Aftermath of Guerrero's HOF cap decision

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Aftermath of Guerrero’s logo decision

By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network

Vladimir Guerrero officially announced Jan. 25 that he wanted to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown with an Angels’ halo instead of an Expos’ logo on his plaque but the seeds for this decision were planted long ago.

On Aug. 26, 2017, the Angels inducted Guerrero into their own Hall of Fame and from there on, Guerrero became more inclined to go into Cooperstown as an Angel. On Jan. 23, a day before the Cooperstown inductees were announced, Angels owner Arte Moreno and vice-president Tim Mead flew to New York in anticipation of the announcement that Guerrero would be elected. 

“If you would have asked me, I would have guaranteed he was going in as an Angel. The deal was done between Arte Moreno, Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame before the ballots were counted,’’ said Russ Hansen, an Expos/Angels fan and photo historian, who has befriended Guerrero over the years, both during the slugger’s time in Anaheim and in Montreal with the Expos.

“I think the deal was an agreed upon deal made last year when he was inducted into the Angels’ Hall of Fame. It made sense. A minority owner in Arte, an Hispanic player in southern California, I get it. This will improve the Latin-Major League Baseball connection. Montreal could not help this agenda. Arte will sell thousands of shirts, jerseys, bobbleheads, hats, etc.’’

Moreno, like Guerrero, is Hispanic with his Mexican background so there was a bond between Moreno and Guerrero. And don’t forget: Guerrero has a home in Anaheim. He has no home in Montreal.

Following in the footsteps of Cooperstown and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame members Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines, Guerrero was signed, groomed, bred, developed and mentored by the Expos but he chose the Angels, likely because the Expos no longer exist and he was financially better off going with the Angels.

Was there a back room deal between the Angels, the Hall of Fame and Guerrero that he go in as an Angel? Was Guerrero paid money by Moreno to take the Angels’ logo? Nobody knows.

Hansen said he was “99% certain’’ that Guerrero has already been given a lifetime personal-services contract by Moreno and the Angels. The Angels vehemently denied that they had a personal services contract with Guerrero. They have only one and that is with future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. 

In a series of questions emailed to Mead about the circumstances, Mead declined to acknowledge the email. In an earlier email exchange, Mead told me that he was made aware that I had communicated with Hall president Jeff Idelson. One of the questions I directed to Mead was whether Guerrero was given a personal-services deal. He didn’t answer. Another question I posed to Mead was this: how long had the Angels known that Guerrero would indeed go in as an Angel?

Idelson added some backdrop to the situation by saying the Hall provides the guidance to each inductee as to what logo, if any, may be represented on his cap.

“In Vladdy’s case, we let him know that the Expos, Angels or no logo was acceptable, based on where his body of work was most dominant,’’ Idelson said in an email exchange. “The Hall of Fame always has the final say. We supported his decision to have an Angels’ logo.

“I know Vladdy struggled with it, but I think he articulated his reasoning well at his press conference. We supported his decision to have an Angels’ logo. Regardless, please remember that his time in Montreal and contributions to the Expos’ teams for whom he played will be a part of his plaque.’’

Idelson said there was no discussion with Moreno or any other Angels’ officials, who may have lobbied for Guerrero to have an Angels’ halo on his plaque, considering the franchise had never had a player or official inducted into Cooperstown.

“It would have been presumptuous of (Vlady and I) to have had that conversation ahead of his election to the Hall of Fame,’’ Idelson said.

Expos fan Sheldon Miller wondered if any attempt by Guerrero to go in as an Expo was “nixed’’ and is disheartened by what transpired.

“I have been surprised, dismayed and disappointed about Vlad’s induction as an Angel,’’ Miller said. “I was overjoyed when he did get inducted, not surprised obviously, but the turn of events made no sense to me. He had more everything in Montreal as compared to Anaheim. We do feel honoured that Montreal was part of Vladimir’s career. It would be nice to have the cherry on top that is deserving.’’

Miller took it upon himself to email the Hall of Fame to get up to speed on the rationale behind the decision by Guerrero to go in as an Angel.

“Since the bodies of work between the Expos and the Angels are very similar, the museum gives the electee a great deal of input into the decision,’’ Hall director of communications Craig Muder told Miller by email. “In addition to his MVP award, Vlad led the Angels to the post-season in five of his six years there.

“Of course, Montreal will be listed on his plaque -- along with all of the other teams Vlad played for. And on our website, his primary team is listed as the Expos, since he played the most games for them. This is also the case of other electees, such as Bruce Sutter, who played more games for the Cubs than any other team but has a Cardinals’ logo on his plaque since that’s where he made his most indelible mark.’’

Todd Hosler, another Expos’ fan in Chazy, N.Y., was as equally annoyed with Guerrero’s decision.

“I feel that Vladimir turned his back on an organization that recognized his talents in 1993,’’ Hosler said. “He was recognized from poverty and made his Montreal debut in 1996. His Expos’ career was longer and more productive than with any other hat on. The Angels adopted an Expo. It’s really perplexing. All I want to appeal to is the Wade Boggs Rule where the Hall decides the choice.’’

This scenario with Guerrero is brought up in light of the fact that one of his spokesmen, Jesse Guerrero, had told me Jan. 21 that the former slugger wanted to go into the Hall with an Expos’ logo, mere months after Jesse had been saying Vlad wanted an Angels’ halo. All confusing. The story I wrote raised the hopes of Expos’ fans all over. Why Jesse, one of Vlad’s handlers, would tell me the stuff about the Expos, I don’t know. And then all of a sudden, Vlad says he’s taking the Angels’ logo.

Jesse Guerrero gave Expos’ fans a false sense of hope with his comments, The story produced close to 200 likes, retweets and posts on Twitter and Facebook. The frustration for reporters like me is that a guy like Vlad cannot be interviewed because his English is far from fluent.

“Vladimir comes across as distant because he’s a very shy man. He doesn’t like to speak English at all,’’ Hansen said.

To his credit, Jesse, who is no relation to Vladimir, had been kind and cooperative with me on other stories for more than a year about Vlad and came across as sounding like a confidant, marketing agent and quasi-spokesman because the player declines to speak English or is not comfortable in English. Since the story came out, Jesse has declined to respond to text messages, emails and phone messages.

When he was a player, Vlad utilized Fernando Cuza as his agent for most of his contract negotiations so I emailed Cuza to see if he would talk but I got no reply. I remember sending Cuza an email last year and he didn’t respond.

From a financial standpoint, taking the Angels’ logo means more to Guerrero because it will result in more marketing opportunities and endorsements for him down the road. In Montreal, with no team there, what endorsements could he get there?

“Guerrero made the right decision,’’ an Expos fan offered on Facebook. “If the decision is narrow, I’d choose the team that still exists rather than a defunct organization. And I’m a Montrealer and I was a huge Expos fan.’’

Hansen saw Guerrero play hundreds of times for both the Expos and the Angels. So when the Windsor, Ont. resident and Canadian native found out Guerrero had chosen the Angels’ halo over the Expos’ logo for his Cooperstown plaque, he wasn’t upset.

After all, Hansen figures he probably saw Guerrero play at least 300 times at Anaheim Stadium and got to admire the Expos’ home brew up front and centre when he lived in southern California for years.

“I saw Vlad hit over 80 homers in Anaheim,’’ Hansen said, proudly. “I would wear the red Expos’ batting practice cap. I’ve probably taken thousands of photos of Vlad.’’

Hansen admired Guerrero so much that he had a licence plate made up that read:

Vlad 2B in California
Expos R Halo Heaven

Guerrero somehow found out about the plate so Hansen did something nice.

“Vlad really liked the plate so I had the front plate framed and he has it up in one of his homes in the Dominican Republic,’’ Hansen said. “I took a photocopy of the front plate and got Vladdy to sign it.’’
 

Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com