clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

1988 Dodgers player profile: Pedro Guerrero, the last hurrah

Pedro Guerrero began the 1988 season out of position, and ended it out of Los Angeles, shipped to St. Louis in a trade for the National League leader in ERA.

Getty Images

Pedro Guerrero is arguably the greatest hitter in Los Angeles Dodgers history, but heading into the 1988 campaign his days with the team were numbered. Guerrero was set to be a free agent after 1988, and despite his prodigious bat the club didn't have a spot for him to play.

The Dodgers nearly traded Guerrero to the Tigers for Kirk Gibson during the winter meetings in 1987, but backed off because Gibson was involved in a collusion case that would soon make him a free agent. The Dodgers eventually added Gibson that offseason, as a free agent, and also signed outfielder Mike Davis. With John Shelby in center field, that moved Mike Marshall to first base. There was talk in spring training of moving Steve Sax to third base with Mariano Duncan taking over at second base, but that faded, in part because Guerrero agreed to play third base.

Guerrero throughout his Dodgers career was an adventure defensively no matter where he played, and he played all over. At third base, Guerrero made 272 starts from 1983-1985, but was limited to left field and first base in 1986-1987 (plus one start in right field).

But Guerrero did his talking with his bat, and even though his home runs were down in 1988 he still drove in runs and still got on base. At times in 1988, Guerrero's bat was too loud, including when he was suspended for four games for throwing his bat at David Cone of the Mets after getting buzzed inside.

Though he began the year with the Dodgers, Guerrero wasn't around for the fantastic finish.

How acquired: In one of the greatest trades in franchise history, the Dodgers acquired the then 17-year-old Guerrero from the Indians for left-handed pitcher Bruce Ellingsen on Apr. 3, 1974. Cleveland got a 3.21 ERA in 42 innings out of Ellingsen that year, but after one more season in the minors he was out of baseball.

Prior MLB experience: After brief cups of coffee in 1978 and 1979, Guerrero started to get more playing time in the second half of the 1980 season. By 1981 Guerrero was a starter, and made his first All-Star team. In both 1982 and 1983 Guerrero topped 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases, the first time a Dodger had ever done that.

In 1985 Guerrero set a Dodgers franchise record with 15 home runs in June, part of his best season. Guerrero hit .320 with 33 home runs and led the league in both on-base percentage (.422) and slugging percentage (.577) for the division-winning Dodgers, but lost out on the MVP award to Willie McGee (if we are being honest, it's likely that neither one of them should have won over the sublime Dwight Gooden, who settled for the Cy Young Award instead).

Guerrero ruptured a tendon in his left knee during spring training in 1986, an injury that limited him to 31 games played all season. But Guerrero rebounded by hitting .338/.416/.539 with 27 home runs in 1987. In 977 career games prior to 1988, Guerrero hit .310/.381/.518, a 150 OPS+, with 166 home runs, 537 runs, and 550 RBI.

From 1981-87, Guerrero's 152 OPS+ ranked second in the majors to Mike Schmidt (157), among players with 2,000 plate appearances.

1988 age: 32

1988 stats: Guerrero hit .298/.374/.409 with five home runs and 35 RBI for the Dodgers, but he was limited to 59 games as a pinched nerve in his neck put him on the disabled list for nearly two months in June and July. While on the DL, Guerrero tried to balance wanting to play with also not wanting to jeopardize his pending free agency, as Ross Newhan of the Times explained:

"If I had another year on my contract, maybe I would take a shot (injection) and see what happens," he said.

"I could do it last year (play with the condition) because I knew I had another year and the pain wasn't as bad as now."

Now, though he is thinking of his own future, he added that he would merely be hurting the club by attempting to play.

"I could have a contract for the next 5 years and I wouldn't go out and play," he said. "I could put up some numbers, but not like I want. I have to be patient."

Guerrero with the Dodgers started 44 games at third base before he hit the disabled list, and started 15 games at first base after returning, as Jeff Hamilton took over at the hot corner, with Mike Marshall moving from first base to right field and the slumping outfielder Mike Davis moving to the bench.

On Aug. 16, the Dodgers traded Guerrero to the Cardinals for John Tudor, who was leading the National League with a 2.29 ERA at the time.

"Before the season started, I said I wanted to win this year because it probably will be my last here," Guerrero told Sam McManis of the Los Angeles Times when news of the trade broke. "I know the team has played better when I wasn't there, but I know I played hard. Good thing we--or maybe I should say they--are still in first place."

Regular season game of the year: Guerrero had three hits, including a double, and drove in four runs in a win over the Braves on Apr. 16, but his game of the year for the Dodgers came three days earlier. Hit by a pitch in the seventh inning by Padres pitcher Eric Show on Apr. 13 in San Diego, Guerrero responded one inning later with a tie-breaking, two-run home run of Show in what became a 4-3 victory.

NLCS & World Series performance: Guerrero watched his ex-teammates in the postseason from afar, as the Cardinals finished 25 games back of the Mets, in fifth place in the National League East.

Post-1988 playing career: Guerrero hit .311/.391/.477, a 145 OPS+ with the Cardinals in 1989 and drove in a career-best 117 runs, but after that simply played out the string in St. Louis. Guerrero played exactly 500 games with the Cardinals from 1988-92, and hit .282/.348/.416, a 114 OPS+ with 98 doubles and 44 home runs.

Where he is now: Aside from Tim Crews and Mike Sharperson, who both died, Guerrero arguably had the roughest post-1988 life of any of the 38 players on the team. After all, Guerrero was acquitted of drug conspiracy charges in 2000 when his attorney successfully used the "my client is too stupid" defense. Also, it's never good when O.J. Simpson drops your name in a 9-1-1 call.

Guerrero returned to baseball in 2011, with a coaching position in the independent Arizona Winter League, where he joined forces with former Dodgers teammate Mike Marshall.