Vladimir Guerrero, one of the most dangerous hitters of the late-1990s and 2000s, has retired, reports Hector Gomez of Listen Diario (Spanish link).

Guerrero had this to say on the difficult decision (via Gomez): 

“I decided to announce my retirement due to my desire to spend more time with my family, as well as because of the two operations that I’ve had on my right knee.”

Guerrero, 38, retires with 449 career home runs. He falls 51 home runs shy of 500, a milestone that he reportedly wanted to make a run at before retiring (via Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com).

His 449 homers place him 36th on the all-time list, and Gomez reports that he would have loved to finish higher up the ranks: “Lamentably, I couldn’t do it. That was one of my principal goals.”

Injuries derailed the MLB career of Guerrero. Knee injuries hurt Guerrero’s ability to be an effective corner outfielder, hampering his value for major league clubs.

Always known for his rocket arm from right field, his inability to run down balls in the outfield had made him a liability at the tail end of his career.

He signed with the Long Island Ducks of the Independent League in April to re-establish some big league value, but his pursuit of the bigs ultimately didn’t pan out. This came after playing for the Montreal Expos, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles in the MLB.

Undoubtedly, there will soon be speculation on Guerrero’s Hall of Fame probability.

One of the most feared hitters of the generation, he has a legitimate shot at making the Hall. At the very least, he deserves serious consideration.

He ends his 16-year career with an incredible triple-slash line of .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs, 1,496 RBI, 181 stolen bases (40 of which came in 2002), 2,590 hits, 477 doubles, 46 triples, 1,328 runs scored and an OPS of .931.

Oh yeah—and he was an All-Star 9 times, the 2004 American League MVP, top-25 MVP finisher 12 times and eight-time Silver Slugger Award winner.

His best season came in 2000 with the Expos. He hit an absurd .345/.410/.664/1.074 with 44 home runs, 123 RBI, 197 hits and a league-leading 23 intentional walks.

Guerrero deserves legitimate Cooperstown consideration, given his monster numbers and success late in his career. His final season (2011 with the Orioles) was also pretty darn good (.290/.317/.416 in 562 at-bats).

The Dominican slugger will be remembered for his ability to hit anything near the plate (or possibly his inability to lay off pitches out of the zone). Regardless, he could hit nearly anything thrown in his direction—making him one of the hardest batters in the league to get out.

It will be five seasons before we know the Hall of Fame fate of Guerrero, but he’s just as deserving as the next guy—even if he fell short of both 500 homers and 3,000 hits.

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