Ask any rational Yankees fan about Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and most will probably offer the objective take. He’s a great hitter who unfortunately plays for the rival Blue Jays, and his big hits against New York thus hurt a little bit more.
But ask Vladimir Guerrero Jr. what he thinks of the Yankees, and it’s like the Bronx Bombers are the world’s absolute worst. He’s taken more than a few public shots at the team in the last few years. Most notably, he appeared on a Dominican radio program last offseason and said he wanted to “kill the Yankees” and wouldn’t ever sign with them, “not even dead.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg of Guerrero’s individual, personal relationship with New York. He shushes the rowdy Bronx crowd after every home run in Yankee Stadium. The absurd “This is my house” walk-off win in Toronto the day before the Yankees clinched the AL East.
And when asked why the Yankees earned his vitriol? Guerrero went the easy route, called it a personal family issue, and that was it.
What a joke.
No, seriously. Look back through baseball history and there’s literally no reason to believe there’s ill will between the New York Yankees and Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr. They certainly weren’t trying to sign him in free agency ahead of 2004. The Yankees traded for Alex Rodriguez while the elder Guerrero signed with the Angels. Prior to that, Vlad Sr. was a Montreal Expo and barely faced the Yankees.
That isn’t to say New York fans were frustrated by him. Vladimir Guerrero Sr. was a .318 career hitter with the Yankees, including 12 home runs. His Angels also twice faced the Yankees in the playoffs, the 2005 ALDS and ’09 ALCS. Now, add in that New York often famously struggled against Mike Scioscia’s small-ball-oriented Angels teams.
Here, let me ask the younger Guerrero again but a little bit louder:
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is 24 years old and thus would have been six and ten years old both times his dad played the Yankees in the playoffs. Maybe he was at some games and fans booed him and his family and got too personal? It’s certainly possible, just ask Cliff Lee’s wife.
Except if that’s the case, just say so! The Blue Jays have not had any major triumph over the Yankees since Guerrero debuted in 2019. Just winning a series or stealing a win here or there. No playoff rivalry, no do-or-die series for the division crown. Nothing.
And yet, Guerrero hates New York.
Now let’s shift focus back to the Yankees. The lineup is pretty banged up and needs a spark. Harrison Bader coming back soon will help but that’s not enough. Aaron Judge is slumping. Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson are injured. Aaron Hicks is terrible and there’s no further help on the way.
Meanwhile, May 15-17 in Toronto marks the next time the Yankees face the Blue Jays. Their opponents leading up to then are as follows: the Twins, Guardians, Rays, A’s, and then the Rays again. We’ll call these games basic training.
We know New York’s pitching staff is strong enough to keep the team competitive, even with a lineup beset by injury. That means manager Aaron Boone and hitting coach Dillon Lawson should stress doing the small things at a great level.
It could be a walk, a strong at-bat, a stolen base, anything to keep the line moving. Sparring and sweating their way to the rematch, Rocky III style.
Cut to the Toronto series and the Yankees lineup will be ready to go, and probably in better shape. Judge should be out of his slump and maybe Gleyber Torres, too. Bader will be back and hopefully a resurgent former Blue Jay in Josh Donaldson.
A slightly restocked lineup and a competitive slate of arms. That sounds like the recipe for a knockout blow square in Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s motormouthed (and, of course, metaphorical) mug, doesn’t it?
Guerrero has no reason to view the Yankees as an enemy other than the reason that they play in the same division. And yet, for something that solely exists in his head or he’s otherwise keeping to himself, he views them as such.
The Yankees of old had Ken Griffey Jr., who disliked the team for deeply personal reasons and later had the last laugh in the 1995 playoffs. This new generation has Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and his playing in the AL East means he can’t just be ignored.
There’s only one thing to do. Batter the Blue Jays and remind Guerrero that until he wins the big one, that big talking is for the adults in the room.
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