TEMPE, Ariz. -- The mere mention of Jose Guillen's name still produces rolled eyes, bemused smirks and staccato harrumphs from his former Anaheim Angels teammates. The story of Guillen's downfall there last season is best forgotten, much like a brutal loss. But the Angels can't help themselves. This loss still resonates. This lost soul haunts them.
"It's unfortunate the way the whole thing went down," said Angels first baseman Darin Erstad. "I wish the whole situation would've gone differently. He could have helped us, no question."
The Angels parted ways with outfielder Jose Guillen, left, after Guillen threw his batting helmet at Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia during a game last season.
(Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)
In his first days this spring with his new team, the Washington Nationals, Guillen, 28, by all accounts has been charming and polite, a model teammate. The Nationals, Guillen's seventh team in seven years, proclaim themselves thrilled to have this power-hitting, rocket-armed, multi-dimensional force on their side.
But it was that way for Guillen in Anaheim, too. When he arrived there a year ago, full of smiles and promises, no one could have predicted it would end the way it did -- with Guillen suspended by the team for the final week of the season and all of the postseason, and with the Angels deciding they were better off without another 100-RBI man in their lineup.
"Everybody here accepted him. Everyone was great to him. At the beginning of the year, he was a great teammate," said Angels pitcher John Lackey. "Nobody thought there was going to be any problems. I'm not sure what happened."
This, reportedly, is what happened:
On Sept. 25, after being pulled for a pinch runner in the eighth inning of a critical game against Oakland, Guillen flung his helmet in the general direction of Manager Mike Scioscia -- the latest bit of questionable behavior by Guillen that season. In the clubhouse after the game, Scioscia screamed at Guillen in full view of his teammates.
The next day, the team suspended him for the rest of the season and postseason. Without Guillen, the Angels edged Oakland for the division title but lost in the first round of the playoffs to Boston. A month later, Guillen was traded to the Nationals for outfielder Juan Rivera and shortstop Maicer Izturis.
"I'm not going to say [the thrown helmet incident] had nothing to do with the trade," said Angels General Manager Bill Stoneman. "But it wasn't 100 percent about that. It was also a matter of numbers [in the outfield]. We had too many. We had to move somebody."
Guillen eventually apologized to his Angels teammates, and later attended anger-management classes -- on his own, according to Guillen.
For his part, Guillen has mostly shrugged off questions about his year in Anaheim, saying he was ready to move on. But when he was confronted yesterday with his ex-teammates' comments, he acknowledged he is still hurt by what happened.
"Sometimes, I still think about it," Guillen said. "I always thought it should have been handled better [by the Angels]. It really hurt me, because of the numbers I was putting up and the way I was playing for them. But I need to put this behind me."
The Nationals might like to think there is some lesson to be learned from Guillen's experience with the Angels -- something to prevent the kind of situation that occurred there. But that assumes the Angels could have avoided it, too -- something they strongly deny.
"The adjustment that's going to make that [situation] work is going to be on Jose's end," said Scioscia. "From our approach and what our organization is about, I don't think that anything could've been done any differently."