Vladimir Guerrero has always been a class act, now he got his due.
By David Rice
On Sunday Vladimir Guerrero became the first ever Angel player to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame as an Angel.
Vladimir Guerrero was one of the best players of his era and he was just as good of teammate and person. Guerrero started his career with the Montreal Expos in 1994 in Rookie Ball. In 1995 he played most of the season with the Albany Polecats of the South Atlantic League hitting .333 with 16 HRs and 63 RBIs.
I actually saw Guerrero play a few times that summer in Albany and he was unbelievably talented. I went out and got three of his rookie league baseball cards because I was sure he would be a stud. I guess I was right for a change. The next season Guerrero continued to climb playing in both Double and Triple-A hitting .360 with 24 homers and driving 96 RBIs. For his efforts Guerrero received a September call-up from the Expos.
Guerrero had seven full seasons in Montreal after that and was a perennial all-star make the NL squad four times and winning three Silver Slugger Awards. He hit .300 or more every season for the Expos and hit 40 home runs twice and 39 and 38 in two other years. Guerrero also drove in 100 runs in his last five season in Montreal.
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However after the 2003 season Guerrero became a free agent and with the uncertain future of the Montreal Expos, he opted to test the free agent waters. Enter Angels GM Bill Stoneman who had been the Expos general manager when Guerrero was signed by the Expos. Stoneman knew how special of a player Guerrero was and help convince him to sign a five year deal worth 80 million dollars, with a club option for a sixth year.
Guerrero came to Anaheim and made an immediate impact smashing 39 homers with 126 RBIs and a .337 batting average. He helped the Angels reach the American League playoffs that season and was named AL MVP, his first MVP award and only the second player in ANgels history to win that award until someone named Trout came along in recent years.
Guerrero didn’t stop there as he hit .300 in each of the next four seasons and drove in 100 runs three more times. During this time period Guerrero helped lead the Angels to four more AL West titles. His overall numbers with the Angels he hit .319 with 173 homers and driving in 616 runs. While with the Angels he hit his 400th home run.
I had a chance to talk to him multiple times during his career. He was always very polite and always had that big smile on his face that would light up the room. I told him that I had seen him with the Albany Polecats. His response “That was a very long time ago.” My response was “You were much smaller then.” This prompted the famous Guerrero smile and a big laugh from the latest Hall of Famer.
Guerrero ended up with Texas and then Baltimore for a season each before signing a one day contract with the Angels in 2014 to return as an Angel. Guerrero finished with a career batting average of .318 with 449 homers and 1496 RBIs.
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Although Guerrero did not play even half of his career as an Angel I am proud that he is the team;s first representative in the Hal of Fame.