Cristian Guzman--Enjoying Baseball Again And Proving The Pundits Wrong

Michael PopeAnalyst IJune 19, 2008

Back in 2000, when 22-year old Cristian Guzman legged out 20 triples and 28 stolen bases, it looked like he might become a star shortstop.

He was sweet with the glove and had a strong arm to go along with all that speed.

Then in 2001 he made the All-Star team and finished the year hitting .302. He stole 25 bags and increased his power stroking 28 doubles, 14 triples and 10 home-runs in 118 games.

However, the next three years his average slipped to the .270s and his power and steals declined. Guzman settled in as a steady infield anchor who played stellar defense while doing enough with the bat on division champion teams.

Then came free agency and a move to Washington on a four year $16.8 million dollar contract. It was fairly obvious the Nationals overpaid to bring him in, but no one could have predicted just how bad Guzman would be.

He limped through his first season under the Mendoza line for much of the year before a hot September pulled his average up to .219.

Hoping to rebound the next year, he opted for laser surgery in an attempt to see the ball better but never got the chance. He suffered a season ending shoulder injury in the Spring and missed all of 2006.

Then last year he missed all but one game in April while still recovering from his shoulder injury. When he returned in May, it seemed he was starting to put it back together and hit .299. He broke-out in June hitting .373 with a .954 OPS before another injury, this time to his thumb, shelved him for the rest of the season save for one at-bat in October.

Coming into 2008, expectations were never lower. It was agreed his hot month of June was a fluke and at best he'd return to being the player who hit in the .260s with little power and less steals.

Yet, this year Guzman has been better than ever. His two singles on Thursday made him the first MLB player to 100 hits. He has the third highest doubles total with 22 and has been one of the tougher strikeouts with one every 15.5 at-bats.

On a Nationals team with very little star power still on the field to help protect him, he has been one of the teams only bright spots.

Whether it was the eye surgery, a season free of injury or the pressure of a big contract lessening, Guzman is finally putting up a season it seemed he was always capable of, despite the "experts" predictions that he was worthless.

He may not be able to duplicate his 2008 first half, but it's time he received accolades for his fine season.