Tuesday, May 1, 2018

I'm a Stone, Baby You're a Feather

The purple prose comes free and easy when Vladimir Guerrero Jr is the subject. It comes as easily to prospect watchers and scouts as it does to those interested in the human condition.

Comparisons to Hall of Famers, triple crown winners and perennial MVP candidates slip right off the ends of fingers and end up on the pages of venerable publications with better things to do than inject helium into any teen capable of running into a few wayward heaters. Caution long thrown to the wind, the message is clear: this is the one you dream on.

Vlad Jr makes it easy. The praise from wizened eyes comes as easily as the game comes to the game’s top prospect, a player with as bright a future as any to ascend through the Blue Jays ranks. It comes as easily as power to the opposite field and an innate knowledge of the strike zone comes to the youngest player currently in the double-A Eastern League. It comes with the same ease with which Guerrero brings the bathead to the baseball. Fastball or offspeed, any quadrant of the zone, they get barrelled all the same. Like it’s nothing because, to him, it is nothing.

It comes as easily as visions of Guerrero “27” jerseys lining the streets of Toronto and eye-popping triple slash lines because his slate is beyond pristine. Not only is the idea of Vladimir Guerrero Jr as yet untroubled by big league velocity and travel, big league attention and distraction; his slate was gilded and forged by the gods of baseball themselves. Not every prospect comes with instant name recognition, which itself contains a built-in mythos to add to his own quickly building mythology. If his name were Carlos Delgado Jr, would he still have the same Casual Fan juice?

The name opens doors, even if they’re just the doors to our overactive imaginations. It is that very same surname that opened doors in the real world, facilitating growth where raw talent often stalls.
Not to subtract from the work required to become this damn good, but growing up the child of a millionaire in big league clubhouses affords a certain ease, the ability to approach your craft with an uncommon abandon, knowing an attractive back-up plan.

This ease contrasts the Next Great Blue Jay against the current Great Blue Jay. For as easily as the praise and the wishcasting comes to Guerrero, it doesn’t come as easily for Josh Donaldson. Nothing ever has.

His name opens few doors, his father’s number not retired in a big league stadium but issued by the state for a series of ugly crimes. His rise to the big leagues was “steady” rather than “meteoric.” And for the entirety of his stay in Toronto, Donaldson’s been almost impossible to discuss in rational terms.

He’s too good and has been since the day he arrived but it somehow goes unnoticed. His presence is felt more when he’s out of the lineup, serving as its rock solid core. His steady, ceaseless production churns out extra base hits and high quality plate appearances. He has an uncommon energy and flair for the dramatic, but there will never be volumes filled with What Josh Donaldson Means monologues.

Donaldson is among the finest players to ever wear the Blue Jays uniform. His exploits feature as prominently in this century’s highlight reel as any to wear the shirt. But there’s a very good chance he won’t share the field with Guerrero for long (if at all), and will end up--if not forgotten--than consistently overlooked.

There’s always someone to steal Donaldson’s hype. Peaking in the era of Trout means forever playing for second. He’s not adorable like Jose Altuve or as GIFable as Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado. And now, even in his own city, a sexier name sucks all the oxygen from the Blue Jays room.

Vlad Jr.’s larger-than-life reputation and 80 OFP are going to force their way into the big league setup sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, a very much MVP calibre player becomes slowly turns from an icon to an asset, a former most valuable player now regarded as a more valuable trade chip, the kind of player who can help tomorrow’s teams be great moreso than his ability to make this year’s club be almost good enough.

It seems a shame that one of the best we’ve ever had goes underappreciated while we wait for the best we’ve ever seen. It doesn’t need to be an either/or situation, even if reality charts a course that ensures these two ships pass silently in the night.

1 comment:

  1. Drew thanks for continuing with the posts. DJF and other sites be damned - your writing is prose and always captures the spirit of the moment with this team with all love so much.


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