The Angels came within a whisker of getting into the World Series despite a hobbled Vladimir Guerrero having his worst year of a great career. It has become painful to watch Vlad play. It is obvious that he can barely walk, never mind run. 2009 was only the second time in the last twelve years that Guerrero did not reach 600 plate appearances. It was the first time in 12 years that he did not hit at least 25 homers. He had his lowest OBP and Slugging Percentage of his career. The Angels felt they needed a change, so they exchanged one creaky hitter with another and Hideki Matsui.
One can hardly blame the Angels. But don't count on Vladimir Guerrero being done hitting the ball with authority. He now goes to a Texas Rangers club that hits half the time in a very hitter-friendly park. He goes to a club that is the underdog and he won't have the pressure to be the "top dog" for a team that goes to the playoffs every year. He may thrive in Texas and put up good numbers there as the DH.
Watching Guerrero now reminds the viewer of past greats who faced the same wheel troubles. Tony Oliva, Andre Dawson and Orlando Cepeda come to mind. And Guerrero might be a better hitter than all of them. Oliva had one of the sweetest swings in history and won a batting title in his rookie year. He had less power though. Andre Dawson had better speed, but Guerrero beats him on everything else. Cepeda is in the Hall of Fame and Guerrero has better power, a higher batting average, higher on-base percentage and is clearly the better of the two.
All those guys had useful and productive years far after they started walking with a pronounced limp. If two of the three of those guys are in the HOF, then Guerrero needs to be in that discussion when he is done, especially if he can play productively for another three or four years.
Vladimir Guerrero has probably not gotten his due over the years for his excellence. Credit that mainly to playing all those years in Montreal when nobody was watching. But his career OPS of 954 and his career batting average of .321 tell a huge story. He is over 400 homers now and few people know what a great fielder he was before his wheels left him. His 125 career assists from the outfield give a good story of how great he was and despite the last few years when he couldn't run, his Runs over League Average as a fielder are still in the positive numbers for his career.
It's too bad really, that Vlad the Impaler only got national attention and regular television coverage after his best years. All today's fans will remember are the gimpy gate of what used to be a thoroughbred. If you were to poll the average baseball fan and ask them about Guerrero, they will probably remember his reputation of swinging at anything. But the guy has a .386 lifetime On Base Percentage with almost 700 walks. The guy never got to shine in the spotlight when he was at his best.
It is hoped that he has a great year in Texas and solid years for the remainder of what has been a wonderful career.