Carlos Guillen has been one of the finest Tigers in recent memory.

A great teammate, a perfect gentleman.

They’ve moved Guillen all around the field, the Tigers have, both to create space for other players, and to try to protect his body. The former has worked much better than the latter.

The switch-hitting Guillen isn’t all that effective from the right side of the plate, but he still gives you more flexibility because of batting righty and lefty.

But when the Yankees’ Brett Gardner plowed into second baseman Guillen in August in an attempt to break up a game-ending double play, the resulting damage to Guillen’s knee meant yet another trip to the disabled list.

Guillen’s Tigers season ended that night in mid-August. Another year of playing in only a fraction of the 162 games.

You’d be honored to go to war with Carlos Guillen on your side, except for the fact that when you’d like to do so, he’d probably be laid up in a hospital bed somewhere.

The physical limitations of the soon-to-be-35-year-old Guillen (September 30th) have been painstakingly documented, literally.

Guillen hasn’t played in over 120 games since 2007, when he appeared in 151 contests. He missed 49 games in 2008, and exactly half the season in 2009 (81 games). In 2005 he played in just 87 games.

Guillen has been a great Tiger, but he’s held together with bailing wire and screws and bolts. He’s not a man, he’s a case study. All that’s missing from Carlos is a big, red nose that lights up, electrified tweezers, and a game box.

It will be among the most gut-wrenching decisions the Tigers have ever made, but it’s looking to be time to consider lopping Guillen from the 40-man roster.

Such a move will go down like castor oil and leave the aftertaste of limburger cheese, but how much longer can the Tigers wait for Guillen to return to health?

What good is he if he’s playing in 70, 80 games a year?

Guillen’s latest injury involves the use of microfracture surgery on his knee. It’s not the most trustworthy of procedures, and the rehab time can be well over a year.

Guillen played second base this season, his fifth full-time position with the Tigers, and he’s only been in Detroit for seven years.

But the Tigers, if they choose to bring Guillen back in 2011, are fooling themselves if they think Guillen can be a viable option for them at second base.

The Tigers ought to hide all his gloves and make him one of those designated hitters the American League says you can have. Full-time, for as long as he shall stay healthy.

If not that, then it should be adios.

The Tigers, should they decide to part ways with Guillen, need to be careful how they handle such a cashiering. They could look awfully callous and cold-hearted if they do it wrong.

Timing is everything, they say.

So the Tigers will likely—and probably should, frankly—allow him to recover from the knee injury and see how he fares.

But Guillen is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.

Guillen is a paradox; he’s versatile yet he’s as fragile as a diva’s ego. He’s great in the clubhouse, except that he’s rarely in the clubhouse.

Guillen wears street clothes more than he does a baseball uniform—and that’s in the summertime.

I’ll go eyeball-to-eyeball with you on this one: I wouldn’t want to be GM Dave Dombrowski when he has to call Guillen into his office and deliver the bad news that will likely need to be delivered.

“Carlos, you’ve been great for this organization but our future plans unfortunately don’t include you.”

The Tigers are trying to build something great again with a mix of their kids from Toledo and the veterans who are able to stay together in one piece.

If Guillen is unable to fully come around after this latest injury, then the Tigers will have to pull a Gary Sheffield on him and release him, forthwith.

Carlos Guillen has been a terrific Tiger. But he can’t seem to stay on the field. There’s always something the matter with him.

He’s a great guy but you can’t rely on him. If his body was as trustworthy as his word or his work ethic or his class, Guillen would be Cal Ripken, Jr.

It’s looking like it’s time to make a decision that won’t be very popular. Not at all.

But it will be the right one.

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