By Robert Dominguez
Looks like Vladimir Guerrero is about to hit it over the fence in his second time up.
The free-swinging Dominican slugger, who was at the crest of the wave of Latino baseball stars who swept over the game in the 1990s, is poised to become one of only a handful of players from Latin America and the Caribbean to make it into the Hall of Fame.
Among a Murderer’s Row of worthy candidates this year, Guerrero’s chances of attaining baseball immortality on Jan. 24, when election results are announced, is looking strong.
With just days to go, and with more than half of the ballots counted, a handful of online Hall of Fame trackers had Guerrero as a Cooperstown-bound lock.
Players need 75% of the votes by baseball writers to get in; Guerrero had 71.7% last year, his first on the ballot.
We recently sat with the 2004 MVP, now 42, whose résumé includes 449 HR, 1,496 RBIs, 2,590 hits and a .318 average over a 16-year career spent mostly with the Montreal Expos and Anaheim Angels.
How disappointed were you last year when you just missed election to the Hall of Fame?
I was very happy to have as many votes as I got. What is going to happen is going to happen, and the important thing is just to be considered. I’m happy with my career whichever way it goes.
If it happens, how do you feel about being one of the few players from the Dominican Republic to get in?
Of course I feel proud. I’d be only the third Dominican, and the first to do it as a hitter.
Do you think the game has changed with such a huge number of Latino players now?
It hasn’t changed — there are more Latinos but it’s always the same game. I expect everyone to keep doing a good job and keep lifting Latinos higher, no matter what country they’re from.
You retired fairly young, at 36. Do you have any regrets you didn’t stick around to reach milestones like 500 homers or 3,000 hits?
No. I’m most proud that I got to play in the postseason, and that thank God I won the MVP.
Robert Dominguez is a senior editor at the New York Daily News and co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls.”