, either.)
So is that the root of Guillen's dissatisfaction here? Does he want to move back to shortstop? Beck asked Guillen which position he'd like to play next season.
"Obviously, I can't play first base," Guillen said. "Obviously, [Leyland] doesn't want me at shortstop. He doesn't want me at third base."
What about left field?
"Ok, if they let me play, maybe," Guillen said. "But I don't want to play the way they played me [this year]."
And now, maybe it's becoming clearer why Leyland smokes so much. A supposed leader on his ballclub is now a high-maintenance complainer.
To make sure this issue didn't linger throughout the winter and into Spring Training, and to prevent continued discussions through the media, Leyland contacted Guillen in Venezuela, and apparently there's now an understanding between the two. Guillen will be the Tigers' full-time left fielder next season, according to Leyland.
"Carlos Guillen is our left fielder," Leyland told MLB.com. "He's our everyday left fielder, and hopefully he'll be productive. If he's looking for reassurance, we want him to play every day."
It's just like the old saying goes: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
But is that really the best thing for the Detroit Tigers in 2010? Leyland gave himself some wiggle room with that quote, basically saying it's Guillen's job to lose. Meanwhile, he's got Ryan Raburn and his .291/.359/.533 from this season waiting, if Guillen can't stay healthy. (Raburn should be in left field every time Detroit faces a left-handed pitcher, anyway. Maybe Guillen moves over to DH in those match-ups - that is, if it's okay with him.)
After reading all this, I can't help but think about the last player who complained about his role, one which became increasingly limited due to diminishing skills and creakiness in his body. Hmm, whatever happened to that guy... ?
Unfortunately, the Tigers face a much more expensive decision with Guillen than they did with Gary Sheffield. Detroit had to eat $14 million when they released Sheffield at the end of March. But Guillen is still owed $26 million over the remaining two years of his contract (the market value of which was determined by Guillen playing shortstop, by the way).
So is this the end of Guillen's belly-aching or will there be more of this squawking to come if and when his health prevents him from seeing the field regularly?