Imagine Aaron Rodgers joining the Cowboys.
Dwyane Wade suiting up for the Mavericks.
Bryan Marchment, Dallas Star.
Your baseball brain is probably poised to include Kyle Seager in this progression, but that’s only because magical World Series seasons tend to paint the memory with several coats of rose.
The scariest opponent in Texas Rangers history, for me, was Vladimir Guerrero.
I suspect most of us thought, when it was announced yesterday that Guerrero will enter the Hall of Fame this summer, about the summer of 2010, which he spent on the first Rangers club to win a playoff series, the first to give us indelible moments that didn’t involve a ball bouncing off a head or 27 straight outs in a July game or a Home Run Derby, the first to advance to the World Series.
Not about the baseball terror Guerrero inflicted from the other dugout, which was the soft boundary of his strike zone.
Guerrero’s six seasons in Anaheim preceded his one in Texas (and followed eight in Montreal), and in those six Angels seasons his club went to the playoffs five times, winning 89 games the one year that fell short. Texas finished behind Los Angeles each time.
The Rangers, by league rule, faced nobody those six seasons more often than the Angels. And nobody with a halo on his cap bedeviled Texas the way Vlad did.
In many ways, nobody wearing any sort of cap did.
In 462 career plate appearances against the Rangers (all but 24 with Los Angeles; he finished his career with a season in Baltimore, because players who play for Texas leave and play for the Orioles, by decree), Guerrero hit .395.
Seager (.313) hasn’t done that.
Nobody else has, either.
Guerrero reached base against Texas at a .461 clip. That’s also the highest mark of any Rangers opponent.
Khris Davis, in under a third of the plate appearances, out-OPS’s Guerrero against Texas (1.185 to 1.122), but nobody else does.
Runs created per 27 outs: Guerrero’s 11.58 against the Rangers bests Seager (7.09), the 67 players between them, and everyone else.
Guerrero piled up more walks against Texas (45) than strikeouts (43), and that’s just silly, especially when you’re talking not about Wade Boggs but instead about one of baseball’s prototype free swingers.
(Of course, 15 of those walks were ordered from the dugout.)
(It may or may not be false memory that Guerrero swung anyway, half the time.)
(Bad ball hitters gonna be bad ball hitters.)
I don’t remember the one outfield assist Guerrero had as a Ranger, one of his career 126, but the huge arm is actually what first dropped my jaw as the 21-year-old arrived in the big leagues with the Expos and moved on to the Angels, incrementally building his case for Cooperstown. In Texas, he played defensively in only 18 of his 152 games — 19 of 167 if you count the 2010 post-season, and unfortunately that 19th outfield appearance, in Game One in San Francisco, will be my lasting memory here of Guerrero the Defender, and that’s all I want to say about that.
In his seven seasons as a Rangers opponent, Guerrero hit over .400 four times — including .432, .441, and .420 his first three years with the Angels — and in a Charles Haley/Deion Sanders kind of way, it’s OK, because later there was that .300/.345/.496 season at age 35 with Texas across his chest, leading the first World Series club in franchise history — and the only one in Guerrero’s career — with 115 RBI. It was his 12th season to earn MVP votes, and he was The Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year in the American League.
That’s what I remember today.
That, and the incandescent smile playing the game, the one that preceded Adrian Beltre’s, which would arrive in Texas as Vlad’s moved on.
Guerrero was an impact baseball player, a student of the game, and, by all accounts, an exceptional leader. On a young 2010 team, the mark he left in Texas goes beyond runs driven in and an .841 OPS, and has lasted longer.
Guerrero becomes the seventh Hall of Famer to have played for Texas, joining Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Nolan Ryan, Goose Gossage, Bert Blyleven, and Pudge Rodriguez. His plaque won’t feature a Rangers cap, like Ryan’s and Rodriguez’s do, but he was ours for a while, and that’s enough.
Chipper Jones didn’t play for the Rangers and Jim Thome didn’t play for the Rangers and Trevor Hoffman didn’t play for the Rangers, and Vladimir Guerrero barely did more, playing just six percent of his career here, but — even if not all five tools were still in his bag by time he got to Texas — he absolutely made his mark.
Not at the level he did against this club, but enough that he’s Charles Haley for me, and not Aaron Rodgers.