Guerrero garners Aaron nomination
Veteran slugger remains key to Angels' successful lineup
The focus has been elsewhere -- on Torii Hunter's value, on Mark Teixeira's impact, on Garret Anderson's second-half surge -- but Vladimir Guerrero once again has been the productive centerpiece of the Angels' lineup.
After an uncommonly slow start, with his average at .249 as May ended, Guerrero caught fire and has produced in familiar form in helping drive his team to a fourth American League West title in five seasons.
The superstar right fielder is the Angels' nominee for the Hank Aaron Award.
This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having a nominee. Fans can vote through Oct. 12 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Oct. 26.
Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.
Trying to get his right knee, bothered by inflammation, stronger as the finish line neared, Guerrero was in position to equal legendary Lou Gehrig as the only players in Major League history to put together 11 straight seasons batting at least .300 with 25 or more home runs. The Iron Horse pulled it off from 1927-37.
A .382 surge across 16 games brought Guerrero within reach of .300. Only three others in the past 50 years -- Rod Carew, Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn -- have climbed that summit in 10 consecutive seasons. Guerrero has more home runs than those three combined, making his achievement all the more remarkable.
Through Monday, Guerrero was batting .298 with a team-high 25 homers and 86 RBIs. He was slugging .515 with a .363 on-base percentage, his presence in the No. 4 spot in the order enabling Teixeira, the club's new first baseman, to see more fastballs in good locations than he has been accustomed to seeing.
"Vlad's a great, great hitter -- one of the best in the history of the game," Hunter said. "I always admired him when I was in Minnesota, and being his teammate, seeing him every day, has been awesome. He's a great teammate."
Old-school to the bone, like Hunter, Guerrero has played in pain without complaint for several years. His long frame took a serious pounding in his youth in Montreal on its hard carpet field, but if he has slowed down a step, it hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for the game.
"I still love it as much as ever," Guerrero said. "I take pride in being a total player. The one thing I miss is stealing bases like I used to do -- 40 one year, 37 another year."
Nobody values Guerrero's impact more than his manager, Mike Scioscia.
"Vladdy is one of the premier weapons in the game," Scioscia said. "He brings so much to our lineup with his presence. He helps everybody in the lineup."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.