Guillen has a place in Tigers history

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.

9 Comments

Well said. And I’m glad you mentioned Vina, White, and Johnson. I’ve always thought that the intitial siging, that of playoff veteran Vina, was the first ray of light after that woeful 2003 season, even though he was injured and didn’t actually play much for us.
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So after I said that Guillen was the best player on the 2006 team, it turns out that he had the highest WAR? Like I always say, those advanced metrics are spot on. :-)

No doubt Jason! I will miss Carlos being around. Dude was a gamer! Lots of memorable moments with Carlos and is worthy of a place in Tigers history!

in retrospect, it seems Sparky was right when he said that being strong up the middle is key to a team’s success. getting Guillen for SS and Pudge at C were so important for rebuilding a winner.
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crazy, but for the residual of his career, whenever I see Jered Weaver on the mound, I’ll remember Carlos. those Tiger-Angel games this season should be intriguing.

great article jason – you forgot to mention one of my favorite parts: Santiago released (subsequently comes back to the tigers) after only playing 27 games for the M’s….and we essential get Carlos for Gonzalez.

My comment disappeared earlier, but I ditto all the above comments. The “3:30am Carlos Guilen goes home” game & hittng for the cycle are two of my best memories of Carlos. Carlos also won Tiger of the Year for 2006, which he was extremely proud of and humbled to receive. Remember when Bud Selig fined Carlos and Maggs for wearing one pocket out? Carlos had great style and will always be remembered for helping restore the roar in Detroit.
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I was looking forward to seeing Carlos when Seattle made their trip to San Diego. Oh well. He was easily one of the greatest Tigers of this era.

He was selected to the All Star game by the players.
2006 MVP for the Tigers
Most undervalued player of MLB that year

Great article, great comments. Carlos was much better than many have remembered. Just wonder if Carlos would have avoided the injuries and had an even greater career if he had stayed at shortstop instead of being moved to make room for Renteria. Carlos was a very potent offensive weapon, especially for a shortstop.

CG was my favorite Tiger, before Verlander’s resurgence, and the Miggy signing. Clutch hitter, good player. I remember when he played ss one game. He was jawing with Sammy Sosa while he knew the pickoff play was on and they got him. He was a gamer! I also think of him pulling up lame rounding third base when he could have scored a run. Body disintegrated unfortunately but he’ll be fondly remembered.

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