I’m not 100% certain that Vlad Guerrero would make the Hall of Fame if he retired today. He probably should, but after spending his entire career playing in obscurity and/or the west coast, one wonders if he looms as large in the minds of Hall of Fame voters as his accomplishments warrant. But let’s say he does make the Hall. What cap does he wear? That’s the question Bill Shaikin asks:
Guerrero won his only Most Valuable Player award with the Angels in 2004. He has made his only playoff appearances with the Angels, with one home run in 75 at-bats, one run batted in his last playoff 63 at-bats and no trips to the World Series.
He has four All-Star appearances with the Expos, four with the Angels. He is the Expos’ franchise leader in batting average and home runs. He played more years in Montreal, with more runs, hits, home runs and RBIs for the Expos than for the Angels. Give him two more years in Anaheim, and he’ll have more runs, hits and RBIs for the Angels.
Hall caps are more about accurately reflecting history than anything else, and the raw stats don’t always matter. Look at Reggie. He won more World Series championships and had his best individual seasons with the A’s, but there he is in Cooperstown wearing a Yankees’ cap. And that makes sense, because when we think of Reggie, we think of Reggie the Yankee. At least those of us (a) outside of the Bay Area; and (b) under the age of 45 do.
To me Vlad Guerrero will always be an Expo. Yes, he has that MVP and has been in the playoffs and on TV more as an Angel, but when I think of him, I think of him in an Expos uniform. That’s where he played his most electrifying baseball. It’s where he burst into our consciousness.
Guerrero is a DH now, and he’s almost certainly on the downswing of his career. Unless he has some late-career Reggie-in-the-1977-World Series moment in Anaheim, I can’t see my mind changing about him, and I tend to think that the folks at the Hall of Fame will feel the same way. Assuming, of course, they get the chance to consider him.