Writer Bill James called Guerrero “the best hitter God has made in a long time.” Originally signed as a free agent by the Indians, Guerrero was virtually stolen by the Dodgers after his first pro season, acquired in exchange for pitching flop Bruce Ellingsen. He first hit the limelight when his five RBIs in the final game of the 1981 World Series gave him a piece of the first three-way Series MVP award. In 1982 he became the first Dodger to hit 30 HR and steal 20 bases in a season, and he did it again the following year.
In 1985 Guerrero tied a major league record with 15 HR in June, en route to tying the Los Angeles record of 33. He also reached base 14 consecutive times that year, two shy of Ted Williams‘s record, and led the league in slugging, on-base and home run percentage.
Although an aggressive baserunner, he is considered a poor slider; he ruptured a tendon sliding in spring training and missed most of the 1986 season. His basestealing was subsequently curtailed. His .338 BA in 1987 was the highest for a Dodger since Tommy Davis’s .348 in 1962 and earned him UPI’s Comeback of the Year award.
Dodger management appeared to believe him capable of any athletic feat, and they thought nothing of shifting him to third base in mid-career, and in and out as the need arose. Although he gained a reputation for being shaky at third, statistics show that he was about as good as anyone in the league at getting to the ball. In the minors he made all-star teams at both first base and third base, and he broke into the Dodger lineup as a replacement for the injured Davey Lopes at second base. Guerrero was traded to the Cardinals for pitcher John Tudor during the 1988 season and missed out on the Dodgers’ World Championship that fall. Guerrero had enough left for one more spectacular season, batting .311 with 17 home runs, a career-high 117 RBIs and a league-high 42 doubles in 1989, but his production fell off sharply afterwards. He finished his career batting just .219 with one home run in 1992 as a shoulder injury limited him to 43 games.