It wasn’t so long ago that Vladimir Guerrero was quietly grumbling about having to occasionally mix in at the designated hitter spot for the Angels. Now Guerrero should be thanking those poor misguided fools who allowed the DH to come into existence in the American League all those years ago because without it, Guerrero might not have much of a career at all right now.
Last year, everyone was readying Vlad’s career eulogy due to a myriad of health issues that slowed him down, limiting him to his worst year since his rookie season (if only we could all be so lucky as to have .303 avg, 27 HR and 91 RBIs be considered a poor year). This year, the final year of his contract, was shaping up to be Vladimir Guerrero’s extended farewell tour to Angel fans since so many assumed his battered knees had finally reduced him to him to a shell of his former self. The end of Vlad looked to be coming even sooner than expected when he injured his pectoral muscle in Spring Training, slowing his bat speed down to glacial levels, rendering him about as useful to the Angels as a eunuch at an orgy.
We have a Vlad down. I repeat, we have a Vlad down.
But lo and behold, something totally crazy and unexpected happened when Vlad was activated from the disabled list. No, not Mike Scioscia inexplicably batting his beleaguered slugger fourth despite every logical notion against it; that was, sadly, very much expected. The shocking development was that Vlad actually started hitting again. The combination of off-season knee surgery and extended time off to nurse his chest injury had rejuvenated Vladimir’s body. Vlad the Impaler was back! But could it last? Well, it should have, but Mike Scioscia foolishly ran Vlad out in right field one day only to see him tweak his knee making a routine play. How was it not painfully obvious that DHing was the only way to keep Vladimir healthy enough to perform at peak level?
The designated hitter is made for guys like Vladimir Guerrero, guys who can’t field anymore due to shaky health or a shaky glove (or both in the case of Vlad in recent years). Back in the day, Vlad was a fine fielder, but all those years of running around in Montreal’s Stade Olympique on the concrete floor it called a field have turned his knee cartilage into dust. Just watching him take the field last year made my knees hurt. Just look at last year when Guerrero’s body started breaking down. When Vladi played the field, his OPS was .850, but when he DH’d, as much as he claimed to hate it, his OPS was a whopping .969. Don’t mess with something if it ain’t broken. It isn’t like Guerrero is a defensive upgrade or anything, so you only lose by putting him in the field. What’s so hard about this?
No, I don’t want to go back in the field! Vlad only hits now!
Super Vlad has taken his game to a whole new level since coming back from that minor knee injury, sporting an absolutely bonkers 1.230 OPS in 13 games, and it shouldn’t be a surprise since Guerrero has now been officially banned from taking the field, so now there isn’t even a chance that he wears himself out so much as shagging balls in practice. Now the Angels aren’t talking about how to give Vlad a warm sendoff into the twilight of his career, but instead wondering just how much they are going to have to spend to keep him in Angel Red. Anybody who told you before the season that we’d be talking about how much the Angels need to re-sign Vlad was, well, probably non-existent since absolutely nobody was saying that, but now it is a real problem for the Angels and one they are happy to have for what looks like a few more years to come.