GIVE US VLAD.
When was the moment you realized you needed more Vlad Guerrero Jr. in your sports-watching life? That under no circumstances would it be OK for baseball to exist without Guerrero and his displays or power? That Guerrero might just unite us in these dark times, and you would like to watch him play more baseball as soon as possible thanks very much?
For me, it came earlier this week when he decided to troll attentive baseball fans by posting an old Instagram photo of him at an airport with a geotag for JFK Airport. The post temporarily convinced the internet he was in New York with the Blue Jays and thus being called up to the majors from Double A ball, as has been a major baseball Twitter wish of late. One that hasn’t yet been granted.
It was a splendid troll. Not just because he had fun tricking everyone and showing off his goofy side, but also because by tapping into everyone’s deepest desire of “more Vlad, please” it shows he’s absolutely aware that people think he should skip Triple A and be called directly up to the big leagues. It also shows he happens to concur with that opinion. He’s fine playing around with that perception while also tacitly supporting everyone’s desire for him to be in Toronto as soon as possible.
Recently, he’s certainly shown he would deserve that potential call up, as of Tuesday hitting .415/.459/.696 with an 1.155 OPS and seven home runs in 34 games this season with Toronto’s Double A affiliate, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. His batting average is nearly 100 points higher than it was last year in 119 games with two A-ball squads. On Wednesday, he went 4-for-4 with three runs scored, two doubles, and another home run, bumping his average to .418.
People knew Guerrero was a fun, hugely talented player before this year. His name alone was going to garner attention even if he wasn’t playing at his recent world-stopping level. There were already highlight compilations of his minor league games online last season, he was one of the youngest players in last year’s All-Star Weekend Futures Game, and, in September, ESPN named him their top prospect.
But this season the love for Guerrero has reached a fever pitch. It started with a bang when he hit a walk-off home run for the Blue Jays in their final exhibition game of the preseason, and happened to do so in Olympic Stadium in Montreal — the field where his dad shined with the Expos for eight seasons.
If someone had spray painted “Vlad’s here!” in 20 foot-high letters in the outfield, it wouldn’t have been as obvious an arrival announcement as that home run.
If anyone at the time was worried a moment like that seemed too good to be true, the rest of his season seems specifically engineered to assuage those concerns. He hit a home run that can’t be appreciated unless your sound is on, he hit another off of the hotel that sits beyond the Fisher Cats’ stadium, and he hit one opposite field off a tee after calling his shot. Showing off is fine if you can back it up.
Those frequent fireworks aren’t a replacement for astonishing stats, they’re supplementary. Which makes the prospect of Guerrero in the Major Leagues all the more exciting. You want to reach through your screen and pluck him out of his own astonishing highlights, placing him gently in Rogers Centre where he rightfully belongs.
Recently, the calls for him to be brought up to Toronto have grown louder — not because he’s doing anything markedly different than he was doing a few weeks ago, but because the longer he maintains this level the harder it is for the Blue Jays to find reasons not to have him on the roster.
Manny Machado was hitting .266/.350/.431 in Double A when the Orioles called him up in August 2012, taking the risk it was the wrong choice when they were 5.5 games back of first place in the AL East, and we all know how that worked out. Guerrero’s Double A numbers make Machado’s performance at that level look pedestrian.
The Blue Jays are 7.5 games back from the AL East lead right now, and with the Red Sox and Yankees ahead of them they’re probably free to schedule vacations for October unless they can snag a second Wild Card spot. No one on their current roster with more than 25 games under their belt this season is hitting higher than .276.
They just added Giovanny Urshela for some infield depth and are currently claiming Guerrero still has some aspects of his game to polish — baserunning, leadership — before he makes the bigs. They also claim it has nothing to do with service time (even though they already have him locked in for six seasons after this one before free agency, a few more weeks in the minors would save the Blue Jays a year of arbitration down the line and thus save them money).
Yet one look at the numbers of Urshela or current designated hitter Kendrys Morales and it’s clear Guerrero could at least contribute to the team offensively while learning some defensive tips from Josh Donaldson before he’s gone after this season, if that is indeed an aspect of Guerrero’s game the team is currently worried about.
It’s like someone cooking dinner, telling you they have to keep a perfectly cooked steak on the grill for a little longer because the corn isn’t ready yet. We can wait for the corn! It’s fine! The corn is not the most important thing here! Give us the dang steak!
Not every level-skipping decision pans out — Michael Conforto has had injuries sprinkled amongst his various slumps since being called up to the Mets in 2015 — so the Blue Jays aren’t completely remiss in their caution. However, if you were describing what guaranteed success personified looked like to a local sketch artist you’d probably say it looked something like Vlad Guerrero, Jr.
Mike Trout “failed” in his first major league stint with the Angels. He’s doing just fine. Not every player is Trout, but sometimes Major League experience that results in a demotion is better than stagnating in the minors for unnecessary months on end — especially if, as some have posited, he’s going to end up as a first baseman anyway, making the “he needs consistent reps at third” reasoning moot.
When you watch what Guerrero can do — see him rake, witness his power — it’s easy to find yourself instantly ignoring all of the legitimate excuses or concerns. All of a sudden you’re shedding the extensive baseball knowledge and analysis you’ve absorbed and are simply angry he’s not in Toronto right this second.
His talent convinces you the Jays must be keeping him down because of service time. There must be ulterior motives for this front office not allowing you easier access to Guerrero’s offense.
At this point it seems a sure thing the uproar will continue until an Instagram post of him at an airport near a Jays’ road trip is real, not just a troll.
Until then, the Blue Jays are the enemy because they are keeping him from us. We will continue to settle for adorable Instagrams like this one, but only for so long. Guerrero’s affable personality and awe-inspiring power will be in the majors eventually. It’s simply unacceptable that isn’t already the case.