General Manager Bill Stoneman said the Angels were not trying to send a message when they suspended left fielder Jose Guillen for the remainder of the season -- and postseason, if they make the playoffs -- without pay Sunday for his petulant reaction to getting pulled for a pinch-runner Saturday against Oakland.
But the message was loud and clear: The Angels have a zero-tolerance policy toward players who put themselves ahead of the team, a point that was driven home with a sledgehammer Sunday when the Angels sent one of their best hitters home as they took the field for their biggest game of the season so far.
"Baseball is a team sport -- there's one manager, and he's the person paid to make decisions for the entire team," Stoneman said during the Angels' 6-2 victory over the A's on Sunday night, a win that moved the Angels within a game of first-place Oakland in the American League West with seven games remaining.
"If a player questions a decision, don't do it in front of 40,000 people and the national television cameras. Discuss it privately with the manager."
With the score tied, 3-3, Saturday, Guillen was hit by a pitch to open the eighth inning, and Manager Mike Scioscia sent Alfredo Amezaga to pinch-run.
Guillen threw his arms into the air at first base, walked slowly off the field, tossed his helmet toward the side of the dugout Scioscia was standing in and walked to the opposite side of the dugout before entering. He then fired his glove against the dugout wall.
Guillen, 28, has been prone to emotional outbursts throughout his career -- it's one of the reasons he has played for five organizations in the last four years -- but this incident infuriated teammates and coaches because Guillen put himself in front of the team and showed up his manager.
Scioscia downplayed the incident Saturday, saying Guillen is "an emotional guy who wants to win; it's no big deal." It became a very big deal later Saturday night and Sunday, when Scioscia conferred with Stoneman, his coaching staff and owner Arte Moreno about Guillen.
"It's a tough situation -- I didn't sleep at all [Saturday] night thinking about it," Scioscia said. "But we needed to do something. Anything that is a distraction to us winning, you have to put it aside.... Jose understood a line was crossed, and we'll leave it at that."
Added Stoneman: "The Angels are really proud of the way we play as a team. Jose's conduct after his removal from the game was not the conduct we expect from someone who is a member of a team."
The Angels cited a violation of an appropriate-conduct clause in baseball's standard player contract as grounds for Guillen's suspension, which will cost Guillen about $109,000 of his $2.2-million salary.
Guillen, who is believed to have fired his agent several weeks ago and is representing himself, is expected to file a grievance through the players union, which was advised of the suspension via fax Sunday. The Angels also advised the commissioner's office, though Stoneman said he did not need Major League Baseball's approval to suspend Guillen.
Guillen, who is batting .294 with 27 home runs and a career-high 104 runs batted in, participated in batting practice Sunday and didn't even know he wasn't in the lineup until about an hour and a half before the game.
He was then informed of the suspension in a meeting with Scioscia and Stoneman and left during the early innings of Sunday night's game. Guillen's brother answered a call to Guillen's cellular phone, but Guillen, who is under contract for 2005 at $3.5 million, declined to speak.
Guillen spoke with a reporter before learning of his suspension and said, "I'm the type of player, I'm going to give you everything I have every day. If I see something that I really don't like, you're going to hear it from me. I'm going to tell you the truth right in your face.... I'm just going to tell you the way it is."
The Angels were well aware of Guillen's reputation when they signed him to a two-year, $6-million contract last winter. Last season, after being pulled from the lineup by then-manager Bob Boone of Cincinnati about half an hour before a game, Guillen hurled four bats into the Reds' clubhouse wall, causing so much damage it "cost me a few grand to repair," Guillen said.
And last September, after being traded from Cincinnati to Oakland, Guillen publicly ripped Manager Ken Macha for giving him a day off after the Athletics had clinched a playoff berth.
The Angels got a taste of those emotions May 24 in Toronto. After getting drilled in the ribs by a Justin Miller fastball in the sixth inning, Guillen lashed out at Angel pitchers for not retaliating by hitting Blue Jay batters.
The game after ripping his teammates in Toronto, Guillen issued a public apology. But, according to Stoneman, Guillen did not apologize for his actions Saturday.
In another incident, in July, Guillen told reporters he did not attend a players meeting called by first baseman Darin Erstad, even though he did. In any case, his quotes in several newspapers the next day insinuated that Guillen believed the meeting was pointless.
Scioscia and Stoneman intimated there were other incidents that contributed to Guillen's suspension, though neither would reveal their nature or seriousness.
"There have been a number of things -- it wasn't just [Saturday]," Scioscia said. "I won't get into specifics about what transpired over the course of the year."
Said Stoneman: "I would say it's cumulative."
A number of players declined to discuss the suspension, several said they were surprised, and at least one, catcher Bengie Molina, said he was shocked.
"I didn't realize anything was going on," Molina said. "It's a huge loss for the team, a huge loss. The guy was almost an MVP, he and Vladi [Guerrero]."
Pitcher Jarrod Washburn said he was surprised, "but not shocked. It's been a long year, and we've always had the attitude around here that the team comes first, and no individual is bigger than the team. That message was sent loud and clear today."
Times staff writer Ben Bolch contributed to this report.