07/14/2003 5:35 PM ET
Guardado trying to enjoy honor
Team's struggles make relishing All-Star Game tough
CHICAGO -- During the free-for-all media blitz at the Westin Hotel in downtown Chicago on Monday afternoon, Eddie Guardado probably knew he would answer more questions about his team's woes than his second All-Star appearance.
And he was right. The timing of the All-Star break worked in conjunction with the Minnesota Twins' eight-game losing streak that ended with a winless road trip through Texas and Anaheim. The team has dropped 22 of its last 28 games heading into the break.
The All-Star break, Guardado contended, came at just the right time for the 44-49 Twins. After their final loss, Guardado told his teammates to completely step away from the game for three days, to clear their heads, to relax with their families. Truth be told, Guardado wishes he could have taken his own advice.
"To be honest, I really didn't want to be here," he said. "I'm kind of a team person. We're struggling a little and I don't think it's the right time for me to be here."
Guardado quickly added that it was an honor to be chosen by his own peers, but if he had his druthers, he'd spend the three days clearing his own mind, free of thoughts of stats and saves and wins and losses.
"I'm going to make the best of it," he said. "I can't be selfish. I'm a grown man and I will represent the Twins the best way I can. I'm going to enjoy it and hopefully get an opportunity to get in the game and opportunity to win."
But his mind is clearly on the Twins' wins, or lately, the lack thereof.
"It's a lot of little things we're going through right now," he said. "Nothing seems to be working for us. When we pitch good, our hitting's not there. When we hit good, our pitching's not there. For us to win, to compete, everything's got to click together and we're not doing that right now. We have to start finding a solution."
This year, Guardado and his Twins teammates are in a unique situation -- they are no longer the underdog. The Twins surprised everyone in 2001 when they narrowly missed the playoffs after posting their first winning season in a decade, but after stringing together a 94-win season and running away with the American League Central title the following year, the Twins suddenly became the team to beat in that division. Problem is, they have been beaten more times than they've won.
And it's the Kansas City Royals, of all teams, that are presenting the biggest challenge.
"The Royals are playing some great baseball," Guardado said, gesturing to nearby Kansas City All-Stars Mike MacDougal and Mike Sweeney. "I take nothing away from them. That's what baseball's all about. That's what the Major Leagues is all about.
"No one said we're going to run away with it. This is the Major Leagues. We've got to come to compete. Guys are coming to play us. We're not going to play them. They're coming after us. We've got to be ready for the challenge."
Guardado was asked a few All-Star related questions, like if he ever snuck a peek at how his National League closer counterparts are faring this year. The left-hander was more than willing to give kudos to, in particular, John Smoltz and Eric Gagne.
"They make it look easy," he said. "That's pretty impressive, man. They've got a 97, 98 mph fastball. I've got a 91, maybe 92, sometimes on a good day. Watching those guys, I have to tip my hat to them. That's why they're All-Stars." Laughing, he added, "Maybe one day when I wake up I'll throw the ball and maybe I've got a 97 fastball."
So for the next two days, Guardado will soak up the All-Star atmosphere and try to get his mind off the troubled Twins. He only hopes that his teammates are somewhere far away, thinking about anything but baseball.
"I told the guys, get your mind off the game," he said. "A few guys are going to Vegas. A few are going to Arizona. To relax. We're struggling, and everybody knows that. We're going to come back Thursday, we have an early workout and it's a new season for us. That's how we're going to approach it. We have to stick together."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com