The last time I saw Cristian Guzman, he was still ambulatory.
He was hobbling, yes, but could still walk around on his own.
Guzman had bunions - and had 'em bad. Now, maybe you've had bunions before, or maybe you have no idea what bunions are. Here's the textbook definition: "An inflammation of the synovial bursa of the great toe, usually resulting in enlargement of the joint and lateral displacement of the toe."
Sound like fun to you?
Of course not. But Guzman, true to his nature, was playing with bunions - and a bum shoulder he had surgically repaired in the offseason.
Cristian was not 100 percent last year, and it was obvious. Still, he played. Keep in mind that this is a guy who in years past has hid other injuries from the ballclub. His personal sense of ethics tells him to play through the pain, which, to people like you and me, seems ridiculous.
But hey, Cal Ripken did it. Lou Gehrig did it. By invoking those names, I'm in no way suggesting that Guzman, as a ballplayer, is that caliber - Just making a point. You don't have to be a Hall of Famer to have that "play-no-matter-what" mindset.
[Before I continue, though, let me insert a shameless plug: If you haven't been to Old Town Alexandria for a while, stop by the Old Dominion Boat Club (One King Street) tonight around 7:00 p.m. I'm speaking to the Alexandria Sportsman's Club, and the public is invited. It's a good group of fans, and I always enjoy my visits there. No charge to get in. Now, back to the blog.]
Late last season the Nats approached Guzman about moving to second base in 2010. He wasn't thrilled with the idea, but didn't say no. As mentioned before, he had shoulder surgery last fall, and his bunions have healed. He's 100 percent healthy again, and the ballclub has decided to leave him at shortstop, signing free agent Adam Kennedy to play second.
Don't get me wrong here - Guzman is no Ozzie Smith. But healthy, he's at the very least adequate at shortstop. Heck, prior to last year The Fielding Bible thought Guzman was one of the better shortstops in the NL. Maybe a healthy Guzman gets back to that level.
I saw some figures on the MLB Network the other day about players who are inclined to swing at the first pitch they see, and Guzman was in the top five. Patient at the plate he is not. Still, he's a .271 career hitter, .282 with Washington. You'd like his on-base percentage to be higher, but his OPS with the Nats is .709, comparable to or higher than many of his peers.
If Guzman's healthy, he can be an asset to the 2010 Nationals. If he's not, I don't think the club would hesitate to make a change.
It's the final year of his contract. He's extremely motovated. Why not wait and see how he plays before deciding he's finished?