Vladimir Guerrero, the dynamic five-tool player who played for 16 years for the Expos, Angels, Rangers and Orioles, turned 43 years of age on Friday. A little over two weeks prior, Guerrero was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in his second year on the writers’ ballot. Guerrero’s voting percentage of 92.9% is the highest in the history of the Hall for a player on the ballot who was not elected in their first year of eligibility.
When Vladdy gets his plaque this summer, he will become the first player to have a plaque in Cooperstown bearing the logo of the Los Angeles Angles.
Also, with Guerrero’s induction, the Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will, for the second consecutive year, feature one of the greatest players from the now-defunct Montreal Expos, with Tim Raines having earned the honor as a member of the Class of 2017.
In addition, Guerrero will have the honor of being the first (of what will be many) position players born in the Dominican Republic to be honored in Cooperstown, following his countrymen Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez (both pitchers).
Cooperstown Cred: Vladimir Guerrero
- .318 career BA, 449 HR, 1,496 RBI
- 8 times with a .300 BA, 30 HR and 100 RBI
- 9-time All-Star
- 2004 MVP with Angels (.337 BA, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 124 Runs)
- Career: 59.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) & 140 OPS+ (ballpark-adjusted OPS)
- Led league in assists from RF 3 times (10 times in the Top 10)
(Cover Photo: Halos Heaven)
The Hall of Fame Career of Vladimir Guerrero
For a full rundown of Guerrero’s career and his Hall of Fame case, I invite you to read my piece Vladimir Guerrero: Ready for the Hall of Fame Call. In the meantime, here are a handful of statistical nuggets. Vladdy’s career statistical resume put him on a variety of lists with some of the game’s greatest players.
Guerrero is one of six players in MLB history to record at least a .318 batting average with 449 career home runs. The other five? Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx and Stan Musial.
He is one of five players in MLB history with over 400 HR and less than 1,000 strikeouts. The other four? Williams, Gehrig, Musial and Mel Ott.
He had 12 seasons with at least 25 HR and a .300 batting average. The only players with more seasons like that? Ruth, Williams and Hank Aaron.
He is one of only three players with at least 400 career HR and 4 individual seasons with 200 or more hits. The others? Musial and Gehrig.
Pretty good company, eh?
Vladdy Long Arms and Long Legs
Vladimir Guerrero, standing at 6’3″ and 235 pounds, had long arms, long legs and a great deal of power. He was, from the moment he stepped onto a major league diamond, a “wow” player, with five tools. He could hit (.318 career average), hit with power (449 home runs), he could run (181 stolen bases), he could field his position well and, boy, could he throw (126 career assists).
There’s a long-standing cliche about players from the Caribbean, “you don’t walk your way off the island.” Cliche or not, Guerrero as a hitter was a free swinger and an immensely dangerous one. Since 1988 (the first year this statistic was tracked), Guerrero’s 126 first-pitch home runs are the most in baseball.
In just his 13th big league at bat, in September 1996, Guerrero reached for a first-pitch fastball to drive an opposite field home run off Atlanta Braves closer Mark Wohlers. Take a look at Wohlers’ reaction after giving up Vladdy’s first career tater.
Vlad the Impaler could hit home runs from pitches anywhere inside or outside the strike zone and on any count. He had power to all fields. He had 9 career walk-off home runs, including this titanic blast in 1999.
Guerrero was the ultimate bad ball hitter. Check out this video of Guerrero hitting a ball after it bounced on the dirt! By the way, you’ll notice that Orioles announcer Jim Palmer (a Hall of Famer himself) referred to Guerrero as possessing Hall of Fame numbers.
In his career, Vladimir Guerrero was walked intentionally 250 times in his (5th most in the history of the game). The 250 IBB represents more than 33% of his career free passes. With his long arms and reach, you couldn’t safely pitch around him so there weren’t a lot of the proverbial “unintentional intentional walks.”
Because of his propensity for errors (he led the league in miscues 9 times), the defensive metrics do not list Guerrero as a top defensive outfielder. However, nobody will ever forget the bazooka of an arm he possessed. Taking an extra base on a ball hit to right field was always a risky move.
Please enjoy this piece from MLB.com, posted Friday to celebrate Vladdy’s 43rd birthday. The piece features video of 7 of the greatest throws of Guerrero’s career.
First Hall of Famer for the Angels
It happens from time to time that a player will be inducted to the Hall of Fame without an obvious team logo to carve on the cap. Vladimir Guerrero came up to the majors and became a star with the Montreal Expos. He played for the Expos for seven full seasons. His final year in Montreal (2003) was the second to last for the franchise before its relocation to Washington.
After playing for a perennially losing team in the cavernous and sparsely filled Stade Olympique, Guerrero signed a free agent contract after the 2003 season with the Anaheim Angels. He played for the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels for six years.
Hit for hit, RBI for RBI, Vladdy created more value in Montreal than he did in Anaheim. On the other hand, Guerrero won his lone MVP trophy with the Angels; he also finished in the top 3 of the voting in two other seasons in Anaheim. He helped the Angels make the playoffs in five of his six seasons there.
Then there’s this: the Angels did pay Guerrero $82 million for those six seasons in Anaheim. Guerrero’s decision to be the first player in the history of the Angels franchise to don the team’s logo on his Cooperstown plaque may in some ways have been a tip of the cap to team owner Arte Moreno, who was in attendance at the Hall of Fame press conference.
Guerrero has always had a special place in Moreno’s heart. The signing of Vladdy to a free-agent contract was the first big financial move by the Angels new owner, who had purchased the team during the 2003 season.
Moreno said, in a statement released by the team, “we are proud and privileged that he becomes the first player enshrined in Cooperstown wearing the Angels logo. He represented four quality organizations during his playing career and his induction is special for each.”
“I’d probably walk to Cooperstown if I had to.”
— Arte Moreno, Los Angeles Angels team owner
The Last Great Expo
Although the Hall of Fame has the final say on the matter, they often let the player choose which logo to carve onto their Cooperstown plaque. Ultimately, Guerrero decided to be the first player to represent the Angels. If you’re scratching your head, asking yourself, “what about Nolan Ryan?” the Ryan Express chose to wear a Texas Rangers logo on his cap despite having had his best seasons with the Angels.
Understandably but sadly, Vladdy’s logo choice sparked some backlash from disappointed fans of the Expos in social media. Long-time Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie, now the president and founder of the Montreal Baseball Project (whose mission is to return major league baseball to the city), was magnanimous:
“Vladimir’s decision to enter the Hall of Fame as an Angel is an understandable one. There are many factors that a player must consider together when given such a choice, which isn’t often the case, as we saw with Gary Carter and Andre Dawson. Tim Raines embraced the idea of being inducted as an Expo, as it was the most representative of his career, even though it could result in him missing out on future opportunities.
Being the first representative of a franchise in Cooperstown is a significant milestone that comes with a unique place in history. Vladimir has the right to make this choice based on what he feels is best for his future and the various ways a team is expected to support him as a Hall of Famer. It is unfortunate that the city where he played the longest and has the most fans does not currently have a team, but I can understand his decision.”
— Warren Cromartie, President and Founder of the Montreal Baseball Project
As Cromartie said, being the “first” has a great deal of meaning. It doesn’t change the fact that Guerrero was the last in a long line of great players developed by the Montreal Expos. His esteemed predecessors, products of the Expos farm system, include Carter, Dawson, Raines, Randy Johnson and Larry Walker.
Embed from Getty Images
The Third Dandy from the Dominican Republic
As it is with many sons of the tiny island nation of the Dominican Republic, his roots are never far from Vladdy’s heart. Born in Don Gregorio, part of the small city of Nizao, he’s one of the nation’s great philanthropists. In a piece from the L.A. Times, written shortly after he signed with the Angels, one of his agents estimated that 400 of the 2,000 people who lived in Don Gregorio at the time were employed in businesses started by Vladdy and his older brother Wilton, also a major league veteran.
When he’s inducted to the Hall of Fame this summer, Vladimir Guerrero will have the honor of being the first of what will be an impressive parade of position-player inductees from the D.R. In the years to come, we can expect the doors of Cooperstown to open for Dominican born David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano.
For the time being, Guerrero will be the third pride and joy of the Dominican, joining Pedro Martinez and the original Dominican Dandy, Juan Marichal. When he returned to the island after the announcement of his election to the Hall, he was welcomed at the airport by music and dancers. A parade in his honor ensued.
Congratulations to Vladimir Guerrero, Hall of Famer at the age of 43.
Thanks for reading.
For more insights, fun facts, links and commentary about baseball and, in particular the Hall of Fame, please follow me on Twitter @chrisbodig.