Vladimir Guerrero 2007 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for March 14, 2017

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Vladimir Guerrero was the American League MVP in 2004 after having a wonderful season in his first year as a member of the Anaheim Angels. (That’s what they were called back then.)

Angels fans loved him as did the writers and he helped lead the Angels to the AL West title.

Even though he was great and exposed more people to what a wonderful and dynamic player he was, I wished he wasn’t in Anaheim that year. I wish he was in Montreal.

2004 was the last year for the Montreal Expos and Vlady was the last great Expo.

Guerrero was born in the Domincan Republic and was not considered to be much of a prospect. The Dodgers and Rangers passed on him, thinking he was out of shape and undisciplined. Expos scout Fred Ferreria (aka The Shark of the Caribbean) saw something and spent $2000 on the right handed hitter.

Whether those dollars were Canadian or American, it was $2,000 well spent. He skyrocketed through the Expos organization, quickly establishing himself as one of the best prospects in baseball. He made a cameo in Montreal in 1996 and was a Rookie of the Year candidate in 1997, where he was teammates with another Domincan named Pedro Martinez.

As the Expos struggled in the late 1990’s, Guerrero became their biggest star. He hit for a high average, slugged homered, stole bases and had a cannon for an arm. But beyond the numbers, a Vladimir Guerrero at bat was a sight to behold. He swung at EVERYTHING! In the dirt, above his head, inside, outside, he took a hack at it.

But here is the thing… he would HIT it! Vlady was a nightmare for pitchers trying to pitch around him because he did not allow that to be an option. Make him chase outside, it was a double down the line. Bust him inside and he would fist it into left. Pitch it into the dirt and he would golf it into the stands. His strikeout total was shockingly low for such a free swinger.

He got MVP consideration in all of the 6 full seasons in Montreal. Fans began to wonder if a new stadium was around the corner and if Guerrero would be one of the factors to keep the Expos in Quebec.

But in 2002 and 2003, when MLB took over the ownerless team and forced unreasonable financial restrictions on the team, Guerrero would play in front of 3/4 empty houses and indifference by the fans who knew their team was going to move to Washington DC.

But in those years, the Expos were surprising contenders under manager Frank Robinson. Guerrero’s OPS reached above 1.000 and his power kept the team in the hunt into September.

However it was not to be and eventually economic reality for a lame duck franchise was too real. Guerrero signed with the Angels after the 2003 season ended and the Expos were scheduled to play one final year in Montreal before moving to Washington where they would rechristened “The Nationals.”

As Guerrero did it all in Anaheim, leading the league in total bases and runs scored, the Expos stumbled in their final year. The team gave an emotional farewell in their final day before a packed house as Vlady was preparing for the Division Series against Boston.

It didn’t feel right that Guerrero wasn’t there. He was the Expos final hope and who knows what his legacy would have been had the Expos managed to pull off the unlikely Wild Card in 2002 or 2003.

He had two more top 3 MVP finishes in Anaheim, leading them to two ALCS appearances and another Division Title, smacking a dramatic hit to help eliminate the Red Sox in 2009.

In 2010 he played in his only World Series as a member of the Texas Rangers, his last great season. He played 2011 in Baltimore before injuries finally cost him.

His numbers never plummeted. He always hit for a high average and with power. Only his body breaking down caused the end.

Beloved in Montreal and Orange County, he received 71.7% of the Hall of Fame vote his first year on the ballot, making him a lock to make Cooperstown in either 2018 or 2019 at the latest where he will join his former teammate Pedro Martinez.

Both were linked together in Montreal. If baseball ever returns to Quebec, Guerrero will no doubt be honored along side Martinez, Dawson, Raines and the late Gary Carter.

He was the last great Expo. He should have been there for the end.

 

Sully Baseball Salutes David Ortiz

SKIP MILOS

SKIP MILOS

I got a little flak from some Red Sox fans for not picking David Ortiz in Who Owns Baseball for yesterday’s action.

Forgive me. I felt that Jose Bautista getting on base 7 times during a double header, hitting a pair of homers, scoring 4 and driving in 5 against the Yankees merited the honor.

But don’t for a nanosecond thing I am disrespecting Mr. Ortiz in the slightest. Ortiz is, was and always will be one of my favorite players in Red Sox history. I love the big guy and am so happy he has reached the milestone of 500 homers.

Sure, 500 home run celebrations are not what they used to be. Only 27 men have ever hit 500 homers. From the 19th century to 1995, there were 14 players with 500 homers. 13 players have hit 500 since 1995. So when the total has nearly doubled in 20 years, it starts to be a diluted celebration.

And yes, I know there are, ahem, suspicions about Papi and a failed test. I was ahead of the curve on that. I called out reasons to be suspicious of Ortiz in 2009 BEFORE the test came out.

And yeah, he can be a bit of a diva.

But hey, to paraphrase Ortiz, this is OUR FUCKING roided up Diva!

There is no way to calculate the happiness that he has given Sox fans over the years. How insane is his highlight reel?

He hit a 10th inning walk off homer to clinch the 2004 Division Series over the Angels. He is in the rare company of players to end a series with a homer. And there is no way that homer cracks the top 5 of great Papi Red Sox moments!

Between the back to back walk off hits in the 2004 ALCS, the underrated crowd silencing homer in Game 7 of that same series, the countless hits and homers in 2013 and stirring the crowd post bombing at Fenway, David Ortiz has been the Pied Piper of happiness for Boston.

And how wonderful in the post Yawkey era of Red Sox baseball that after years of being the most close minded and racially shameful organization in baseball that the face of the team is a dark skinned Dominican Player?

Congrats to Papi from one of your biggest fans and supporters. And a firm middle finger to anyone who says he should not be celebrated.

(Any Yankee fan who wants to chirp about PED use, I will ask how you enjoyed the Andy Pettitte number retirement ceremony and today’s salute to A-Rod.)

500 homers is an accomplishment worth saluting.

But Papi’s trail of happiness is a non stop party!

Houston Astros: 15 Most Painful Postseason Losses

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The Astros surprising season hit a speed bump before the All Star Break. But they are just 1 game back heading into late July, better than anyone’s expectations for 2015. The team remains one of the few organizations to have never won a World Series in their lifetime (which began in 1962 as the Houston Colt .45s.)

And along the way, they have lost some of the most heartbreaking games in baseball history.

Great pitching chances squandered. The winning run stranded on base. Runners being picked off. Odd bullpen decisions. Eight extra-inning losses.

A bounce here in 1980, a carom there in 1986, an extra hop in 1999, a pop up in 2004 or an RBI in 2005 and who knows? The Astros might have a few World Series banners flying.

These are the 15 most painful playoff losses in the history of the team.

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