Hall calls on Vlad
“There are only five things you can do in baseball: hit, hit for power, run, throw and field. Guerrero is nonpareil.”
—Former MLB All-Star and broadcaster Tim McCarver
Rangers fans will remember Vladimir Guerrero for his go-ahead, two-run double in Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS.
See, with Vlad, you had to see him play to understand why he’s a no-doubt Hall of Famer today, with 92% of the votes in in his second year on the ballot. He’ll go in with an epic class that includes writer selections Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Trevor Hoffman; they’re joined by special committee nominees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.
Yes, you had to see him play. And not here in Texas, where he was a fine DH for a pennant winner, who slashed .300/.345/.496, hammered 29 homers and drove in a critical 115 runs for the 2010 breakthrough club. Those numbers are good, but they’re not elite. You had to see him in his prime.
As David Shoenfield points out, if you dive deeper into the stats, and get to advanced areas like WAR, Guerrero is a borderline Hall of Famer.
But with Vlad, the numbers don’t tell the story, and they’re still very good numbers:
- A career .318/.379/.553 slash line
- A 10-year peak from 1998 to 2007, when he slashed .327/.394/.586 while averaging 35 home runs and 114 RBIs, first for Montreal and then in Anaheim
- Nearly 450 homers and less than 1,000 strikeouts.
- An MVP award and six Top 10 finishes
- Nine times an All Star, with 8 Silver Slugger awards.
Since the expansion era, 1961, three players have topped Vlad’s .318 career average: Tony Gwynn (.338), Rod Carew, and Wade Boggs (both .328). He outhomered all three—combined—by more than 100 home runs. Between them, those three slugged a combined .444. Vlad’s more than 100 points higher. And he hit .318
He never won an MVP in Montreal, but in all but his rookie year, he got votes; he peaked there in 2002, with a 4th-place finish. He finally won one in 2004, with a great season and even better stretch run in September (.363/.424/.726 with 11 homers and 25 RBI against just six strikeouts).
“Vlad Guerrero was pure, concentrated baseball passion on display.”
– writer Joe Posnanski
He didn’t walk a lot, but part of the reason he didn’t walk a lot was, he hit everything. And I do mean everything:
That ball went for a single into short center field. It was closer to cricket than baseball, and yet the man made it work.
You had to see him in Montreal, before age and the turf in Olympic Stadium did to his knees what it did to Andre Dawson before him. You had to see him make throws that were indescribably strong, and sometimes, even accurate:
You had to see him homer off pitches that seemed unreachable. To slam line drives around the park on pitches that looked like they could clip him, were six inches outside, at his shins, or above his shoulders.
He hit hundreds of homers to all fields, including power to the opposite field almost unmatched between the L.A. prime of Mike Piazza and the St. Louis days of Albert Pujols. His best included some gargantuan shots, but most were line shots: always swinging from his heels, never holding back.
He did all those things, he did them with flair, and he did them par excellence. His career was a unique combination of anticipation, excitement, and production:
And today, deservedly, he has become just the seventh player ever to play for the Rangers to be voted into Cooperstown.
He was never the most outgoing publicly, nor a very media-savvy guy. Instead of a speech, come July, they ought to just throw him BP and have him uncork a few throws out of Doubleday Field.
Like everything with Vlad, it would be an incomparable show.