Previewing the 2017 HOF class: Vladimir Guerrero
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is set to announce its Class of 2017 on Wednesday, Jan. 18. In the days leading up to the announcement, theScore's MLB editors will preview players who look to be a lock to head into Cooperstown.
Player: Vladimir Alvino Guerrero
Teams: Montreal Expos (8 seasons), Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels (6), Texas Rangers (1), Baltimore Orioles (1)
Position: Right Field, DH
Current Age: 41
Year on ballot: 1st
Percentage of vote: 74.4 (Calculated by Ryan Thibodaux)
MLB Seasons: 16
World Series: 0
MVP: 1 (AL, 2004)
Gold Glove: 0
Silver Slugger: 8
Throw it high, low, outside, inside, even in the dirt - it didn't matter, because "Vlad the Impaler" would destroy your baseball. "He should be in another league," former big-league pitcher Rheal Cormier - who once allowed a walk-off homer to Guerrero on a pitch six-to-eight inches outside - told Jonah Keri in his 2014 book "Up, Up & Away." The only problem with Cormier's statement: No league could have possibly held this man.
Born to an extremely impoverished family in the Dominican Republic, Guerrero was discovered after tagging along with his older brother, future big-leaguer Wilton Guerrero, to a tryout with the Dodgers. Eventually signed by the Expos, Vladimir became the Quebec club's last superstar over his eight years in Montreal. From 1998-2002 he wowed the Expos faithful by averaging 38 home runs (including a career-high 44 in 2000); he also put together a 30-30 season in 2001, and finished one homer shy of a 40-40 season in 2002. In 2003 he hit 25 homers despite playing just 112 games due to injuries, and nearly pushed the lame-duck Expos into the playoffs. Vlad's name remains at or near the top of virtually every offensive category in Expos/Nationals history.
With the Expos on the verge of moving and unable to afford him in free agency, Guerrero went west in 2004 and joined the Angels - where he promptly won the AL MVP with a monster season. Over his six years in Anaheim, Guerrero led the Angels to five division titles and two ALCS appearances, became their all-time leader in batting average, and set a total of 15 franchise records - all while leg injuries began to catch up to him, necessitating a gradual shift to DH.
His last All-Star season came as a DH with the Rangers in 2010, when he helped them reach the World Series for the first time and won a final Silver Slugger. A subpar 2011 in Baltimore followed, and after a brief minor-league stint with the Blue Jays in 2012, Guerrero called it quits. He retired as the all-time hits leader among Dominican-born players.
Before his knees forced him to DH, Vlad possessed a Clemente-like cannon in right field. The Mets found this out the hard way in 1997 when a rookie Guerrero's effortless throw from the right-field corner nailed Todd Hundley at the plate by about 47 feet.
From supposedly hitting a ball that bounced over 400 feet in the minors, to his first big-league homer on a pitch from an All-Star that was five inches outside, to his 503-foot bomb that was so long the camera couldn't even track its landing, Vlad's hitting prowess is now the stuff of legends. His 2003 cycle displayed all that greatness - from a bad-ball opposite-field homer to a sweet soft single - in one afternoon's work.
Guerrero's proclivity for making contact on bad pitches never ceased to amaze, and this may be the best example of his bad-ball hitting on record. In a 2009 game, he somehow perfectly squared up a curveball that bounced one foot outside the box and blooped it into shallow center for an RBI single.
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