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Part Man. Part Machine. All Shortstop.

Posted By Ryan Moore On Apr 16 2009 @ 11:11 pm In Washington Nationals | 2 Comments

I miss Cristian Guzman.  Isn't that weird?

The injuries are piling up in the infield – the Nats were down to their third-string second baseman until he got hurt, forcing them to rush Anderson Hernandez back from rehab.  All I can think of is how astounding it is that I'm missing Cristian Guzman.

I've been following this fiasco (i.e., the Washington Nationals) since before the beginning, and Cristian Guzman's contract had the distinction of being the worst thing the Nats had done for a pretty long time.  Jim Bowden's ridiculous trade of Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis to the Angels for accomplished ass-head Jose Guillen left us with a hole at short, one that was most definitely not filled by giving Guzman $16 million over four years.

The 2005 season was amazing, and it gets more amazing after each subsequent miserable Nationals campaign. Guzman was one of the few parts of the team that didn't exceed expectation.  He hit .219, and he sure as hell didn't make up for it with walks and power.  His defensive reputation was one of the kind that attaches itself to people who have an everyday major league job but clearly can't hit – must be the defense!  It was a total, four million dollar disaster.

The solution to this problem was in front of us the whole time, held in the surgeon's hand and the laser's careful beam.  Guzman spent 2006 being rebuilt from the ground up.  And just as RoboCop was able effectively to patrol the streets of Neo Detroit after his cyborg rebirth, so Cristian Guzman, armed with a new shoulder and new eyeballs, became an effective major leaguer.

He hit .328 in an abbreviated 2007 before getting hurt.  2008 saw him hit .316 (and while I don't normally evaluate performance by batting average, with Guzman there's not a lot of statistical complexity – if he hits over .300, he's useful), and he's off to a .515 start this year.   He tweaked a stem on a single that should have been a triple the other day, the end of a 5-for-5 day, and after damning his name on a daily basis back in '05, I'm shocked to find myself sighing wistfully for the chubby little bastard.

The worst part about his absence is that Manny Acta apparently subscribes to one of those time-tested, utterly illogical ideas that make managers so easy to criticize from afar: you gotta have a fast guy leading off, whether or not he can hit.  Tonight, as the Nats prepare to complete a weather-shortened sweep at the hands of the Phillies, they have Anderson Hernandez leading off.  There's nothing wrong with Hernandez being in the lineup: he's got a glove, and it's not like we have spare second sackers sitting around. But there's nothing about him that indicates he can get on base enough to bat first; I don't care how many last names are contained in his name.

So I sit here wishing for 2005's greatest disaster. I don't know if this says more about how much progress Guzman's made or how little the Nationals have.

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