By Glen McKee and Nate Trop, AngelsWin.com Senior Point/Counterpoint Correspondence –
There’s an internet rumor that Vlad Guerrero, otherwise known as “Valdy” by some spelling challenged posters on AngelsWin.com, said at Angels spring training camp that if he is elected to the Hall of Fame that he’ll “probably” wear an Angels cap since there is no longer a team in Montreal.
While that is horrible logic, it opens up another PCP debate: should Vlad wear an Angels cap if he gets elected to the HOF?
Go Expos! – Glen
First off, a confession of sorts. The Angels have been my favorite team since I got interested in baseball back in 1979. I remember listening to Bob Starr call the games and I was hooked. As I learned more about baseball I adopted a second team. It had to be an NL team because an AL team would be playing against my beloved Angels. That team was the Expos. If I’d been exposed to them first they may have become my team. They played in an exotic foreign country, they had a goofy yet cool logo, and they were just different. The Expos were the farm system for the rest of the league, developing stars and trading them to other teams for peanuts or losing them to free agency. They were like the Cubs but north of the border. It was through rooting for them that I first saw Valdy Guerrero. There was no other player like him at the time. I was so glad he was on the Expos.
After the 2003 season he became a free agent and I was sad because a) I knew the Expos wouldn’t re-sign him and 2) there was no way the Angels would get him. He was destined to go to the Yankees and give me another reason to hate them, not that I needed one more. And then, on January 12, 2004, I had my second-favorite Angels memory ever: Valdy signed with the Angels.
It was a shock. Despite what I said about the Yankees, he wasn’t interested in them; the Orioles and the Mets were his leading suitors. I was, in a word, amazed. No other free-agent signing ever came close. Vlad was coming to the Angels!
He was great on the team, earning an MVP award, and even signed a one-day contract to retire as an Angel. With that in mind it makes sense for him to wear an Angels cap if he goes to the HOF. But, I disagree. First off, if you go to baseballreference.com and check his stats, this is the picture you see:
You get the picture, pun intended. Vlad was with the Expos for eight years and played with them for six full seasons. His first two seasons he played in 9 and 90 games, respectively. He played six full seasons in Anaheim, or Los Angeles South.
I want an Angels cap in the HOF, I really do. I just don’t think it should be Valdy wearing it. In my mind, Valdy is more of an Expo than he is an Angel. Think of it this way: if, after his current contract is up Mike Trout (heaven forfend) decides to go to New York or Philadelphia and plays an equal amount of seasons there, and then a few more for another team before retiring, would you want him wearing one of those other teams’ caps to the HOF? I’ll answer that for ya: no. Mike Trout is an Angel and he belongs to them, unless he plays 10 years for some other team, curse me for even mentioning it. That’s how I feel about Vlad. He should wear an Expos cap to the HOF. Someday, the Angels will get their player there.
F#@$ Glen and F^&@* the Expos… Go Angels! – Nate
Baseball writers seem to have this love affair with the Expos; we are constantly reminded on twitter or the TV who the last remaining Expos are in MLB. This sentiment has also bled into HOF discussions as MLB writers and pundits are desperate to get another Expos hat into the HOF with Carter and Dawson. These journalists hang on to the Expos like that hot ex-girlfriend that dumped them and now they’re semi-stalking her around town just to get another glimpse.
A quick look at Valdy’s baseball-reference page shows that he never once made it to the playoffs as a member of the Expos. As a member of the Angels he made it five out of the six years he was with the team. He carried the team on his back in an epic 2004 MVP season, his first with the Angels, reinvigorating the Angels fan base after a disastrous 2003 World Series hangover season. Valdy came in and lead the Angels to 92 wins, an improvement of 15 wins from the previous season and a trip back to the ALDS. In fact, even in the lone season the Angels didn’t make the playoffs they still managed 89 wins, the lowest win total while Valdy was an Angel. The remaining win totals: 95, 94, 100, and 97.
Today we get the pleasure of watching Mike Trout play baseball, a Phenom that you can’t take your eyes off of and don’t get me wrong, I realize how lucky we are to have him, but Valdy was even more exciting to watch. You never knew if he was going to golf a pitch that bounced four feet in front of the plate into right field, or if he was going to gun someone out at the plate from the warning track, or hit a Roberto Clemente like opposite field home run on a pitch at his eyeballs. Sure he could also strike out on a pitch thrown five feet wide, so wide it could be scored as a pick-off attempt, he could air mail his throw so far over the catchers head that it ended up in the FSW broadcast box, and sure he mostly struggled in the playoffs, but the excitement of watching him play was unparalleled. Add that with his infectious smile, and his Aybar like goofiness, he was a superstar that you just couldn’t take your eyes off of.
Then, finally, you had the 2009 ALDS against the hated Red Sox that had repeatedly beaten up on the Angels in the playoffs. Most recently Valdy’s Angels had been swept by Boston in 2004 and 2007, and lost three games to one in 2008. Angels fans everywhere were dreading the 2009 matchup with Boston, the playoff beat downs had been so bad it was hard to be optimistic. Then the Angels took the first two games at home and rode into Boston with a two game lead and some confidence, but the game quickly went south, with the Angels down 5-2 in the top of the 8th it felt like if the Angels lost this game that was it, they would be swept in Boston and then lose it in Anaheim, another year and another ALDS beating by Boston. However the first miracle happened, Valdy walked!!! Later driven in by Juan (not the one that stole the glove) Rivera and suddenly it is 5-4 and the Angels are back in it! After Jepsen came in and served up his usual assortment of bad pitches, surrendering a run, the Angels entered the top of the 9th needing two runs to at least tie it and survive into the bottom of the 9th… Two quick outs by Izturis and Matthews left hope all but gone against one of the most feared closers in baseball, Jonathan Papelbon. Aybar (I miss you my sweet prince!) singled and stole second, Figgins walked and Abreu doubled off of the Green Monster driving in a run and the Angels were down one run with two outs. A Torii Hunter intentional walk brought Valdy up with the bases loaded and the chance to put the Angels ahead and finally slay the Red Sox and then it happened!
Valdy lined one into CF driving in two and the Angels suddenly had the lead, all of his playoff struggles were forgotten, the Angels got the last three outs and swept the Red Sux, it is my second favorite Angels memory other than the World Series.
Since you can’t go over the history of baseball in the 00s without discussing the success of the Angels, and you cannot discuss the success of the Angels without Valdy, I believe he has to enter the Hall as an Angel. He changed the Angels franchise from just another small market team to a powerhouse that was always in the playoff discussion. Sure Arte spent a lot of money, but if not for that first big signing he never would have enjoyed this success. I really believe that if Valdy didn’t become an Angel in 2004, the Angels would have sunk right back into mediocrity and never would have enjoyed the success they had in the 00s.
This is the first Angels Hall of Famer right here: