Friday, November 10, 2006

Guillen, Tiger of the Year? Was There Ever Anyone Else?

Carlos Guillen, while a Tiger over the past couple of seasons, has played on one good leg, with a bad back, and thru assorted other dings and dents. And he is, pound for pound, the best player currently wearing the Old English D. He was the most consistent player in the 2006 postseason.

And he is, today, rightfully so, the 2006 Tiger of the Year, as voted on by the Detroit chapter of the Baseball Writer's Association of America.

The Tigers all season long were portrayed as a team without stars, one that is nearly impossible to assign a true MVP to. So many candidates. So many contributors to the best baseball season around here in two decades. How can you pick just one player? That's folly.

But you can pick just one, and that one is absolutely the shortstop Guillen. Yes, the Tigers suffered greatly with second baseman Placido Polanco out of the lineup with his shoulder injury. You can make a good case for the man they call "Poly" in the Tigers clubhouse. Yet he doesn't do all that Carlos Guillen can do on the baseball diamond. Guillen batted .320, 20 points higher than the next best Tiger (Pudge Rodriguez). His on-base percentage was .400, 50 points better than the second-best Tiger in that category. He had, by far, the best batting average on the team after the All-Star break. And he moved to first base in the playoffs and made the move virtually seamless.

Guillen, more than any Tiger, consistently delivered the big hit in '06. He was still, in my mind, the one Tiger you were relieved to see at the plate when something key needed to happen. Usually, he came through.

He was criticized at times during the season for his defensive blunders, including off-target throws. But looking back on it, how many of those errant tosses truly hurt the Tigers when it mattered the most?

Guillen was absolutely stolen from the Seattle Mariners, in a trade in which the Tigers sent Ramon Santiago to Seattle. And now the Tigers even have Santiago, to boot. In fact, Guillen's batting average has risen steadily, every year, beginning in 2001. In 2001, he was a .257 hitter. Today he is over 60 points better than that. And maybe he can even get better. Who knows what he can do, if he's completely healthy for an entire season?

Carlos Guillen, Tiger of the Year. It doesn't sound out of place. Not at all.


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