Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
He stood by his locker in a quiet room, the same as he would if had just swatted three home runs and fireworks had spilled from the sky. Vladimir Guerrero does not change expression, his eyes staring forward, lips pursed, hair styled high and back.
Sometimes it is hard to know if he ever feels the disappointment.
But something is wrong with the Los Angeles Angels' best player. This is not the Vladimir Guerrero of the carefree gait, the one who will swing at anything remotely near the plate, launching baseballs toward the outfield fences. He looks slow, broken down, helpless and, in the most important games of his baseball life, everyone wants to know why.
Vladimir Guerrero, who went 0 for 4 with four groundballs to shortstop gave a tiny shrug. He eyes still looked straight ahead, his lips were pursed.
He mumbled something in Spanish to Alfredo Griffin, the team's first base coach.
"He said he is hitting the ball right at somebody," Griffin said.
Is that it? Nothing else? Guerrero hit .317 with 32 home runs and 108 RBI during the regular season, he's one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball and yet in this American League Championship Series with Chicago he's hitting .062 with one lousy single and it's simply a matter of hitting the ball right at someone? How about the fact he hasn't even hit anything hard?
Are the White Sox doing something different? somebody asked. There was more talking in Spanish.
"Same thing they did in the regular season," Griffin said. "Fastballs, change-ups, he's just not swinging good."
Yes, something is definitely wrong with Vladimir Guerrero, and when something's wrong with Guerrero, something's wrong with the Angels. He has wallowed through this series, with the same procession of slow groundballs and meek popups, looking more like 150-pound reserve infielder Maicer Izturis than the reigning American League MVP. Without him looking like himself the rest of the Angels look hopeless, too.
There are rumors flying around the ballpark that he is hurt. There have been injuries this year, more than ever before. He bruised his knee in Texas back in April, he dislocated his left shoulder against the Dodgers in May, then re-injured it at the end of the year. His back has been sore all season, but since he seems to show up most of the time and until a few weeks ago was hitting home runs regularly no one seemed to worry.
Last night his hometown fans booed each groundball rolled to shortstop.
Is there something wrong with the mechanics of his swing?
"Nothing different, same swing," Griffin said.
How about the shoulder?
"Fine," Griffin said after consulting with Guerrero. "Not 100 percent, but fine."
The back? "No excuses," Griffin replied.
Someone wondered if Guerrero was frustrated, and the slugger shook his head. "No frustration," Griffin said. And that was it, the slugger who is not slugging was through answering questions. As he walked away he offered to his interpreter a solution to his problems.
"Look at the ball and swing at it and just hit it between somebody."
Which is as deep as anyone will get with the player who has disappointed most in this series.