FIRE JOE MORGAN: Vladimir Guerrero Is A No Good, Choking, Gutless Wonder


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Friday, October 05, 2007


Vladimir Guerrero Is A No Good, Choking, Gutless Wonder

If Bill Plaschke had his way, the Wall Street Journal would've led off with that headline Thursday in Man Walks On Moon-sized font.

For years we've heard the same chorus from sportswriters: it's tough to perform in big media markets. The bright lights of New York City, the simmering cauldron of Boston, the savage beat writers of Milwaukee -- they crush a man's spirit and impair his ability to throw, hit and catch baseballs.

I've never particularly bought into this school of thought, but Plaschke is espousing an interesting, totally contradictory new theory: Vladimir Guerrero doesn't get enough shit for playing poorly in the playoffs, and this lack of blame is ruining his game. Serious.

No one's blaming Vladimir

Important because, as we shall see, pointing fingers and blaming players makes them good at baseball. It's common sense.

The superstar has failed to carry the weight of his team, but teammates, his manager and fans give him a pass. Such is not the case for Yankees' Alex Rodriguez.

It's funny. I see that Vlad has a career post-season line of .204/.259/.259 and I think to myself, "Hey, self, you're probably right in thinking that A-Rod is unfairly blamed for performing poorly in a small post-season sample size. Another great hitter, Vlad, whom no one thinks is a choker, is just as terrible if not worse in the playoffs." Plaschke thinks to himself, "You are the handsomest sportswriter in America. You are a poet, and you have a great natural musk. Also, holy shit, let's crucify the team's best player!"

BOSTON -- On one coast, a superstar entered these playoffs with four hits in his last 41 postseason at-bats, and he's never allowed to forget it.

Yes, and it's moronic. We've been through this.

On the other coast, a superstar entered these playoffs with nine hits in his last 50 postseason at-bats, and everyone seems to have forgotten about it.

Reasonable. Let's not forget that many of those at bats were against absolutely unconscious pitchers. Want to hear something trivial and yet amazing? In their last five playoff games, the Angels have met with five consecutive complete games. It's true. Remember that 2005 ALCS with Buehrle, Garland, Garcia and Contreras pitching out of their minds? And then there was Beckett on Wednesday.

If Alex Rodriguez is seriously considering leaving the chill of New York for the warmth of the Angels this winter, the most convincing argument would be the treatment of his counterpart, Vladimir Guerrero.

Of course. Sure. Agree with that. People aren't being idiots about a sampling of five or six games.

Both men have recently struggled in October, yet only Rodriguez has taken the fall.

Both men have failed to carry the weight of their teams or their contracts, yet only Rodriguez has been held publicly accountable for it.

Rodriguez is chided by his manager, questioned by his teammates and booed by his fans.

And what we've heard repeatedly, had bored into our heads is that this is bad for him. He doesn't like it. Can't handle it. He's weak. And yet you are proposing we do the exact same thing to Vlad.

Guerrero just keeps smiling and swinging and disappearing.

This is just an odd way to talk about a guy who has carried the Angels' offense on his back for so many years now. I mean, come on. I know Plaschke's talking about the playoffs, but honestly: Vlad's EqAs with the Angels over the past few seasons are .327, .318 .335 and .334. He's a yearly MVP candidate. Now you're angry that he smiles too much in the playoffs? You're a pretty dicked up guy, Bill.

It happened again in the Angels' 4-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday in the first game of the division series.

Would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that what Josh Beckett did two days ago was one of the best post-season pitching performances by anyone, ever. 19 straight retired. No extra-base hits. No walks. And that doesn't even begin to convey his utter dominance.

Guerrero hacked at 11 of 14 pitches and managed two singles. Even though that was half of his team's output against Josh Beckett, it wasn't enough to make a dent in Guerrero's October angst.

You're criticizing a guy for going 2-4 in the face of one of the all-time great playoff games by a pitcher. Think for just one goddamn second about that.

In four seasons since joining the Angels, he has dragged them into three postseasons, but stumbled once they arrived.

In 14 postseason games, he has one extra-base hit. He has driven in runs on exactly three hits. He has twice as many double-play grounders (two) as home runs (one).

He has a career .204 postseason average, more than 100 points lower than the October average of former Angels hero Troy Glaus, whose void he needs to replace for the Angels to return to that glory.

His playoff numbers are atrocious. They also represent 54 at bats. In his other 2313 at bats as an Angel, he has been splendiferous, wonderbarfuelous, and a whole bunch of other made-up words. Which do you trust more? Don't answer that. I know what you're going to say because you are an insane person. He is one gajillion times the player Troy Glaus is (unless we're talking about super-roided up Glaus).

Yet ask the manager, and Mike Scioscia is kind.

"We have to be more than Vlad," he said.

Ask the players, and Chone Figgins is defensive.

"It's not just Vlad, we all have home runs in us," he said.

Fine answers. Level-headed men. No histrionic finger-pointing or funny nicknames incorporating the word "choke" and several hyphens.

Ask Vlad, and he is, well, Vlad.

"I feel really good," he said through an interpreter, smiling under his curls.

That ASSHOLE! Why won't people call out this total dick!

Nobody will say it. Nobody will point fingers. Not here. No way.

It's part of an Angels' culture created by Scioscia and spread by the likes of Troy Percival and Darin Erstad.

Nobody is bigger than the team. Not in victory, and not in defeat. No visible scapegoats. No public doghouse.

Aren't pointing fingers, scapegoating and doghousing usually considered bad things by traditionalists like Plaschke? I'm so confused. How could Darin Erstad be wrong about anything? He played college football once.

But Guerrero is different. He is the quietest of Angels, impervious to peer expectations, available to batting coach Mickey Hatcher only through an interpreter, a childlike hitting savant who may not even own a mirror.

How dare he not speak English as well as Darin Erstad? Also, here's an aside -- is there something vaguely patronizing about calling someone a "childlike savant"? I feel like I hear this all the time about Manny Ramirez too. Isn't it possible that Vlad and Manny worked like crazy to develop their hitting skills instead of magically being gifted with hitting-savantism from the womb?

Would anyone have called Joe DiMaggio a "childlike savant"? Cal Ripken?

The Angels have talked to him about being more selective in the postseason, where each at-bat is magnified.

"I always swing hard," he responded to reporters. "I'll continue to swing hard."

I don't know. That quote seems like you're trying to make him sound like a moron, but maybe a guy who has a career OPS+ of 148 over 6076 at bats knows something about how he hits best.

Guerrero should be more relaxed tonight when he leaves the bench as a designated hitter and returns to right field, his sore right elbow having apparently healed.

"I played the outfield for years in the National League, I am more comfortable there," he said.

But maybe he is too comfortable. Maybe, after all those years on all those losing Montreal Expos teams, he has never quite learned that October runs at a different speed.

Ah yes, Expo AIDS. If you've ever played so much as a single inning for the Expos, you immediately contract an incurable strain of E-AIDS. Primary symptom: an inability to understand the "speed" of October baseball. October baseball isn't about hitting or pitching or fielding. It's about hitting start and stop on a stopwatch as fast as you can. My record is 0.04 seconds. Beat it. I dare you.

"We need a different energy this time of year," Hatcher said. "This is when you have to turn it up."

That is the most unhelpful thing I've ever heard a coach say.

Maybe Guerrero has not yet figured out that October is a time for adjustments. Maybe he doesn't look around enough to understand that everyone else is making them.

Bill Plaschke: Vlad, it's October 1st. Don't you think it's about time to make a ton of adjustments to your game?

Vladimir Guerrero: Who are you, sir?

BP: It's me, Bill Plaschke. Sentence fragment paragraph guy.

VG: Oh, right. Or should I say:



Ha ha!

BP: Anyway, why don't you try widening your stance, like Pujols? Or wearing batting gloves? How about a double-flapped Olerud helmet? Or pissing on your hands? How about this: piss on your hands, then batting gloves.

VG: I am a very successful hitter, you know. Have you seen my Baseball Reference page? Don't want to brag, but under Most Similar by Age you see the name Willie Mays eight freaking times.

BP: Have you tried switch-hitting? How about a bat filled with equal parts quicksilver and osprey feathers? What if you wore an eye patch? It's October! Don't you want to win??

VG: (hits six home runs into the parking lot, smiles sweetly)

"No, I don't feel any pressure," he said Thursday.

Maybe he should.


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posted by Junior  # 4:55 PM
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