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The 100 Greatest Angels: #16 Vladimir Guerrero

#16 Vladimir Guerrero, RF

Career Stats

He has only had 1,274 Plate Appearances as an Angel but Vladimir Guerrero has already had two of the best offensive seasons of any Angel player, both of which led to Division titles. He was voted the American League MVP in 2004, only the 2nd Angel to receive that honor. That season saw him as a Triple Crown threat well into August. While the low sample size of his games played as an Angel preclude him from the Franchise Top Ten, he sure seems headed that way. Many Angels have put together a great season, a few have had multiple masterstroke 162-game frames. But Vlad is the only man who carried the team to the promised land twice.

Chief among his accomplishments has to be the final week of the 2004 season, an improbably comeback over Oakland courtesy of a road trip through Texas. In the crucial 7-game stretch, Vlad belted six homeruns. Even the East-Coast centered national media had to interrupt their Yanksox circle jerk and take notice of Vlad?s accomplishment. If there is any tarnish, it is in his 2005 postseason disappearance (contrasted with his Grand Slam in the 2004 ALCS that brought he Angels back from the brink, if only for a little while) and his often ill-advised basepath aggressiveness, although seeing go from 2nd base to home on a BUNT in 2005 was a benchmark (not that the Angels? lousy broadcasts ever had a clear view of this feat).

While he hasn?t had the requisite 2,000 Plate Appearances to gage his team stats as an Angel, his single season accomplishments are awesome:

Batted .337 in 2004 (3rd best Angel single season)
Slugged .598 in ?04 and .565 in ?05 (2nd and 5th best Angel s/s)
OPS .989 in ?04 and .959 in ?05 (3rd, 6th)
124 Runs in 2004 (1st)
206 Hits in 2004 (2nd)
366 Total Bases in 2004 (Tied for 1st)
39 Doubles in 2004 (Tied for 8th)
39 Homeruns in 2004 (Tied for 3rd)
126 RBI in 2004 (3rd)
156 and 154 Adjusted OPS+ in ?04 and ?05 (4th and 6th, only Angel to appear twice in the Franchise Single Season Top Ten)

And talk about respect, Vlad has 40 Intentional Walks as an Angel. Reggie Jackson had 47 ? in almost 1,500 more Angel Plate Appearances.

With three years on his contract left, Vlad has a clear shot at #1 on this list, and all he would have to do in those seasons to have a shot at it is to simply, BE VLAD.

Rob McMillin of the 6-4-2 L.A. Baseball Blog has the Vladiation Files for us...

Back in the days when Hollywood had such a thing as a star system, people got "discovered" in all kinds of odd places, the most famous of which was Schwab's Drugstore, where Lana Turner supposedly turned up. Of course, it wasn't true, but when did Hollywood care more for the truth than a good story? I say this by way of introduction for today's player, Vladimir Guerrero. Vlad almost became a Dodger; the team had the chance to sign him as a youth, electing instead to sign his brother, Wilton, instead, who had a weak career as a reserve player. Instead, the Montreal Expos signed Vlad as a 17-year-old; he arrived in the big club three years later in 1996, but really came into his own in 1997, when he hit .302/.350/.483 in his first full year with the club.

He never looked back, batting .300 or better every single year, reliably hitting 30+ home runs a season, save for his 2003 season, in which back injuries limited him to 112 games. Yet thanks to playing in front of empty houses in Montreal, Vlad was still something of an unknown. Nonetheless, he appeared in all but two All Star games (2001 and 2003) since 1999, and bringing home Silver Slugger awards those same years as well. By 2003, Guerrero was by far the biggest free agent name in the offseason, but thanks to his fresh injury, the number of takers was relatively thin. His former team, Montreal, was owned by MLB and not in a position to make him a realistic offer. The Mets were chary after their experience with Mo Vaughn. The Dodgers -- a team in clear need of offense -- made a bid on the slugger, but Bud Selig warned prospective owner Frank McCourt that any attempt to sign Vlad before the sale of the team was complete would possibly threaten his purchase of the team, a debt-heavy deal that the Times reported as violating MLB's debt service rule. The Dodgers withdrew their bid, and the the Angels swooped in at the last minute in January, 2004, signing Vlad to a five-year, $70 million deal.

To say Vlad delivered is an understatement. Once in an Angels uniform, Vlad got his first league MVP award, powered by a dramatic final week of the 2004 season. With Oakland playing at Anaheim two games ahead in the AL West, Vlad poured on the power, hitting .357/.594/1.286 over the last seven games of the season, smashing six home runs in crucial road games against Texas and Oakland, helping the Angels surpass the A's in the standings, beating the A's on their home turf to win the division. His postseason that year was less than impressive, though, hitting only a meek .167 against Boston pitching.

Vlad's 2005 was in many ways similar to his 2003 season, except that he played more and his downtime was due largely to a shoulder injury rather than his back. His 2005 postseason once again was a disappointment, and it is widely speculated that he was not healthy at the time. With three years left on his contract, Vlad's place in Angels lore appears to be secure, and he figures large in the second golden era of Angels baseball.