In Part I, the thought that Matt Wieters’ 2010 season was equal to Vladimir Guerrero’s 2010 was reviewed. The person who made that comment was a writer who has a well-known Orioles blog that you should read.
The idea for Part II comes from a Facebook friend of mine who made a harmless status about Guerrero. Sorry, Nick.
“Signing Vlad is basically dating back to 2005 and signing Sammy Sosa”
First let’s correct a thing – the Orioles didn’t sign, but traded for Sammy Sosa in 2005, sending Jerry Hairston, Jr., Mike Fontenot, and minor leaguer Dave Crouthers to the Cubs for the Domincan slugger. Last Wednesday was actually the six-year anniversary of the trade.
When the trade went through, Oriole fans and the city of Baltimore were ecstatic; they were blinded by the name “Sammy Sosa,” and were unable to see to rapid statistical decline.
The Orioles actually held a press conference to introduce Sosa, something the O’s didn’t do this season for Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, Derrek Lee, Justin Duchscherer, or (to this point) Vladimir Guerrero.
There were Spring Training segments on the local news talking about Sosa’s monster batting practice homeruns. I remember reading about him hitting homeruns so far over the fence that he hit a couple of planes that were, for some reason, parked outside the stadium. Just as any folk tale, I cannot find the documentation six years later. WJZ also interview the kid who caught the “first” batting practice homerun hit by Sammy Sosa on the Orioles’ Opening Day.
It may have been due to all the hype for Sosa from fans and the media, or just the talent of the baseball team, but the Orioles were actually pretty good. From April 22nd to June 23rd, the Baltimore Orioles were in first place in the AL East. Playoff tickets were going on sale. Having 35,000+ fans at Camden Yards was a normalcy, not the product of a Yankee or Red Sock visitor or a good promotion. Baltimore loved the Orioles.
Winning was a Band-Aid over the wound that was Sammy Sosa. During the 55-game span that the Orioles were in first, Sosa only played in 40. His average was .230. His SLG% was .412. His OPS was .718. He only had seven homeruns, nineteen RBIs, and thirteen extra base hits.
No one noticed.
Brian Roberts was having the best season of his career. Miguel Tejada was producing all the runs. Raffy Palmeiro was zoning in on 3,000 career hits, joining only Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Eddie Murray to have 3,000 hits and 500 homeruns. Melvin Mora and Jay Gibbons were hitting homeruns. A rotation of Rodrigo Lopez, Bruce Chen, Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, and Sidney Ponson held their own.
The Orioles used the Band-Aid approach with Sammy Sosa when they first thought of trading for him.
“[The Orioles] ignored reports of [Sosa's] run-ins with manager Dusty Baker, forgave his decision to leave the season’s final game in the first inning,” wrote Roch Kubatko in the Baltimore Sun during Spring Training 2005.
Not only did Sosa have run-ins with Dusty, and a lack of dedication towards his team, but his numbers and body were also crumbling with each season.
His batting average, homeruns, RBIs, hits, OPS, SLG%, OPS+, walks, and a ton of other stats had decreased in every season since 2001.
Sosa was no longer a 50+ homerun hitter; hadn’t been since 2001.
Sosa was no longer a .300+ average guy; hadn’t been since 2001.
Sosa was no longer much of anything; hadn’t been since 2001.
It was a typical move for the Orioles’ front office.
Sammy’s last game with the Orioles was August 25th as he was sidelined with a toe injury. Rafael Palmeiro was suspended for steroids shortly after his 3,000th hit, and blamed Miguel Tejada and his B-12 for the positive test. The 2005 Orioles fell apart.
They finished the season with a 74-88 record, 4th in the AL East.
There are some similarities between 2005 Sosa and 2011 Vlad. Both players were 36 in their respective seasons, both nearing the end of their careers, and both looked to be just a “name acquisition” to some.
Thats where the similarities end and the differences begin.
Unlike Sammy Sosa, Vladimir Guerrero is not considered a cancer to his team. There are no documented cases of Vlad starting fights, clashing with teammates or coaches, or corking a bat. The only case of malice towards his club and the game may be giving a teammate or two gas after eating some of his mother’s homemade comida Dominicana.
When Sosa first arrived, there needed to be a picture painted of a happy-go-lucky player, a real team guy (as you can see in the link to Roch’s post). The picture painting should have been over for a guy who had been in the league for sixteen years prior.
While with the Orioles, Sosa was called out for faking an injury before the team’s first road trip to Chicago. Many thought Sosa just didn’t want to return to Chi-Town to face the city he played in for fifteen and a half seasons.
An attitude can change a lot of things. We saw the positive attitude of fans propel a team that had been the joke of the league for years to three months of first place baseball. An attitude of one player can infect a line-up and produce results.
The biggest difference between the two acquisitions lies within the numbers from the season before they were added.
In 2004, Sosa hit 35 homeruns, drove in 80 runs, had a .253 average, and collected a .849 OPS. It was Sosa’s worst season since 1997. Also, as mentioned previously, his numbers were consistently dipping.
In 2010, Guerrero hit 29 homeruns, drove in 115 runs, had a .300 average, and collected a .841 OPS (Vlad was never a big OPS guy; he swings for it all and at anything). He finished 11th in the MVP voting, was an All-Star, and won the Silver Slugger as a designated hitter. It could be argued that Guerrero was the most important part of the 2010 Rangers team that went to the World Series. Could Josh Hamilton have had as good of a season without Guerrero hitting in the same line-up?
We cannot see a consistent drop in numbers in the four years prior to joining the Orioles like we saw with Sosa. We did see Vlad’s numbers dip during his last two seasons with the Angels, but his move to a ballpark where he had historically mashed jump-started his numbers. Vlad mashes equally as well at Camden Yards as he did at Arlington.
2011 Vladimir Guerrero and 2005 Sammy Sosa should be viewed as opposites. We should be excited, based upon stats, about what Vlad can bring; not just his name. In 2005 we should have been kicking ourselves in the ass for ever trading for Sosa. Instead we were happy despite decreasing stats.
I’ll admit that I was happy about the Sosa trade (as I am about the Guerrero signing), but give me a break; I hadn’t even turned eleven yet!