Maybe teams are starting to learn from each other.
Or maybe Jose Guillen is that big of a jerk or maybe Mike Scioscia and Bill Stoneman are that knee-jerk.
Maybe one day we'll know for sure why Scioscia and Stoneman, the Anaheim Angels manager and general manager, respectively, suspended Guillen without pay for the rest of the season – and, if applicable, the postseason – for getting visibly upset when he was pinch-run for Saturday.
But if sports is lucky, it signals a new and long overdue day in discipline.
No question Guillen overreacted. He threw his helmet in the direction of Scioscia. He slammed his glove against the dugout wall. He acted like a baby. He cared more about himself than the team. He did it all in the middle of a tight AL West race, the Angels just a game behind the Oakland Athletics with seven to play.
So while it is too early to call it a trend, maybe, just maybe, this is about a return to team values, team chemistry and team-first and team-only thinking in professional sports. If so, credit the Angels for paying attention:
- To the New England Patriots, who have won two of the last three Super Bowls because of an all-for-one attitude that has maximized their talent.
- To the Detroit Pistons, who defined selfless basketball last spring to upset the heavily-favored and more individually talented Los Angeles Lakers.
- To the Florida Marlins, who last October so believed in each other, no matter how young and how unheralded they were, that they knocked off the high-profile, big-salaried San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees to win the World Series.
If there is a trend in this me-first, MTV "Cribs," free agent world of modern professional sports it is this: Individuals get ESPYs, teams win championships.
"I think (Stoneman) wanted to be loud and clear with the message," Scioscia said after Sunday's 5-3 victory over Oakland. "I think he was. Anything that's going to get in the way of us winning a ballgame can't be in place. I think that's what Bill's trying to say."
If so, he said it loud and clear by dumping a guy hitting .294 with 27 home runs and 104 RBIs in the critical final week of the season. Only Vladimir Guerrero has better power numbers on the team.
Guillen will appeal the decision but there seems to be no crack in the Angels' resolve. If they have to, they'll pay him to stay away for the rest of the year. Guillen may be great on the field, but judging by the lack of teammates running to his defense, a cancer in the clubhouse. This does not look like an isolated incident.
"We had to do something with Jose," said Scioscia.
This is a refreshing change of direction. For too long there were two sets of rules for players. Star treatment was expected.
It included how teams and games were marketed to consumers, including impressionable young athletes.
It was Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls (complete with Jordan Rules). It was Barry Bonds' Giants (complete with personal clubhouse recliner). Games were billed as Troy Aikman vs. Steve Young, not the Cowboys vs. 49ers.
Some stars (such as Jordan, Aikman and Young) led their teams to titles in part because they included their teammates and had a fierce will to win. They commanded that attention. That is why they were elevated.
But it was easy for lesser players to believe that just putting up individual numbers meant they too should be treated, marketed, pampered the same way. There were "I's" in team. It was the tail wagging the dog.
If there is one thing you can count on though, it is teams copying the formula for success. Right now we have a wave of no-name clubs winning titles by playing together. So we have emboldened general managers willing to put the petulant in their place.
When the manager sends in a pinch-runner for the good of the team, you run off the field with a smile and give your replacement a good luck slap on the back. If you don't like it, take a seat and stay there.
That's how team sports are supposed to be played.
"This is about the organization," said Scioscia. "Not one guy."
It's about time.
- Mike Scioscia
- Bill Stoneman