Vlad, Rangers enjoying a mutual resurgence

The Texas Rangers are the only current major league franchise that never has won a postseason series. They have won one playoff game — ever.

So consider the task Vladimir Guerrero faced when he took a massive pay cut to sign with the Rangers in January. The organization hoped he could change its dubious history. Thus far, Guerrero has done everything anyone could have expected.

Ron Washington convinced Vladimir Guerrero to join the Rangers.
Ron Washington convinced Vladimir Guerrero to join the Rangers.

It started about a week before opening day, when "you could see a change in Vlady’s eyes," says Rangers third baseman Michael Young, a six-time All-Star who never has reached the postseason. "He was ready to roll."

The 35-year-old DH hit well in April, but his May was spectacular: a .330 average, 10 home runs and a major league-leading 31 RBIs. As the Rangers moved into first place in the A.L. West, Guerrero sent a loud message to all of baseball. Despite the injuries that contributed to his career-worst performance in 2009 — he hit below .300 and had a sub-.800 OPS for the first time in 13 full major league seasons — Guerrero is still one of the game’s premier middle-of-the-lineup forces.

That is what Rangers manager Ron Washington believed when he traveled to Guerrero’s Southern California home last winter. "We need you," Washington told the eight-time All-Star and 2004 A.L. MVP. "We need you to come and be the difference-maker when we need that difference made."

Guerrero’s view of the Rangers at that time? "Good players. A lot of injuries," he says through an interpreter. Six months later, Guerrero is convinced Texas is the most talented team in the division. "We’re playing good now," he says, "and we’re going to keep playing the same way."

Washington’s visit meant a lot to Guerrero, as did the presence of several of his high-profile Rangers teammates — Young, second baseman Ian Kinsler and left fielder Josh Hamilton — at his introductory press conference. They all have hitched their wagons to the man Eleno Ornelas, the Rangers’ Spanish-language radio play-by-play man, calls El Verdugo ("The Killer").

The Angels, whom Guerrero helped lead to five A.L. West titles from 2004-09, aren’t out of the race without Guerrero, but, with him, the Rangers have more hope than they have had in many years.

Steve Greenberg is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at sgreenberg@sportingnews.com.

The Texas Rangers are the only current major league franchise that never has won a postseason series. They have won one playoff game — ever.

So consider the task Vladimir Guerrero faced when he took a massive pay cut to sign with the Rangers in January. The organization hoped he could change its dubious history. Thus far, Guerrero has done everything anyone could have expected.

Ron Washington convinced Vladimir Guerrero to join the Rangers.
Ron Washington convinced Vladimir Guerrero to join the Rangers.

It started about a week before opening day, when "you could see a change in Vlady’s eyes," says Rangers third baseman Michael Young, a six-time All-Star who never has reached the postseason. "He was ready to roll."

The 35-year-old DH hit well in April, but his May was spectacular: a .330 average, 10 home runs and a major league-leading 31 RBIs. As the Rangers moved into first place in the A.L. West, Guerrero sent a loud message to all of baseball. Despite the injuries that contributed to his career-worst performance in 2009 — he hit below .300 and had a sub-.800 OPS for the first time in 13 full major league seasons — Guerrero is still one of the game’s premier middle-of-the-lineup forces.

That is what Rangers manager Ron Washington believed when he traveled to Guerrero’s Southern California home last winter. "We need you," Washington told the eight-time All-Star and 2004 A.L. MVP. "We need you to come and be the difference-maker when we need that difference made."

Guerrero’s view of the Rangers at that time? "Good players. A lot of injuries," he says through an interpreter. Six months later, Guerrero is convinced Texas is the most talented team in the division. "We’re playing good now," he says, "and we’re going to keep playing the same way."

Washington’s visit meant a lot to Guerrero, as did the presence of several of his high-profile Rangers teammates — Young, second baseman Ian Kinsler and left fielder Josh Hamilton — at his introductory press conference. They all have hitched their wagons to the man Eleno Ornelas, the Rangers’ Spanish-language radio play-by-play man, calls El Verdugo ("The Killer").

The Angels, whom Guerrero helped lead to five A.L. West titles from 2004-09, aren’t out of the race without Guerrero, but, with him, the Rangers have more hope than they have had in many years.

Steve Greenberg is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at sgreenberg@sportingnews.com.

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