Is there any chance that you will look back, ten years from now, and recall exactly where you were, or what you were doing when the marriage of Vladimir Guerrero and the Baltimore Orioles spread throughout the sports world?
While the addition of this sure-fire Hall Of Famer stands to benefit the Orioles in so many distinct ways, the blunt reality is Guerrero is a short-term fix and benefit for the ballclub …. and I’m okay with that.
For the past couple months, I’ve been publicly lobbying for this acquisition. And, as the weeks toward Spring Training have dwindled, my plea has been getting louder. It’s an ideal fit for both sides – Guerrero is a lifetime .333 hitter at Camden Yards, and the Orioles sorely needed his lethal stick.
Yeah, I’ve heard the rumblings about the slugger being “over the hill” and an “injury risk”, as well as his perceived lack of appeal to other clubs – especially as camps are set to open in just a couple weeks.
To those who bemoan this signing, I’ll simply question your knowledge of Vlad Guerrero, as well as the intimacies of baseball ….
Oh, and let’s not forget the folks who decry Guerrero’s signing as a figurative BLOCK of Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold. Are you serious? Welcome to the big leagues, bunk. The truth is Pie and Reimold have BLOCKED THEMSELVES.
Both players have garnered opportunities, and while they haven’t necessarily squandered such chances, they haven’t seized them, either. It can be a cruel business – produce or else.
So, let’s take a quick look at the supposed liabilities involved in bringing one of the greatest hitters of the past decade, to Baltimore …..
OVER THE HILL
Guerrero is coming off a season that yielded a .300 batting average, with 29 homers, 115 runs batted in and 83 runs scored. And, these statistics were not an aberration – he has batted under .300 just once, since 1997.
But, perhaps, the most telling fact from last season was Guerrero’s .320 batting clip with runners in scoring position. Ironically, this is also his career average with RISP, as well.
If he’s “over the hill”, just give me a few more geezers …..
This is undoubtedly the biggest misconception and overblown worry about Vlad Guerrero. Yeah, he missed 60 games, in 2009. Players get injured, but Guerrero has played in 140+ games, per season, in 7 of 8 years. And, he has played in 140+ games in 11 of his 13 full Major League seasons.
But, since we’re talking about injury risks, let’s bring Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold back into the discussion …..
In his half dozen pro seasons, Reimold has spent time on the disabled list in 5 of them. Got that? He’s been on the DL in 5 of 6 seasons. In fact, Reimold has played in 130+ games in just 3 of his 6 pro years.
As for Pie, he has been injured in 3 of his last 6 pro seasons, and he has played in 130+ games, just twice in those 6 years. Of course, some of his missed time was simply attributed to poor performance.
That said, if we’re talking about “injury risks”, it’s a pretty safe argument to suggest Vlad Guerrero has been a much healthier option than the two players he’s likely to deprive of playing time. And, he doesn’t ride the bench for less than stellar production.
LACK OF APPEAL AMONG OTHER CLUBS
This was absolutely the most humorous of the assertions against bring Guerrero to Camden Yards. Indeed, I’ve heard those who’ve proclaimed “nobody else wants him …. that should say something.” You’re right, it does.
Guerrero is pretty much limited to designated hitter duties. Thus, every National League club is eliminated from the discussion. To compound his narrowed opportunities, only a handful of American League teams entered this past off-season needing to fill the DH slot.
The Twins and Rays went with cheaper options, in Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. And, the Rangers wanted to upgrade their defense at 3rd base, which relegated Michael Young to DH, with the acquisition of Adrian Beltre.
That really left the Orioles and Mariners as likely obscure options. Both teams had the designated hitter role filled, but they could’ve improved with some position jockeying, by adding a player of Guerrero’s caliber.
Finally, I really want to address the naysayers who’ve reasoned “DOES VLAD GUERRERO MAKE THE ORIOLES A PLAYOFF CONTENER?” Well, that really is a great unknown, huh? Conventional wisdom suggests that he probably doesn’t raise the team to such lofty expectations – but the games are played on the field, not the blogs.
Regardless of even a modern day version of “Murderers Row”, any team will realize success based on their pitching. However, Guerrero’s presence in the lineup makes the team better, in both tangible and intangible ways.
He makes the Orioles lineup much more formidable – his .320 batting average, with runners in scoring position, dwarfs the .246 mark achieved by batters in the cleanup spot for the Orioles, last season. He’s a bonafide run producing hitter.
Along with Derrek Lee, Guerrero will provide Nick Markakis with protection he’s never enjoyed. Plus, given Brian Roberts’ and Markakis’ knack for working walks and stellar baserunning, Guerrero will most definitely have his RBI opportunities.
In mentioning, Roberts and Markakis, do you realize they’ve never played for a winning team at the big league level? Together, these guys have played 1,980 games in an Orioles uniform and they’ve never been part of a winning season.
Vladimir Guerrero can change that …..
He might not be the piece that leads the Orioles back to the postseason, but he makes the lineup and team substantially better. If Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis taste winning for the first time, it might translate their game to another level.
The same can be said for the younger players, such as Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta. Having them exposed to WINNING at an early stage of their careers could prove invaluable for years to come.
So, for those who decry the Guerrero acquisition as a blocking of Reimold, Pie or anyone else, I say HOGWASH. I don’t want to hear the foundational excuse about “being ready to win”.
If you’re not ready to win, than you’re ready to lose.
I applaud the Orioles for getting this deal wrapped up. Perhaps, they overpaid to get their man. We knew such a reality faced this organization, on the heels of 13 consecutive losing seasons, right?
Welcome to Baltimore, Vlad. Most of us are happy you’re here …..