Friday March 5, 2012
Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth (Baseball Writer)- I love watching Vladimir Guerrero play baseball live in person. I first saw him play in 1996 at the Big ‘O’ in Montreal. I think he swung at 9 balls in a row. I am lucky enough to have seen him play about 20 games live since then. Perhaps no other Major League Player has ever liked to swing the bat as much as Vlad (with a heavy apology here to Randall Simon, who swung his bat at one of the Sausages during a Miller Park race.) Believe me, the television set does not do this man enough justice.
In 2005, I saw my first game at Angel Stadium. It was Vladdy’s first year in with the Angels. They were playing the Texas Rangers. I think Kenny Rogers was pitching back with his original club. He threw 3 intentional balls way outside to Guerrero in the bottom of the 1st. On a 3-0 count, he bounced one to the plate. Wouldn’t you know Vladdy was swinging on a 3-0 count? He smashed a ball off of the fence in left with a line drive about six feet off the ground! I swear that Vlad would have been one of the best cricket players in the world had he played. I am sure he has hundreds of hits similar to this in his career.
Vladimir was also an incredible fielder in his early years with the Expos. He could throw a guy out from the wall in right field all the way to home plate. It was unbelievable to witness such an amazing arm like this. He was an all-round player with 5-tools. He will be regarded more for his offense as some baseball historians say he is the best bad ball hitter since Roberto Clemente. This is heavy praise for the future Hall of Famer. While you never really think of Vladdy as lightning fast, he did steal 40 bases in 2002 for the Expos during his 2nd straight 30-30 campaign. He only missed the 40-40 club by one home run.
Vladimir will also never be confused with the best baserunners in his later years. My brother Clint and I started picking this up in early 2008. Clint started noticing that Vladimir was routinely trying to stretch long singles into doubles only to be picked off at second base. I always remarked to him, “he still thinks he is fast.” What is funny about this is that Vladdy always has a look of disbelief when he is thrown out on the bags. He would follow the out call by quickly twirling his helmet in his gigantic palms, before launching it sidearm towards the dugout about 90 feet away.
During the 2008 summit I had with my 3 brothers and dad, we saw Vladdy play for the Angels in back to back nights at Fenway Park and Old Yankee Stadium. In Fenway, he kicked the baseball around the outfield for the first four innings before he hit a bases loaded single to drive in 2 runs late. This hit helped secure a win for the Angels. Of course he was picked off trying to stretch this single into a double. The next night, while playing right field, Vladimir overthrew the catcher at home by 10 feet trying to throw out a runner. The ball sailed into the seats at Old Yankee Stadium and Vladdy starting throwing his baseball glove in the air. My brother Clint looked at me and laughed his head off before saying, ‘watch Vlad hit a home run in the next inning.’ Sure enough, Vlad crushed a 3 run bomb into deep Left-Center Field off of Phil Hughes. It was Vladdy at his best (good and bad) during the two days.
My brother Clint moved to Dallas, Texas during the 2010 baseball year. I was very envious because he was able to see 20 games at The Ball Park In Arlington with Vladimir in uniform for the Texas Rangers. While he was more a designated hitter than a fielder at that point, I would periodically receive a text from my brother on his antics. Vladimir had an incredible year hitting over .300 with nearly 30 home runs and 115 knocked in for the Rangers. He did struggle at the end of the regular season and throughout the playoffs and in an eventual Rangers World Series loss to the Giants. The only time I saw him play in 2010, I took a date to a game in Safeco Field when the Rangers visited the Mariners. She was not a baseball fan at all, but I mentioned for her to watch when Vladimir Guerrero was at the plate. I told her, “he is going to hit a long base hit and be picked off trying to stretch for 2″. Well, I looked the Amazing Kreskin with my prognostication as he was gunned out yet again do that very thing. To my further delight, he sauntered off the field and back into the dugout after at least a minute of slowly grazing his legs back and forth from second base. The helmet had already been bounced and whipped like a skipping rock.
It reminded me when I saw him swing three practice bats in the on deck circle in Milwaukee during the 2007 opening week. The third bat was a fungal bat with a big weight on it. I love how he has never used batting gloves and holds the bat so close to his head when he swings. He is awesome to watch when he misses the ball outright. In his older years, he has armored up with tensor bandages all over his arms and legs. Lord knows he has fouled off hundreds of baseballs off of his shins. No wonder he can’t run or play the field anymore! You often hear the words: ‘heads up’ when Vladimir scorches a foul ball in any park. Much like Joe Carter did for the Blue Jays fans, he would often serve about a dozen baseballs a game to the left side of the crowd along the third baseline in the form of foul balls. Had the 3rd baseline been 45 more feet to the left, Vlad Guerrero and Joe Carter would both have been two of the most prolific hitters in the history of baseball.
With a lifetime average of .318 with 449 Home runs and 1496 Runs batted in, there is already a spot reserved in Cooperstown for the man. But I truly hope that Vladimir Guerrero still catches on with another team. It is my feeling that he should sign with the Seattle Mariners or the Toronto Blue Jays. Someone should take the chance that he can club 20 home runs and 90 RBIs this year and bat in the .280 range. I mean he has to be better than Edwin Encarnacion, or the brilliant rotation of designated hitters that Seattle can put forth? (Note the sarcasm here). So baseball world, please give us a chance to be entertained this year by the 36-year-old lanky man who still thinks he runs like a 25-year-old. You would at the very least give me something to keep talking to my brother about.
***Thank you to our Baseball Writer- Douglas “Chuck” Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports. To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Chuck Booth, you can follow Chuck on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and you can also follow Chuck’s website for his Guinness Book of World Record Bid to see all 30 MLB Park in 23 days click here or on the 30 MLB Parks in 23 days GWR tracker at the Reports click here. To Purchase or read about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames Book please click here ***
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