HOF 2018: Rejected by Dodgers, Vlad Guerrero Got His Chance in Montreal
(Editor's note: Vladimir Guerrero will join Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Jack Morris and Alan Trammel as inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 29. InsideTheSeams.com is taking a look at the career of each of them leading up to the weekend. Today: Chipper Jones).
After spending his allotted time at the Dodgers facility in the Dominican without being signed to a contract, 16-year-old Vladimir Guerrero had to leave. He dropped by the Yankees complex, took a turn on the mound in hopes of maybe getting a deal as a pitcher, and was told to check back in a week.
Guerrero never did make that call. Nope, in the meantime, he showed up at a tryout for the Montreal Expos, riding on the back of a motorcycle, wearing two shoes that didn’t match, and putting on a display that had Fred Ferreira, the scout overseeing the tryouts, quickly getting Guerrero to agree to a $2,500 bonus and sign a contract.
“We probably had 30 kids already there, but we weren’t turning anyone away,” said Ferreira. “We had him run a 60-yard dash and (timed) him in something like 6.5 seconds. And he’s running with those shoes that don’t match. He has a sock stuffed into the one so it would fit.
“Then we had him throw from the outfield. That was something to see. He had two tools you can’t teach.”
Ferreira liked what he saw so much that even when Guerrero grounded out in his first at-bat in a camp game, and pulled a hamstring, which eliminated any more activity at the plate, Ferreira didn’t hesitate to sign him.
“I saw him go sit in the dugout, his head between his legs, feeling like he wasn’t going get another chance,” said Ferreira.
He didn’t need another chance. Ferreira has seen enough to know the Guerrero kid was something special. On the scouting report he filed – a copy of which is included on file at the Hall of Fame, Ferreira distinguished himself when under the category of “Weakness,” Ferreira wrote, “No found weakness. Unusual.”
Unusual, maybe, but definitely accurate.
On Sunday, Guerrero will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell as the newest members in Cooperstown.
Even though he spent his first eight seasons with the Expos, before playing for the Angels, Rangers and Orioles, he will feature an Angels cap on his plaque that will hang in the Hall of Fame.
The Expos, after all, became the Washington Nationals, and the Nationals have gone out of their way to eliminate any appearance of a history before arriving in the Nation’s Capital.
That’s fine with the Angels, created out of expansion in 1961. Guerrero is the first player to go into Cooperstown representing their franchise.
That leaves the Rockies and Marlins, and the Rays as the only franchises without representation in Cooperstown, unless the Nationals also are included in light of their refusal to recognize the franchise history in Canada.
And while it was with the Expos that Guerrero made a name for himself, it was the Angels, who signed him to a $144 million free-agent contract, and it was with the Angels where he won his MVP award, and was part of a team that went to the post-season five times.
Guerrero said his decision was based, in part, on the fact the Expos are no longer.
"I will forever be thankful to the Expos and to the beautiful people of the city of Montreal, sad that the team does not exist anymore, and in a way it made the decision a little easier," he explained at the time his decision became public. "But, with the Angels and how much Arte (Moreno, Angels owner) believed in me when he invested in me, the chance to win, the great memories with the playoffs, the fans, celebrating championships, that's what drove me to this decision."
Guerrero is the 11th former Angels player to be selected for the Hall of Fame, seven of whom played three or fewer seasons with the Angels.
Nolan Ryan played the longest in Anaheim — eight years — and the Hall identifies the Angels as Ryan's "primary team." The Angels retired Ryan's number.
However, Ryan chose to enter the Hall of Fame representing the Texas Rangers, the team with which he pitched in his final five major league seasons.