We're in the middle of March Madness and here I am blogging about baseball. Go figure...
What caught my attention today was the news that Vladimir Guerrero may wind up without a team to start the 2012 season and could take his game to Japan if he isn't signed by an MLB club by Opening Day. At least that's what CBS Sports baseball insider John Heyman is reporting via Twitter.
Guerrero has long been one of my favorite players. Look in the dictionary under "free swinger" and you'll find his picture. But Guerrero isn't the prototypical free swinger. Over the course of his career he's struck out 985 times but walked an astounding 737 times. You can find the rest of Guerrero's career numbers here. Head, elbows, knees, toes...it didn't matter where the ball was it was a hittable pitch for Vlad.
There are very few players over the course of the last decade that I'd pay money to see. Two come to mind - Albert Pujols and Guerrero. Luckily I've seen both but it's Guerrero's performance that I'll remember for a long time to come.
My wife and I were invited to join some folks, including Mike Koolbeck (of Metro Sports Report
fame) and his wife, in a U. S. Cellular Field suite for a White Sox game against the Angels in 2009. I made the mistake of leaving my seat to grab a hot dog off the counter during one of Guerrero's at bats and will never forgive myself for doing so. This will sound cliche but I heard what could best be described as the sound of a cannon
blast. Guerrero had taken a pitch that most assuredly would have been called a ball had he not swung and launched it into the left-centerfield seats for a home run. Scouts will often talk about the sound a ball makes when leaving the bat and I've never heard a 'louder' home run than the one Guerrero deposited over the wall that day.
After the 2009 season, Guerrero latched on with eventual American League champion Texas in 2010 before spending last season on a rebuilding Baltimore club. Many will remember him from his time with the Angels but he spent the first eight years of his career as a member of the now defunct Montreal Expos. In 2002 he fell one homer short of joining the 40-40 club but years of playing on the concrete-like turf of Olympic Stadium would ensure he'd never steal more than 15 bases in a single season again.
I hope Guerrero latches on with a team stateside rather than heading to Japan. He may not have much left in his tank at 37 but baseball is better with a guy like Guerrero around.
On a side note, I've played fantasy baseball for about 16 years and the absolute worst trade I've ever made involved parting with Guerrero just prior to his breakout season in 1998. For the next 11 years in what amounted to the prime of his career he was almost a lock for 25-plus home runs, 90-plus RBI, and 90-plus runs scored. Those numbers will win you a lot of leagues.