Stop me if you've heard this one. (ed. note - "Thank you for choosing not to stop me.") A veteran reliever's told that he's been traded to the worst team in the majors and without even bothering to change out of his workout gear he storms into the front office and demands an explanation, only to be told it was an elaborate joke, at which point he threatens said owner with a dessert knife? (ed. note - "Humorously threatens, if that's possible?") Said pitcher, eventually realizing he's the butt of a practical joke, expresses relief at the fact that he won't actually be asked to pitch for a team that's 38-70 and heading nowhere but to triple-digit losses. Two years later, after an injury-filled '09 campaign that leaves said player pondering retirement, he accepts an offer to pitch for the team he once vehemently argued against being traded to...that's a sign of either the player's desperation to continue his career, or, more optimistically, of the improvements to the team in question's front office and roster which have free agents finally choosing to ply their trade in service of helping said team turn the corner...
Washington Post writer Chico Harlan brought this story up again in a Nationals Journal post last week entitled, "Nats nearing deal with veteran Guardado", but I thought it bore repeating or a mention at least if you don't know the story since you'll hear it again and again all season if you're like me and you occasionally tune in to out-of-town broadcasts on MLB.tv to see what the other team's announcers have to say about the Nats, because in case you don't already know, the opening paragraph is the true story of veteran left-hander "Everyday" Eddie Guardado, the newest Washington National, who Saturday agreed to what is reportedly a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium, where the 39-year-old left-hander will try to earn a role as a mentor in a young DC bullpen.
After The JUMP: "Washington Nationals? You've got to be kidding me?"
(ed. note - "The good news is I still like Guardado from his time with the Mariners, so the Nationals' fan in me can accept him...But...You'll notice I made no mention of Bob Short, or the extra pain added by a Bob Short Texas Ranger talking this way about Washington,...til, uh, now, I guess.")
As told by MLB.com writer T.R. Sullivan in an article entitled, "Guardado sweats out a practical joke", at the Texas Rangers' official site, this is the story of the prank pulled on "Everyday" Eddie Guardado by the Texas Rangers' Field Manager and Front Office back in late July 2008. Following a ritual pre-game steam, Guardado was surprised when Manager Ron Washington pulled him out of the room and informed him that he'd been traded to the then-lowly (and as yet unproven as improved) Washington Nationals. Guardado, in Mr. Sullivan's words, was as, "...furious as can be, (and) didn't bother changing. He was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and shower shoes when he was driven from the players' parking lot around the stadium and stormed into the front office,":
"(Guardado) went up to the fourth floor and into a conference room where general manager Jon Daniels was meeting with his assistants.
"'There's Jay Robertson, John Hart, Thad Levine, all those guys,' Guardado said. "They're all sitting around and nobody is smiling. I go, 'Washington Nationals? You've got to be kidding.'
Daniels asked Guardado to step into another room. Guardado obliged.
"'Thanks for dressing up,' Daniels said.
Then the general manager broke into a smile and started laughing.
"'I can't hold it over you,' Daniels said. 'You're still a Texas Ranger.'
Guardado, realizing he was the victim of a practical Trade Deadline joke, started laughing, too.
"You're lucky," he told Daniels, pointing to a pie-serving knife on a desk. 'I was going to kill you.'"
For a slightly crueler version of the same practical joke, you can watch as Phillies' Manager Charlie Manuel and then Asst. GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. (and his own agent) do the same thing to Philly pitcher Kyle Kendrick a few years back:
According to MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article on Guardado signing with Washington entitled, "Nationals make 'Everday' addition", Guardado won't be one of the two or three relievers competing for the closer's role in DC in Spring Training:
"If he makes the team out of Spring Training, Guardado is not expected to be a closer. Instead, he is expected to be a mentor and serve as a setup man."
Guardado finished his 17th MLB season with a (1-2) record, a 4.46 ERA (6.10 FIP, 104 ERA+) and a 1.41 WHIP in 48 G and 38.1 IP in which the then-38-year-old left-hander allowed 39 hits, 8 HR (1.9 HR/9), 19 ER, 15 BB (3.5 BB/9) and collected 20 K's (4.7 K/9). According to the same Texas Rangers beat reporter quoted above, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan's 11/23/09 article entitled, "Veteran Guaradado wants to pitch in 2010", the veteran lefty suffered from knee injuries last season that had him, "...consider(ing) the possibility of retiring," but:
"(Guardado) met with Dr. Lewis Yocum, the noted orthopedist, after the season (and) Yocum prescribed a rehabilitation program to make the knee stronger and Guardado has rigorously followed the instructions."
And now the pitchers feels confident he can again in twenty-ten.
Here's how Guardado's described in the Washington Nationals' Official Press Release on the signing:
"Guardado went 1-2 with five holds and a 4.46 ERA in 48 relief appearances last season with the Texas Rangers. Over his 17-year big league career, he has recorded 46 wins, 122 holds, 187 saves and a 4.31 ERA in 908 contests with the Twins (1993-2003, '08), Mariners (2004-06), Reds (2006-07) and Rangers (2008-09). The 39-year-old has posted a .251 batting average against, including a stingy .227 mark against left-handers."