The Twins open a three-game series tonight against Washington and shortstop Cristian Guzman will return to the Metrodome — batting .319 with a .365 on-base percentage in 29 games. In the churning world of player movement, it’s already easy to forget that Guzman was the team’s shortstop who bridged the end of the troubled years and the beginning of the more successful ones (1999-2004). In the field, he was a spectacular play waiting to happen (and sometimes an easy one waiting to be missed) but overall he provided much more good than bad for the Twins in his six seasons in Minnesota.
Guzman signed a four-year contract with Washington after the 2004 season and was terrible in 2005, with a .219 average that made his detractors smirk. He missed all of last season with a shoulder injury but seems to have healed. Last week, he got the 1,000th hit of his career.
Look around the AL Central and see the inconsistencies that other teams have at shortstop (Detroit excluded) — where expectations are understandably high — and Guzman’s years with the Twins should be all the more appreciated. For further proof, look at the struggles of the 2005 Twins, where the unholy trinity of Juan Castro, struggling rookie Jason Bartlett and then-utility player Nick Punto played the position in that season-without-a-postseason.
Sure, Guzman sometimes looked like he was giving less than 100 percent and the Twins never got a fix on the shoulder troubles that seemed to dog him from time to time after his All-Star appearance in 2001. But not every shortstop can bring the perceived flawlessness of Jeter or Ripken to the position — and Ozzie Smith kind of made it tougher for everyone with his magic.
I’m looking forward to seeing Guzman return and hope he’s greeted with the affection of a long-lost friend.