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Musings on Character and Clubhouse Presence

August 14, 2010

I found Andrew Baggarly’s post yesterday interesting for multiple reasons.  The first being that Bruce Bochy fully intends on starting newly acquired outfielder Jose Guillen nearly every day for the rest of the season.  This is something that I’m not particularly pleased about, due to his glove- I just don’t have much faith in a guy that’s been DH’ing for the Royals, who deemed Yuniesky Betancourt a good defensive shortstop, and who hasn’t seen much time in the field the past three seasons.  His bat better be electric and the Giants’ pitching staff better do what they can to prevent balls being hit to right field.  In any case, I found the following quotes to be of particular interest:

Bochy said he spoke to several of Guillen’s former managers and coaches. He also got good reviews from Barry Zito, who played with Guillen in Oakland in 2003, and Aubrey Huff, who came up through the Devil Rays’ system with him.

This is especially interesting, considering John Heyman’s report from a Major League executive stated that “no contender should take Jose Guillen,” due to the fact that he might have the second worst personality to Milton Bradley in Major League Baseball.  Here’s the second quote:

“Everybody I talked to enjoyed playing with him,” Bochy said. “He’s a good team player. He plays the game the way you want. … I heard enough, talking to him, that he will be a nice fit here.”

Baggarly himself notes that the Giants are Guillen’s 10th team, and that he doesn’t exactly have the reputation of being a “good team player” or being the most level-headed person.  Back in 2004, Guillen was suspended the last two weeks of the regular season and the entire postseason for publicly blasting manager Mike Scioscia.  He had an incident in 2006, in which he charged Pedro Martinez after being hit twice (having not seen the video of the event, I honestly don’t know if Guillen was overreacting or not).  He was also involved in a confrontation with a fan back in 2008, swearing at him and making obscene gestures.  The general consensus on Guillen seems to be that he’s not a good clubhouse presence, although the reports Bochy gave are to the contrary.

It seems to me, though, that Zito, Huff and Bochy aren’t really in a comfortable position to say negative things.  If they openly say “Geez, I hated playing with that guy,” they’re immediately opening a can of worms upon Guillen’s arrival.  Even a simple “decline to comment” would give off the impression that could lead to potential problems.  On the other hand, what if they are being completely honest?  What if Zito and Huff legitimately enjoyed playing with him, and what if the people Bochy talked to really did like him?

See, this is my problem with reports about a player’s “clubhouse presence.”  You’re always going to get conflicting reports, and you can never be sure what’s true and what isn’t.  It also raises the question: how big of a deal is it to have a clubhouse cancer?  Psychologically speaking, it makes sense that it could be disruptive.  But how much does it affect a player’s actual performance?

That’s what I’d like to know.

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