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Thursday, January 19, 2012
Is Vladimir Guerrero near the end of his career?

By Mark Saxon

Arguably the greatest all-time Angels hitter still is without work and, unless the New York Yankees or Detroit Tigers or some other team searching for a bat comes calling soon, Vladimir Guerrero may not have a uniform in 2012.

It's a little sad, isn't it?

Of all the brilliant players I've covered since 1998, including Barry Bonds and Miguel Tejada, Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi in their primes, nobody was more fun to watch on a daily basis than Vlad. His style was unique. Everything he did on the baseball field was exciting, usually to his team's benefit, sometimes for the other team.

He got base hits on balls that bounced. Nobody else, at least since Yogi Berra, did that. He threw out guys at first base on routine singles to right. Not a lot of guys do that. He hit home runs on curveballs three inches off the plate. Who else does that?

In talking to Mike Scioscia last year for a story on all-time Southern California home run hitters, Scioscia gave Vlad the nod over Mike Piazza. Scioscia said he had never seen a player swing as violently and yet make such consistently good contact. In the history of baseball, there might not have been a hitter with better hand-eye coordination.

Scioscia had to do a lot of apologizing for Guerrero, too. He routinely airmailed cutoff men. He sometimes made base running blunders that would have made Little League coaches cringe.

And he might be the first player to enter the Hall of Fame as an Angel. It's worth reflecting on as spring training approaches and Guerrero waits at his palatial home overlooking the house he grew up in at a small Dominican village and waits for the phone to ring.