In the hours before Jim Bowden was officially named the interim general manager of the MLB franchise scheduled to play in Washington next spring, he called his counterpart with the Anaheim Angels, Bill Stoneman, with one name in mind: Jose Guillen. Bowden knew about tantrum the outfielder threw in the Angels' dugout and clubhouse in late September, how the team suspended him for the final eight games of a taut pennant race and a playoff series against the Boston Red Sox.
To Bowden, what mattered was baseball.
"I just believe in the player," Bowden said yesterday. "It's hard, these days, to get a guy who can hit .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI at $3.5 million. You don't get these kind of guys at these kind of dollars."
Largely because of the off-the-field issues, Bowden got Guillen at that price yesterday, trading outfielder Juan Rivera, who led the Montreal Expos by hitting .307 last season, and shortstop prospect Maicer Izturis for the 28-year-old right fielder.
Guillen, a journeyman whose physical gifts have frequently been overshadowed by emotional flare-ups, joins third baseman Vinny Castilla and shortstop Cristian Guzman -- free agents signed earlier in the week -- as new offensive threats for a team that finished the 2004 season 14th in the National League in runs scored. In 148 games for the Angels, he hit .294 with 27 home runs and 104 RBI.
Those numbers could have been higher had his season not been cut short. On Sept. 25, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia removed Guillen for a pinch runner, and Guillen threw his hands up in the air in disgust. He tossed his helmet in Scioscia's direction in the dugout, then hurled his glove against the wall. The tirade continued in the clubhouse. He was suspended the next day.
Guillen, who is signed through the 2005 season, pledged last night that things would be different in Washington. He said he voluntarily enrolled himself in an anger management course to help him better focus on baseball.
"This is going to be the start of a new beginning for me, a start of a new career," Guillen said. "That was an unfortunate situation that happened there in Anaheim. It was not working out for me. This is a great opportunity to come to a new team. . . .
"I just feel a lot of people misunderstand me a lot in my career, in my past. I don't want them to misunderstand me anymore. I want to become a better person, and be the person that everyone that knows me expects me to be. I did that on my own [enrolled in anger management courses] to make myself better, to show people I'm becoming a better person."
In 2002, when Bowden was the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds, he signed Guillen as a minor league free agent. Guillen said he still "owes everything to Jim Bowden," and that familiarity, Bowden said, made him "comfortable" with the trade, even though Guillen had some behavior issues in Cincinnati as well.
"I know he's a solid person," Bowden said. "He's got a good heart. Sometimes, young guys need to have a learning experience to grow. . . . I really believe he will continue to mature personally -- and not only personally, but as a ballplayer."
As Bowden pushed forward on baseball matters, the District and the team officially announced a rally at noon Monday at Union Station, when the team will be renamed the Nationals.
The team also spent part of yesterday continuing to work on ticket issues. The club began taking deposits for season tickets on Wednesday from those fans who had already registered their interest through one of three venues -- the team's Web site, MLB's Web site, or the Web site of a local group, Baseball in D.C. Some of those fans didn't receive e-mails notifying them of how to put down deposits, and thus were worried that they wouldn't receive priority seat selections, as pre-registered fans had been promised.
"I spent a few hours trying to trace this thing down," said Dolan Sullivan of Alexandria, who went in with friends to buy eight seats. "I'm finding out there's a ton of people that never got the e-mail, and we're worried we're not going to get preferential treatment."
Kevin Uhlich, who has handled much of the ticket operation for the club, said officials have heard similar complaints and are working to track those names down on the pre-registered lists to make sure those fans receive the best seats.
The trade, though, was the dominant news of the day, and completed a wild week in which the team overhauled its lineup.
Stoneman said Rivera will likely be a fourth outfielder for the Angels. Izturis is a promising prospect at shortstop, but became expendable when Guzman signed for four years.
Stoneman admitted that Guillen's behavior played a role in the trade.
"I'm not going to deny that the issue didn't have something to do with our thinking," he said, but he added that he wished Guillen well.
Guillen, who said he has talked to both Stoneman and Scioscia, took the same stance.
"It was a situation where we just got to move forward and do what's best for the Anaheim Angels and what's best for Jose Guillen," he said. "It's over. I don't have anything against the Angels. . . . Everything is forgettable. We need to forget about it."