CARLOS GUILLEN is
so superstitious that he won't reveal his superstitions, other than to say that
he keeps lucky dice in his locker at Comerica Park and never removes the
orange-and-blue titanium necklace he has worn through his charmed 2006 season.
"I can't tell my secrets," Guillen, the Tigers shortstop, said with a
wry smile on Sunday night, after going 3 for 3 in Detroit's 3--1 win over the
Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series. "I don't want my luck to run
The Tigers had all
the luck when they made the little-noticed 2004 trade that brought them Guillen
from Seattle in exchange for reserve shortstop Ramon Santiago (now back with
the Tigers) and Juan Gonzalez--not that Juan Gonzalez, the two-time AL MVP, but
an obscure righthander who remains buried in the minors. Though it had
initially targeted Rich Aurilia--who eventually signed with the
Mariners--during that off-season, the Tigers' front office insists that they
had been high on Guillen, too. "We got [Carlos] when he was 28," says
assistant G.M. Al Avila, "when he was just entering his prime years. We
thought he could be a guy who was about to take that next step. What he's doing
now isn't a big surprise. It's exactly what we were hoping for."
Guillen is a
patient, gap-to-gap hitter in a lineup heavy with free swingers who pull the
ball. This season, in addition to leading AL shortstops in slugging (.519) and
all shortstops in OPS (.920), Guillen, who hit .320, became the first player
since 1901 to increase his batting average for a sixth consecutive season. And
despite a 3-for-16 hiccup in the Tigers' sweep of the A's in the AL
Championship Series, the soft-spoken, sleepy-eyed 31-year-old switch-hitter was
batting .432 with seven extra-base hits through Detroit's first 10 postseason
games; in the first two games of the World Series alone, he was 5 for 7,
including a single, a double and a triple on Sunday. "People don't know him
[in the U.S.], but back home he's a star," says teammate and fellow
Venezuelan Magglio Ordo�ez. "Hopefully that will change, because he doesn't
get enough respect here."
Through nine big
league seasons Guillen has been unlucky with injuries. Though he appeared in a
career-high 153 games this year, he played much of the season in pain.
"He's got hamstring, knee and back injuries that are just killing him,"
says centerfielder Curtis Granderson. "He walks around the clubhouse with
all these pads on, all bandaged up, like he's coming from battle. He's doesn't
quit, and he doesn't complain."
And, as obsessed
as he is with good-luck charms, he leaves little on the field to chance.
"Carlos always is the most prepared guy out there," says backup catcher
Vance Wilson. "Whether it's because of all the video he watches or all the
information he gets from constantly asking guys stuff, he always knows where to
position himself on the field, and he knows what to expect from pitchers when
he's at the plate."
Says manager Jim
Leyland, "He's probably the smartest player on our ball club--and the top
candidate to go on to a managerial career, if he chooses." That's one more
secret Guillen hasn't revealed.