March 6th, 2012
Carlos Guillen wasn’t the first move in the Tigers’ comeback from 119 losses to the World Series in three years (remember Rondell White, Fernando Vina and Jason Johnson?), but he was the first one that really paid off. He was the consolation prize for the Tigers losing out on Rich Aurilia, the shortstop who was supposedly their earlier target. But when the M’s got Aurilia, they basically unloaded Guillen on Detroit for Ramon Santiago and a middling shortstop prospect named Juan Gonzalez.
Aurilia was dealt out of Seattle by the trading deadline, sent back to the National League. Guillen’s career took off in Detroit, where he spent eight seasons. Without him, they don’t make the comeback. Heck, without Guillen, they might not have been able to woo Pudge Rodriguez a couple weeks later, or Magglio Ordonez the next winter.
As difficult as it was for Tigers fans to find patience through Guillen’s injuries over the last four years — the knee surgery, calves and back problems, shoulder issue, and other bumps and bruises that aged him in a hurry through his early 30s — his prime years became overshadowed. He had a .920+ OPS in 2004 and 2006, and just missed another .300 with 21 homers and 102 RBIs in 2007. He had the highest Wins Above Replacement of any player on the 2006 team, topped only by Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Grady Sizemore among AL players. He also hit for the cycle that year, the last Tiger to do so.
He still had his moments in his later years. He homered 11 times and drove in 35 runs in 57 games down the stretch in 2009, an .874 OPS for a player whose shoulder basically reduced him to a left-handed hitter for the rest of that playoff race. His willingness to stand in on a double play with Brett Gardner barreling in on his shoulder basically won them a game at Yankee Stadium in 2010, while also leading to microfracture surgery for his knee. And of course, there was the home run off Jered Weaver last July.
In one of his last games before he got hurt again last September, he went 3-for-5 against the White Sox in Chicago, plating the first run on his final Major League homer and driving in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning for another victory in their 12-game winning streak.
He was sidelined far too long the last few seasons, but he had his moments. Added with his prime years, and his body of work is worthy of being remembered as one of the biggest parts in the Tigers resurgence.
I’m actually off today, but here’s the lineup for the Tigers’ game against the Marlins this afternoon down in Jupiter.
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Andy Dirks, LF
- Don Kelly, RF
- Prince Fielder, 1B
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Brandon Inge, 2B
- Gerald Laird, C
- Danny Worth, 3B
- Eric Patterson, DH
P: Rick Porcello, Casey Crosby, Drew Smyly, Daniel Schlereth, Jose Ortega and Brayan Villarreal