On Monday, August 10th of 2009, Vladimir Guerrero blasted his 400th home run of his illustrious 13+ year career.
Not only would his blast eventually lock up a win for the Angels against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, it also virtually locks him into being a future Hall of Famer after the “Big Daddy” decides to hang ’em up.
Vladdy became the 45th player in Major League Baseball history to reach the 400 home run plateau. Of the other 44:
– 23 are in the Hall of Fame
– 8 are still playing
Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Delgado, Chipper Jones, Jason Giambi
– 1 will be eligible for being elected this year
– 7 aren’t yet Hall of Fame eligible as of 2010
Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Juan Gonzalez, Mike Piazza
That just leaves out Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dave Kingman, Andre Dawson, and Darrell Evans as the only members of the 400 home run club who have not yet been enshrined in Cooperstown.
Let’s take a quick look at some of Vlad’s career numbers:
– 2004 American League MVP
– 8-time All-Star
– 7-time Silver Slugger Award Winner
– 2007 Home Run Derby Champion
His best year can be debated between 2000 with the then-Montreal Expos:
.345 avg./.410 OBP/.664 SLG/101 R/197 H/28 2B/11 3B/44 HR/123 RBI
or in 2004, his first year with the Angels, in which he won the AL MVP award:
.337 avg./.391 OBP/.598 SLG/124 R/206 H/39 2B/2 3B/39 HR/126 RBI
My vote would have to go to the year where he put a team on his back and single-handedly willed himself and his team into the postseason, with that year being 2004 in Angel red.
Vladdy has posted years of a .300 batting average, 30+ home runs, and 100+ RBI in 10 of 11 seasons where he appeared in over 112 games.
Despite being arguably the biggest free-swinger the game has ever seen, Vlad has hit over .300 in every full season’s he’s played in (.302, .324, .316, .345, .307, .336, .330, .337, .317, .329, .324, .303).
To go along with his “hack away” mentality, Vlad has never struck out 100 times or more in any season, a rarity that possibly may never be seen again.
To-date, the injury-plagued 2009 season could mark the first year where Vladdy’s batting average falls below the .300 line… and he’s batting .299.
He posted 2 years of 30+ home runs and 30 + stolen bases back in 2001 and 2002 with Montreal.
Entering the 2009 season, Guerrero’s career numbers ranked pretty high up on the all-time lists:
– #13 all-time – slugging percentage (.575)
– #43 all-time – batting average (.323)
– #99 all-time – on-base percentage (.389)
Although his current career statistics are so staggering, the thing that makes Vlad so special is that he is more than a rare breed of a hitter.
Sure, there have been hitters before Vladdy who could turn their wooden bat into a 9-iron and literally golf a pitch that bounces in the dirt, 430 feet away to straightaway center. Sure, there have been hitters before Vladdy that make you feel the breeze from every swing he takes… even if you’re sitting in the cheap outfield seats. Sure, there have been hitters before Vladdy that make you marvel at the raw strength that they possess to muscle a ball in off their hands, to the deep power alleys of a ballpark.
Sure, that puts Vlad in rare and special company, but the thing that makes Vlad so unique, is that he has the uncanny ability of turning a pitcher’s best pitch into a ball that lands deep into the left field stands.
Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Guerrero would play stickball with his friends, a game where a thin stick would be used as a bat, and a rock as a ball. The object, like baseball, was to hit the rock into play, but there was a catch… you had to hit the ball, regardless of where it was thrown. Vladdy’s roots haven’t left him.
A sharp-breaking 12-6 curveball could start right in the middle of the plate and drop down to his shoetops, but Vlad, the great “bad ball” hitter that he is, uncoils that powerful swing of his, and makes his way around the bases, giving the fans in the cheap seats a souvenir.
A 100 mile per hour fastball could run inside on him, but he’d get the bat out in front and send a 450+ foot mammoth blast sailing into the night.
And he’s been having fun all the way through. His big smile could light up a dark room with ease.
Here’s to the guy who truly deserves it.
A once-in-a-generation type of hitter who swings at everything, and hardly misses anything (as Rex Hudler says, “from his nose, to his toes, that’s how Vladdy goes!”).
(Here’s a funny video of a guy spot-on imitating (duplicating sounds about right) Vlad’s quirky stance/swing… in front of the man himself!)
A player who was both a contact and a power hitter.
A player with one of the best cannon arms to ever play right field (as ESPN anchor Stuart Scott said following Vlad gunning a guy out at third, “he’s a mutant!”).
A player who could do it all.
Here’s to you, Vladdy. And as much as it’s hard to believe after your remarkable 13-year career (and still going), you will continue to be on your way to bigger and better things.
The baseball world congratulates you on reaching another incredible milestone.