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Vlad Joins 400 Home Run Club… Hall of Fame Awaits?

vlad 400th

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

Fred McGriff

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.

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Angels Getting Plenty of Bang for Their Buck

dolla bill

It was an offseason that began with plenty of Angel fans hoping and praying that the front office could ink 1st baseman Mark Teixeira to a long-term deal, and somehow find a way to bring back their star closer Francisco Rodriguez, despite GM Tony Reagins saying the front office had “turned the page” on him. They were 2 of the 4 hottest commodities on the free agent market to go along with C.C. Sabathia and Manny Ramirez.

Fans were hoping that (for once), the Angels would open up the wallet and spend the money they needed to improve… but when it was all said and done, the Angels roped in none of the big-namers.

Teixeira got 8 years, $180 million from the Yankees.

C.C. Sabathia got 7 years, $161 million from the Yankees.

K-Rod got 3 years, $37 million from the Mets.

Manny got 2 years, $45 million from the Dodgers.

Some Angel fans were down because they felt that by not forking out the doe for one of the aforementioned A-list free agents, the Angels lacked that powerful punch in the middle of the lineup and at the back end of the bullpen.

But as they say, hindsight is always 20/20.

By not signing re-signing Teixeira or K-Rod, the Angels now had roughly $31 million of unspent money that they could choose to throw at other free agents out on the market.

Looking back, Tony Reagins spent wisely.

On December 19th of 2008, the Halos kept outfielder Juan Rivera in the mix by signing him to a 3 year, $12.75 million deal ($3.25 million spent for ’09).

On New Years Eve of ’08, the Angels went in a new direction for closing out ballgames by getting former Colorado Rockies closer and a California native in Brian Fuentes. Fuentes received a 2-year deal worth $17.5 million deal (total of $11.75 million spent for ’09).

On February 12th of 2009, Bobby Abreu was signed to sport the Angel red as he was inked to a 1-year deal worth $5 million plus incentives. In 2008, Abreu had a $16 million salary, and the Angels were able to get a guy who hit nearly .300, scored 100 runs, drove in 100 runs, and hit 20 home runs for $11 million dollars less than he earned in that $16 million 2008 season. Nice bargain, I’d say (total of $16.75 million spent for ’09).

Time to go by the numbers, side-by-side.

Comparing signed and unsigned closers:

K-Rod: 1.85 ERA/43.2 IP/23 saves/3 blown saves/1.21 WHIP/44 K/25 BB

Fuentes: 3.03 ERA/32.2 IP/28 saves/3 blown saves/1.13 WHIP/35 K/9 BB

Frankie has been dominant this year for the Mets and his ridiculous 1.85 ERA reflects that, but Fuentes has converted a higher percentage of his saves to date, has a lower walks to innings pitched ratio, has a lower hits to innings pitched ratio, strikes out more per inning and walks less per inning compared to Rodriguez’s numbers. Fuentes’ 28 saves leads the majors. As of now, looks like they made the right move here.

Comparing signed and unsigned hitters:

Teixeira: .280 avg./.381 OBP/.551 SLG/96 H/58 R/24 2B/0 3B/23 HR/67 RBI/50 BB/61 K/1 SB

Abreu: .306 avg./.399 OBP/.439 SLG/96 H/50 R/17 2B/2 3B/7 HR/60 RBI/51 BB/57 K/19 SB

Rivera: .309 avg./.352 OBP/.522 SLG/93 H/39 R/16 2B/0 3B/16 HR/53 RBI/21 BB/31 K/0 SB

So the “vaunted power hitter” may not be in the lineup, but I’d say Abreu and Rivera have done a darn good job of performing for nearly a combined salary that is $13 million less than that of Teixeira’s alone. Abreu currently has the most RBI in all of the MLB since June 1st and Rivera has been the most consistent hitter this year for the Angels outside of the presently sidelined Torii Hunter. Abreu’s presence in the lineup also has helped leadoff man Chone Figgins‘ on-base percentage rise drastically, so the impact of Bobby in the lineup goes far deeper than the numbers.

And those were just the offseason additions.

Let’s not forget to mention the guys who are already on the team who are far and away outperforming their current pay.

Let’s start with Jered Weaver, who has gone 10-3 with a 3.48 ERA this year, has undoubtedly been the ace of the staff since day 1. Entering this year, Jered hadn’t pitched a complete game (a span of 77 starts). He’s thrown 3 complete games this year, including 1 shutout (coming in a span of 8 starts). Opposing batters are hitting a mere .231 against him, and he’s been striking out a career-best 7.77 batters per 9 innings pitched.

So what do you think he’s earning? $4 million? $5 million? $6 million? More? I mean, his agent is Scott Boras after all.

Try $465,000. Yeah, not even 1/2 of a million dollars for those numbers (Robb Quinlan makes close to 2 1/2 times the amount of what Jered makes… try that one on for size).

How about Kendry Morales, he’s put together quite a season in his first year as a starter for the Halos over at 1st base. He was coming in with some massive shoes to fill after Teixeira bounced for the Yanks, but he has no doubt held his own.

The switch-hitting “K-Mo” has posted a .291 batting average, slugged 17 home runs (tied for team-high with Torii Hunter), driven in 52 runs, and has slugged at a .547 mark, good for 2nd best on the team. He’s also in the midst of a career-high 18-game hitting streak, and has provided some pop from the 1st base position that the Angels haven’t seen in a long, long time.

Kendry’s making $1.1 million this year, a.k.a. about $20 million less than Teixeira. Not too big of a drop-off from player to player in my opinion. He’s on pace to hit 32 home runs and post 97 RBI at this rate, a pretty good value by any standards.

Crafty veteran Darren Oliver has the team’s best ERA with a 2.88 mark, and has a 4-0 record, all for $3.67 million.

Mike Napoli, one of the Angels’ two catchers in Mike Scioscia’s platoon system, has the 4th most home runs on the team with 11, despite having roughly 2/3 the at-bats that the regular starters get. He’s also 4th on the team in terms of his on-base percentage (.376) and his slugging percentage (.502). And it’s been Nap Time for the low, low price of $2 million!

But wait, there’s more!

The two shortstops have been providing some value of their own.

With a 2009 salary of $1.1 million, Maicer Izturis has hit .303, with 28 RBI and a .359 OBP, all while playing exceptional defense at both shortstop and 2nd base when called upon.

Erick Aybar has hit .299 with 32 RBI and a .347 on-base percentage, also while playing some career-best defense over at shortstop. He’s earning $465,000 for the 2009 season.

And last, but certainly not least (except for amount of height among Angel players) is Chone Figgins. Chone is hitting a team-best .310, with a .395 OBP, 108 hits, an American League-leading 72 runs scored, and 27 stolen bases. And he’s been “Gettin’ Figgy Wit It” for roughly $5.8 million, earning him his first All-Star invitation of his career.

Heck, Torii Hunter is earning $18 million for this season, and even he’s outperformed his season’s contract (given that much money, that’s really saying something).

Now, it’s time to have a little more fun. Time for some more number-crunching.

*All salaries rounded to the nearest 100,000

2 players departed: Rodriguez, Teixeira = $30.9 million for 2009

3 players arrived: Fuentes, Abreu, Rivera = $16.6 million for 2009.

Getting more production for just under half the price.

And if you reeeeeeally wanted to know…

10 players: Fuentes, Figgins, Abreu, Rivera, Weaver, Morales, Oliver, Napoli, Aybar, Izturis = $32 million for 2009

You get the point.

I just thought I had to throw that last one in there to really drive home the value/productivity point.

“Less is more” seems to be a fitting slogan for the Angels (but then again, they’re getting more production from more players… oh, I’m just confusing myself).

On second thought, I’ll leave it up to someone else to think of a slogan for the ’09 Halos.

In the meantime, I’ll just let the numbers do the talking.

FAN POLL

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Hall of Fame* and a Tarnished Game

mannyWell, it’s official, another high-profile superstar is “linked” to steroids. This time, it’s just Manny being Manny.

Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, tested positive today, not for a Performance Enhancing Drug like HGH, but for hCG, a women’s fertility drug….

WHAT?

Yes, Manny Ramirez tested positive for a women’s fertility drug.

There’s more to it, though. The drug he tested positive for is used by steroid users who are coming off of a steroid cycle to restart their body’s natural testosterone production. It is a very similar drug to Clomid, a drug that Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi (both linked to steroid use) used as BALCO clients.

Hmmm, is that Manny being Manny, or is that Manny trying to mask being a cheat?

That’s up in the air, but Manny has never had his name come up in steroid investigations, I’ll give him that. But to use a drug that is used by steroid users, and to not take a look to see if it’s on the MLB’s banned substances list, is it just Manny being a blind idiot?

Could be, but Jose Canseco got busted for the same thing that Manny tested positive for. I just don’t even know what to think about these positive tests regarding high-profile big leaguers. Some players and coaches are thinking the same way.

Astros manager Cecil Cooper said, “Today, you’re not really surprised by anything.”

Lance Berkman of the Astros said, “When people make the game look as easy as some do, I’m not surprised.”

David Eckstein of the Padres said, “Nothing shocks me anymore.”

But Atlanta Braves 3rd baseman Chipper Jones brings up a great point, a point that is more than just Manny.

“You can’t have arguably the greatest pitcher of our era, arguably the two greatest players of our era and now another very, very good player be under this cloud of suspicion and not feel like it’s ruined it for everybody.”

The pitcher he’s referring to is Roger Clemens.

The “arguably” two greatest players of our era are Barry Bonds and Alex Rodgriguez.

And the “very, very good” player he refers to is now Manny Ramirez.

Roger Clemens was an 11-time all-star, 7-time Cy Young award winner and a 1-time MVP. Let’s not forget to mention his career record of 354-184, good enough for the 9th most wins in a pitching career in MLB history (2nd in the modern era behind Greg Maddux), and his 4,672 career strikeouts is 3rd all-time. Clemens was one of the most dominant pitchers to ever take the mound, and was a force year after year throughout his illustrious 24-year career*.

Barry Bonds was a 14-time all-star, 7-time MVP, 8-time Gold Glover, and oh yeah, he’s the all-time leader in home runs with 762. His 7 MVPs are the most by any player in baseball history, the next closest total is an 8-way tie with 3 career MVP awards. All-time, Bonds is #1 of all players who have ever played the game in home runs and walks, 2nd in extra-base hits and times on base, 3rd in runs scored and 4th in RBI and total bases. No doubt one of the best to ever play the game*.

Alex Rodriguez, considered one of the best players ever and still only 33 years of age, is a 12-time all-star, 3-time MVP award winner and 10-time Silver Slugger award winner. “A-Rod” has 553 home runs, and became the youngest player ever to hit 500 home runs, a mere 8 days after his 32nd birthday. He debuted as a major leaguer with Seattle before he even turned 19! He has 11 straight seasons of 35+ home runs and 100+ RBI and is still one of the most feared hitters baseball has ever seen*.

Manny Ramirez has been an offensive force ever since 1995 in Cleveland, and is still slugging at an incredible rate, even though he is due to turn 37 at the end of May. Manny is a 12-time all-star, 9-time Silver Slugger, and was the MVP of the 2004 World Series when the Red Sox broke their 86-year World Series drought. He has 533 career home runs, and has one of the most pure, compact strokes I have ever witnessed. It’s like art in motion every time he swings the bat. He’s always been one of the goofier guys in the MLB, but there’s no questioning that Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters of his generation, and of all-time*.

The * denotes the question: can you take their career numbers seriously?

Did they earn those statistics and accomplishments or did they have to cheat the system and cheat themselves to go from great to incredible?

The question remains to be answered for Manny. A-Rod admitted to steroid usage between the years of 2001-2003. Clemens and Bonds… not so much.

When you describe Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, a few words for me that come to mind are incredible and unbelievably good.

Incredible is defined as, “not credible; astonishing; hard to believe; so extraordinary as to seem impossible.”

Unbelievable is defined as, “having a probability too low to inspire belief; too dubious to be believed.”

Since these 4 have been linked to cheating, it’s kind of ironic to think of how we’ve described them the whole time, don’t you think?

Here’s what I say: strip them of their careers. Everything. Home runs, MVPs, Cy Youngs, every statistic, everything.

Let’s take a tally of what’s lost between these 4 players:

– 11 MVP Awards

– 49 All-Star selections

– 7 Cy Young Awards (just Clemens)

– 10 Gold Gloves Awards

– 31 Silver Slugger Awards

– 1,848 Home Runs

That’s a lot to lose, but their actions deserve consequences. Let’s not fail to mention other steroid users like Jason Giambi, Rafael “I have never used steroids… period” Palmeiro, Mark “I’m not here to talk about the past” McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Jose Canseco. Between the 5 of them, you’re taking away another 3 MVP awards, 34 All-Star selections, 15 Silver Slugger Awards, and a whopping 2,620 home runs.

These 9 players take away a total of 14 MVPs, 7 Cy Youngs, 83 All-Star selections, 46 Silver Sluggers, 14 Gold Gloves, 354 wins and 4,672 strikeouts (from 1 player), and 4,468 home runs, and more importantly 9 potential Hall of Fame ballot positions.

Since 1990, 18 of the 38 players who won MVP awards have been linked to steroids.

The entire league hit 4,458 home runs in the 1987 season, 10 fewer than those 8 hitters did in their careers.

After the league had its highest total of home runs ever back in the 2000 season with 5,693 total home runs league-wide, the home run total has dropped in each of the past 3 years, hitting a 15-year low in ’08, most likely due to the recent spike in harsher drug testing and consequential suspensions from positive tests.

As much as I am disheartened by what has arisen regarding Manny Ramirez, I’m with Eckstein on his response, “nothing shocks me anymore.”

What I fear what is yet to be said. Although Manny did not test positive for steroids, he tested positive for something that is used to mask the effects of steroids. You could put 2 and 2 together, and let’s face it, what in God’s green earth is a man doing taking a woman’s fertility drug? Yeah, exactly. You can’t be that stupid to take a drug that’s prescribed for one sex (which is not the one that Manny falls under), let alone to have a doctor prescribe it to you, could you? Yeah, yeah apparently you can be.

The game of baseball has lost so much credibility in the past decade, and I’m not quite sure if the game can ever get it back.

And so help me God if a player like Albert Pujols gets linked to steroids… that’ll be the end of the game of baseball altogether.

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