So it's a fact that the banged-up Nationals need a breather, after playing .500 ball over their last 10 games leading up to the all-star break and losing 2 in a row. And it's a fact that at 52-36, tied for the 3rd best record in the majors, the Nationals are the best story of the 2005 season (so far), improbably leading the NL East by 2.5 games over the Braves. And it's a fact that on Thursday, the Nats will head to Milwaukee for a four game series with the Brewers to begin the 2nd half of the season.
But the facts get a little harder to discern from there when you consider Jose Guillen's comments in the aftermath of the Nats 5-4 loss to the Phillies on Sunday. Guillen's comments are open to interpretation; one interpretation has him completely throwing Nick Johnson, Ryan Church, and Cristian Guzman under the bus: "You know we need Nick. We need some of those guys to learn how to play in pain. They need to step it up and have to understand, right now, in the second half, there's no baby-sitting anyone." On the heels of Guillen’s comments, the Post reports that Johnson suffered a setback and won't be back right away after the All-Star break.
Rumor has it that Guillen will spend his All Star break categorizing a list of bumps, bruises, injuries, and ailments that have plagued the Nats thus far to determine which ones his teammates should be playing through: sore knees, broken arms, strained hamstrings, tendonitis, back spasms, torn right labrums, right radius fractures, inflamed elbows, ligament strains (ribcage), deep bone bruises (right heel), vertigo, bronchitis, etc. Guillen would do well to take a cue from Livan Hernandez, who has quietly pitched through the pain in his knee without calling out his teammates; it's called leading by example.
Guillen deserved to be an All Star this season. He deserves to be in Detroit with Livan and Chad Cordero based on his numbers alone (.310 AVG, 18 HR, 51 RBI). When you consider his offensive production along with his gritty play in the field and the fact that he's played in 84 of 88 games (yes, he has played hurt), one could make a strong argument that he's the team's first half MVP. But his comments on Sunday can do no good, and only add to a growing list of reasons to worry about the Nats' enigmatic right fielder.
Must read: USA Today's David Skretta
on the adjustment to the minors and quick rise of Nationals' prospect, Ryan Zimmerman.