By Victor A. Rodriguez
“Numbers don’t lie.” It’s a phrase espoused by business men, sports nuts, even the man on the street. Well with 16 years in Major League Baseball; nine All-Star appearances; eight seasons of 30 plus home runs; helping a team win five AL West Titles; and one AL MVP award it’s clear Vladimir Guerrero’s numbers don’t lie. In fact, they helped Guerrero enter the Hall of Fame in 2018.
"There have been so many Dominicans who have played in the big leagues, so I hope the number keeps growing soon... I'm happy that we can keep making our country proud. "
Yet, in this case, the numbers don’t tell the complete story of Vladimir Guerrero either. Born on February 5, 1975 in Nazio, Dominican Republic baseball was in the Guerrero family DNA. One of nine children, Guerrero is the younger brother of ex-major leaguer Wilton Guerrero, cousin of minor leaguer Christian Guerrero and has a son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who currently plays for Toronto Blue Jays.
Guerrero’s foray into the game came when he was given an initial given a look by the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. At the time they were prospecting his older brother. The Dodgers ultimately took a pass on Vladimir, however, the Montreal Expos did not. At the tender age of 18 years old, they signed Guerrero for a mere $2,000.
Guerrero rose quickly through the Expos' farm system and reached the Majors in September 1996. The following year he broke out, with a slash line of .324/.371/.589 with 38 home runs, 109 RBIs and 37 doubles. Guerrero would call Montreal home for eight seasons before signing as a free agent with the Anaheim Angels, where he would play for an additional five.
However, if there is a phrase that can appropriately summarize Guerrero, it’s probably “I can do bad all by myself.” By that we mean that Guerrero was infamous for being able to swing at the worst of pitches and still turn them into base hits and even home runs. He infamously hit a ball that bounced in the dirt before arriving at home plate and still turned it into a base hit. A testament to his second to none hand-eye coordination. Guerrero’s manager on the Angels, said of Guerrero "I've never been around a player that took his 'A' swing so often and swung the bat so hard, but yet squared the ball up so consistently more than Vlad," Scioscia told said in an interview with MLB Network Radio. "This guy was a machine at home plate."
It was all this and more that resulted in Guerrero becoming a Hall of Famer and only the third player from the Dominican Republic in the Hall joining baseball greats Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez. Yet, perhaps the comment which is most indicative of why Guerrero is official HOF is when he told MLB.com, “There have been so many Dominicans who have played in the big leagues, so I hope the number keeps growing soon with David Ortiz, [Adrian] Beltre and [Albert] Pujols. I'm happy that we can keep making our country proud."
Like we said, the numbers don’t tell the entire story of the man.