Thursday, August 30, 2007

AL West Renamed The Guerrero Division

Wednesday in Seattle, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim routed the Mariners 8-2 to complete a three-game sweep of their closest divisional pursuers. Vladimir Guerrero smacked his 22nd home run of the year, as the Angels moved to five games in front of Seattle. At the time, the division was known as the American League West. However, Major League Baseball has announced that the AL West will now be known as the Guerrero Division.

The decision was based on Vlad’s complete dominance against divisional foes this season. In 37 games against Seattle, Oakland, and Texas, Guerrero has 12 home runs, 41 RBI, and a .438 batting average. As commissioner Bud Selig remarked, “The change from the AL West to the Guerrero Division is just a formality. We just wanted to recognize what is already obvious: Vladimir owns that division.”

Guerrero has been a particular nuisance to the second-place Mariners. In 14 games versus the M’s, he has batted .500, with five home runs and 17 RBI. In the Emerald City, Vladimir is responsible for more runs than Shaun Alexander. No one has done more scoring at Safeco Field this year, unless Senator Larry Craig ducked into one of its men’s rooms.

The Dominican superstar hasn’t been any easier on his Northern California adversaries. In 10 matchups with the A’s, Guerrero has gone deep six times, with 13 RBI and a .432 batting average. When Vlad won last month’s Home Run Derby in San Francisco, he must have believed that he was across the bay in Oakland. Besides demoralizing the Athletics, Guerrero has completely ridiculed the Moneyball organization’s philosophy by flourishing with his free-swinging ways. As Oakland General Manager Billy Beane lamented, “We keep telling our guys the value of being patient and not chasing bad pitches. Then we lose because this freak of nature swings at everything from his eyes to his feet and knocks the ball out of the park! He makes me look like a total stooge!”

While Guerrero is hitting a mere .367 against Texas this year, historically he’s been a nemesis like no other to the Rangers. Vlad had a 44-game hitting streak against Texas until last August, when the Rangers ended the streak by walking him four times. The locals say that everything’s bigger in Texas. In the context of the Guerrero Division, that saying is true for the Rangers’ ERA, as well as their deficit behind the Angels. The Texas pitching staff has less chance of success versus Vlad than Paris Hilton does with the MCAT exam. The clubs square off in Anaheim this weekend, but the Rangers do have a plan for Guerrero when his team visits Arlington on September 24. Rangers Ballpark security has been ordered not to allow him onto the premises.

It is unusual for a professional sports division to be named after a person. However, long before the Guerrero Division, there was precedent in the National Hockey League. The NHL was once comprised of the Adams, Patrick, Norris, and Smythe Divisions. The comparisons between the former Montreal Expos superstar and the NHL do not stop there. Like the Stanley Cup, Guerrero used to be entrenched in Canada, but now he calls Anaheim home.

Guerrero is called by many nicknames, including Vlad the Impaler and Big Daddy Vladdy. However, for the unlucky trio of pursuers in the Guerrero Division, only one name fits for the fearsome slugger: The Angel of Death.