Guerrero Jr.'s legacy with Blue Jays could be shaped over next two months

Sep 7 2023, 5:03 pm

Everyone seems to have a theory about what’s gone wrong for the Toronto Blue Jays and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. over the course of this season.

Sportsnet commentator Buck Martinez thinks Guerrero Jr. has too many voices in his head, while your average radio caller might blame anything from the new pitch clock rules to a perceived lack of effort to alien interference.

There’s no clear answer to the star hitter’s struggles this season, but it’s been pronounced with the team not exactly having certainty if they’ll make the playoffs.

Toronto currently holds the final Wild Card spot by just half a game over the Texas Rangers, and is looking to be in a dogfight right up until the final days of the season.

Guerrero Jr. came into his career in Toronto as the No. 1 prospect in baseball, a franchise-cornerstone type piece, and of course, the son of a Hall of Fame hitter. His expectations have been sky-high, and while he’s shown his ability to be one of baseball’s best players, it hasn’t been the strongest season for Vlad Jr.

On the year, Guerrero Jr. hit .266 with 141 hits, 21 home runs, 82 RBIs and 64 runs scored in 136 games this season. For the power-hitting fans at home, he’s quite a ways off from his 48 home runs two years ago, and would need quite the streak to touch his 32 long bombs that he launched in 2022. He’s grounded into 21 double plays — third in the major leagues — and by just about any offensive metric, hasn’t quite lived up to his career expectations this year.

A year removed from his first Gold Glove, he’s struggled defensively as well, putting up a -1.6 defensive Wins Above Replacement metric this season, while also spending 30 of his games this year out of the field and in the designated hitter role.

Few things are guaranteed in baseball, as we’ve seen with this year’s Jays.

Guerrero Jr. is far from the only Blue Jay who’s struggled thus far — Alek Manoah seems like he might be shut down for the season, while Alejandro Kirk’s struggles have been well-documented. Both Manoah and Kirk cracked the American League All-Star roster in 2022, and have looked like anything but this year.

Of course, Guerrero Jr. can’t fix all the problems with the team, and with just 22 games left in Toronto’s season, he’s running out of chances to turn it around. But the beauty of sports is that fans have relatively short memories, and there should be plenty of chances for Guerrero Jr. to change the narrative about his season.

As we all know, baseball is a sport where signature moments remain etched in time for eternity.

Take Jose Bautista’s signature bat flip in the 2015 American League Division Series, for example. Sure, it didn’t culminate in a World Series win, but it cemented him into the minds of Canadian sports fans forever. He may have already had an impressive career with a few individual accolades — like Guerrero Jr.’s racked up — but it’s in the late September runs and postseason performances where players make their biggest marks on team history.

This offseason, Guerrero Jr. faces the possibility of arbitration and more discussions of a long-term contract. Those are inevitable, and many people might not exactly be thrilled to be signing him to a long-term, big-money deal if his current season averages hold up the rest of the way. But a long-term contract comes much easier to stomach if it’s coming off a strong finish to the season and potentially a long playoff run, with the bet that Guerrero Jr. will find his peaks again over the course of the deal.

Otherwise, uncomfortable discussions about trading a player who was expected to be the long-term face of the franchise might start to percolate.

Guerrero Jr. doesn’t need to be the Blue Jays’ best player for them to clinch a playoff berth or advance far in the postseason. But if he finds a way to return to his MVP-like form and come up big for the Blue Jays in a few clutch moments over the next month and a bit, it’ll potentially change how he’s viewed in the city — and across the country — forever.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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