Eddie Guardado debuts on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

A durable left arm and workhorse mentality earned Eddie Guardado an almost two-decade career as one of the game’s top relief pitchers. Forever known as “Everyday Eddie” because of his ability to pitch anytime his manager needed, Guardado would end his playing days having appeared in more than 900 games, which ranks among the highest totals in baseball history.

“Ninety percent of me is attitude and about 10 percent talent,” Guardado once said. “It’s an attitude where it’s nothing against anybody or the team that you’re facing, it’s just the something that gives you an edge. I don’t have 95-96 [mph]. I’m going to have 88 to 90. Here it is. Keep the ball down. Throw strikes.”

Guardado, who made his name pitching both middle relief and closing during a dozen seasons with the Minnesota Twins, emerges this fall as one of 34 players on the 2015 Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 6. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2015. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 26 in Cooperstown.

Edward Adrain Guardado was born Oct. 2, 1970 in Stockton, Calif. One of nine children born to Mexican parents who settled in Northern California, he escaped the challenges of a rough neighborhood by participating in sports. A baseball and football star at Stockton’s Franklin High School, Guardado attended San Joaquin Delta (Calif.) Junior College before being drafted by the Twins in the 21st round of the 1990 amateur draft. Though considered too small by some scouts, the 6-foot, 195-pound Guardado turned down a chance to play at Cal State Fullerton to sign with Minnesota.

Early success as a minor league starting pitcher allowed the 22-year-old Guardado to make his big league debut in June 1993. But after struggling as a starter – a 3-15 record with a 6.95 ERA in 25 career starts – he made the transition to bullpen stalwart starting in 1995.

Earning his famous moniker “Everyday Eddie,” Guardado, the ironman reliever, made at least 63 Twins relief appearances over the next eight years, from 1996 to 2003, which included a career- and MLB-high 83 in 1996.

“I guess that I want the ball every day, and I don’t complain too much,” Guardado said at the time. “I just try to do my job.”

When Twins closer LaTroy Hawkins struggled during the 2001 season, Guardado was up for the new challenge. With a pitching repertoire that included a fastball, curve, slider, splitter and change, and the ability to mix speeds and angles, Guardado notched 12 saves that first season.

When Guardado took over as the Twins’ fulltime closer in 2002, he led the American League with 45 saves and followed that up the next year with 41 (second in the league). Both years he was named to the AL All-Star squad and contributed to a pair of Minnesota postseason berths.

“We live and die with Eddie,” said Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. “You’re talking about the guy that led the league in saves [45 in 51 chances]. He’s going to give you a heart attack, but that’s Eddie. There’s nobody we’d rather have out there closing games for us.”

Even opponents were beginning to take notice.

“He doesn’t have premium-type stuff, but Eddie is as good as they come right now,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “He can make pitches when a situation gets hot and not get scared off a pitch if one guy hits him. He’s all about, ‘Hey, I’m gonna make a pitch and you’re gonna have to hit it.’ He trusts his stuff to get the job done.”

It was around this period that Guardado began to hear the rhythmic chants of “Ed-die! Ed-die! Ed-die!” from the Metrodome crowd when he would enter a game in the ninth inning.

“The bullpen door opens and you’re ready to rock,” Guardado explained. “It’s the best feeling ever. They got the music going and everybody’s on their feet. Mostly you’re focused on getting those three outs, but you hear it. You feel it. It can’t get any better. I can’t explain it, but I live for that. And all I tell myself is, ‘I’ve got to get this guy out. I’ve got to.’

“I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be an All-Star in the major leagues. I enjoyed what I was doing. But when the manager comes in and says, ‘You wanna be my man?,’ I’m ready for the challenge.”

After being a member of the Twins organization for 13 years, Guardado signed a three-year free-agent deal with the Mariners prior to the 2004 season. After saving 59 games for Seattle over the next two-and-a-half seasons, including 36 in 2005, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for minor league pitcher Travis Chick on July 6, 2006. By the end of 2006, however, a torn ulnar collateral ligament and torn flexor mass tendon in his left elbow would require “Tommy John” surgery that would require he miss most of the ’07 season in order to recover.

With age and injuries limiting his effectiveness, Guardado ended his big league career with a stint with the Texas Rangers and a return to the Twins. One last attempt to continue his playing career was dashed when he was released by the Washington Nationals during spring training of 2010.

In a 17-year big league career, Guardado finished with a record of 46-61, 187 saves, appeared in 908 games (currently 22nd on the all-time list for pitchers), struck out 798 batters in 944.2 innings, and a 4.31 ERA.

A member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame, Class of 2013, Guardado is the Twins’ all-time leader in games, appearing in 648, while his 116 career saves as a Twin rank third most in club history. Additionally, he is the Twins all-time leader in innings (579.0) for a reliever, and ranks second among Twins relievers in strikeouts (550) and wins (34).

With his playing career over, the father of three went from “Everyday Eddie” to an everyday parent.

“I had a great ride. I’ve achieved more than I ever thought in my life in this game,” Guardado said. “I think it’s time to go home and be a daddy.”

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