During a workout in Tempe, Ariz., this spring Vladimir Guerrero cracked a bullet of a line drive that cleared the left-field wall of Diablo Stadium and bounced on the street beyond it before landing among the cactuses. It was an impressive blow, at least until one of Guerrero's new teammates, Jose Guillen, stepped up two batters later and launched a ball that soared even farther.
Maybe it was Guillen's way of reminding everyone that Guerrero isn't the only slugging free-agent outfielder the Angels added during new owner Arte Moreno's off-season spending spree. Splitting last season between the Reds and the Athletics, Guillen hit 31 homers, drove in 86 runs and batted .311, numbers that stack up well against Guerrero's 25 homers, 79 RBIs and .330 average (though Guerrero had 91 fewer at bats). While there's no question that Guerrero (five years, $70 million) is the prize catch, he isn't the only reason Anaheim is expected to bounce back from last year's 77-85 debacle to make a run at its second World Series in three years. The Angels also signed free-agent starting pitchers Bartolo Colon (four years, $51 million) and Kelvim Escobar (three years, $18.75 million), with Guillen the least expensive of the bunch (two years, $6 million). If he can replicate his breakout season, Anaheim will have an imposing collection of power hitters.
Guerrero is slotted to hit third, followed by Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus, Guillen and Tim Salmon. All five have had at least one 30-homer season—Glaus and Guerrero have broken the 40 mark twice each—and last season they hit a total of 120 homers, even though Guerrero and Glaus missed 121 games combined. With that group behind him, Guerrero should see far more strikes than he did with the Expos. "I've never had this many good hitters around me," he says. Although Guerrero doesn't always wait for a good pitch—he's one of the best bad-ball hitters in the game—seeing better pitches can't hurt. "He's a tough guy to pitch around," says manager Mike Scioscia. "The only sure way is to intentionally walk him."
With Guerrero, Anderson and Guillen, Anaheim has arguably the best-hitting outfield in the game. And while Guerrero and Anderson are two of the quietest stars in the game, Guillen is talkative, some would say, to a fault. Part of the reason the Angels are Guillen's sixth team in six years is that he has clashed with management and worn out his welcome at various stops. When he was with the Pirates in 1999, he reported late to spring training without permission from the club. (He was delayed by visa problems after attending his father's funeral in the Dominican Republic.) Cincinnati traded him to Oakland last July, a little more than a month after he threw several bats against the clubhouse wall upon learning that manager Bob Boone had scratched him from the lineup. Later in the season he criticized A's manager Ken Macha in the media for not telling him the night before that he would get a day off. It all contributed to Guillen's growing reputation as a player who is gifted on the field but trouble in the clubhouse—a label he refutes.
"When you have a bad rap in baseball, the hardest thing to do is get rid of it," he says. "There were teams who told my agent that they wouldn't sign me because they didn't want troublemakers. But I know I'm not the kind of player who causes problems for his team."
Guillen certainly did Oakland more good than harm. Over the last two months of the season he was one of the team's most productive hitters, and he continued to play with a broken hand that was originally considered a season-ending injury. Despite the pain he felt on every swing, Guillen hit .455 in the A's five-game Division Series loss to the Red Sox.
Guerrero also was not at 100% last year, suffering from a herniated disk that sidelined him for 39 games and limited him to 394 at bats. He wore a brace this spring but said it was just a precaution, and he showed no signs of lingering pain. Poor health may be the only thing that can keep the Angels out of the postseason; Glaus, Salmon, first baseman Darin Erstad and shortstop David Eckstein all battled injuries last year. But if Anaheim's regulars can stay out of the trainer's room, who knows? Guillen might even stay happy.
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