Vlad is back at Big A with great numbers
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels had Vladimir Guerrero in their lineup for six seasons, winning five AL West titles with him before losing him to the division rival Texas Rangers as a free agent. They replaced him with former Yankee and 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui.
Guerrero, the 2004 AL MVP, is having a much better season than Matsui with 20 home runs, 75 RBIs and a .319 average. As a result he is in his ninth All-Star game as the AL’s starting designated hitter. New teammate Josh Hamilton says a change of scenery had something to do with it.
“I think it helps revive you as a player,” Hamilton said. “When you’ve been in a place for a long time, things just start becoming a routine and you might lose a little bit of passion. When you go somewhere else, you want to show these guys what you can do and you get revitalized a little bit.’’
Former Halos teammate Torii Hunter missed not having that familiar “Superman” Tshirt around the clubhouse.
“Nothing bothered him,” Hunter said. “He was always smiling and joking in the clubhouse. The guys could joke with him and he didn’t get upset.
“He worked his butt off in the offseason and lost a lot a lot of weight and got the strength back in his knees and his back, and now you’re seeing what he can do. A healthy Vladdy is scary. I’ve seen it. So what he’s doing now is nothing new.” Rangers slugger Vladimir Guerrero, now a nine-time All-Star, has surprised many with a .319 average and 20 home runs.
“It’s going to be weird, this being my first one,’’ he said. “I hope there’s something they can do to change it up a bit so that this doesn’t happen again.’’
“Barry Bonds steps to the plate in the first inning, I’m in center field, and I was like: ‘Please don’t hit it to me. Please don’t hit it to me.’ And then, Bam,” the nine-time Gold Glove winner recalled. “I saw that it was coming down, I thought I had a chance, and I went up and caught it.
“(Right fielder) Ichiro (Suzuki) was pretty excited, too, and he said some words I didn’t think he knew,” Hunter said with a grin. “I didn’t know he spoke that kind of English. It was rated ‘R.’ Then I ran in and Barry was waiting for me. Before that, we had never spoken or had any kind of encounter. But Barry picked me up and put me on his shoulder like a rag doll — he was strong as hell — and told me, ‘Nice catch, kid.’
The Angels’ PR staff did some research with Hunter’s help a while back and estimated that he has pulled back at least 35 home run bids by opposing players with the Angels and Minnesota Twins.