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Cristian Guzman Heads To NY To Represent DC's Nationals.

Originally signed as a 16-year old amateur free agent out of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic by the New York Yankees on August 24, 1994, Cristian Guzman hit for a .294 AVG in his first 42 professional games with the rookie level Gulf Coast Yankees in 1996, collecting 8 doubles, 2 triples, 1 HR, 21 RBI's and 7 stolen bases. The next season it was A-ball with the Greensboro Bats, where Guzman hits .273 in 124 games with 21 doubles, 4 triples, 4 HR's, 52 RBI's and 23 steals, earning himself inclusion, along with the Yankees' top pitching prospect at the time, Eric Milton, outfielder Brian Buchanan, and pitcher Daniel Motain, in the Yankees' February 6, 1998 deal with Minnesota, for leadoff hitter Chuck Knoblauch. 

Buster Olney, writing for the New York Times back in '98, in an article entitled, "Baseball; Yanks' Deal for Knoblauch in Selig's Court", reported that Guzman, and not Milton, might end up being the best player included in the deal:

"Several scouts with other teams say Guzman has the greatest potential of those headed to Minnesota, but he is a middle infielder and the Yankees may have Jeter and Knoblauch playing short and second for many years."

Guzman played just one season in the Minnesota system in 1998, and by the next April, Guzman, then 21, had debuted with the Twins on 4/6/09. By his 3rd season on the Twins' roster, Guzman was hitting .302 in 118 games of the '01 campaign, earning his first All-Star appearance, and the next season, in 2002, his first Playoff appearance, during which he hit .286 with 2 doubles, 1 HR and 4 RBI's against the A's in the Division series, before hitting just .186 in Minnesota's NLCS loss to Anaheim. 

In '03 Guzman posted a .268 AVG, with 15 doubles, 14 triples, 3 HR's and 53 RBI's with 18 stolen bases, but he hit in just 2 of 13 at bats (.154 AVG) with just 1 run scored in a 4-game NLDS defeat at the hands of the Yankees. In 2004 the Twins were able to once again win the AL Central, with Guzman batting .274, and smacking 31 doubles, 4 triples, 8 HR's, 46 RBI's, while stealing 10 bases, and in the Postseason, as the Twins were losing another 4-game series to NY, Guzman was 5 for 15, .333 AVG with 0 extra base hits or RBI's, 2 walks and a .412 OBP.

 

Signed by the brand new Nationals just weeks after he was granted free agency in November of 2004, Guzman arrived in DC with a 4-year $16.8 Million dollar deal, signing at the same time as veteran third baseman Vinny Castilla, in deals DC GM Jim Bowden made, as he told MLB.com's Bill Ladson at the time, in an article entitled, "Nationals sign Castilla, Guzman", because:

"'Guzman and Castilla will be above-average defensively on the left side of the infield and that's important,' interim general manager Jim Bowden said. 'These two guys have been to the postseason and that's important, especially for this franchise that has a lot of players that haven't been to the postseason.'"

Cristian Guzman, who arrived at the '04 All-Star break batting .285 with 17 doubles, 2 triples, 5 HR's, 28 RBI's and 5 steals for the Twins, was hitting just .201 in 76 games played as a National before the All-Star Break in '05 , with just 6 doubles, 4 triples, 3 HR's and 13 RBI's. When the season ended, Guzman had played in 142 games and hit .219 with an abysmal .260 OBP, 19 doubles, 6 triples, 4 HR's and 31 RBI's, and then Guzman never made it out of Spring Training in '06, diagnosed with a "SLAP" tear of his throwing shoulder which would cost the shortstop the entire '06 season.

 

Guzman returned to the Nationals for the '07 campaign, which lasted just 46 games, as Guzman injured his hamstring on Opening Day and then returned in June, only to hurt his thumb late in the month, an injury which kept him out of the lineup until September of that season, though he did hit .328 when he was in the lineup... 

 

Even with a long history of success leading one to believe that Guzman's first three injury-filled seasons in DC were the abberation, I'm willing to bet that not too many Nationals' fans would have predicted that heading into the '08 All-Star Break, Cristian Guzman would be DC's lone All-Star representative...would be batting .313 with 26 doubles, 2 triples, 5 HR's and 30 RBI's...and would be leading the National League in hits with 126 in 93 games and 403 at bats...

 

...But the Guzzz is getting it done, and on Tuesday night Guzman's giving Nationals' fans a reason to watch, before he heads out on the road with DC for the second "half" of the season, and then hopefully resigns with Washington before his contract expires and he once again tests the market...as a .300 hitter...