The next time the son of a road crew superstar visits the Bronx, the Yankees will be wise to treat him well. Children with long memories and extraordinary talent enjoy revenge.
In the 1990s it was Ken Griffey Jr. Now it’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Just as Griffey repeatedly tormented the Yankees in his prime, 24-year-old Guerrero does the same in his years. The final blows came over the weekend in the Toronto Blue Jays’ winning streak.
Guerrero, their first baseman, blasted a two-run homer to start Friday’s scoring. On Sunday, he did it again, pulling a swollen liner into seats near the left foul post with two strikeouts in the sixth inning. Blue Jays won 5-1and the Yankees lost the series for the first time this season.
Rounding first base, Guerrero pointed up. He stumbled on his way to the third. He kissed his wrists as he rode home. The crowd booed and Guerrero reveled in it.
“Of course you’re listening to it,” Guerrero, who scores 0.341, said in Spanish through an interpreter. “But they are not going to take away this escape home from me. I’m just going to keep running the bases and enjoy it.”
Although Guerrero may not be a free agent until the end of the 2025 Major League Baseball season, he publicly vowed never to play for the Yankees during the final offseason. The statement echoed that of Griffey and later the Seattle Mariners, who were filmed signing autographs at the old Yankee Stadium and vowed, “If they were the only team that gave me a contract, I would resign.”
Griffey’s position came from sobering incident as a teenager, when he sat with his father Ken Sr. on the Yankee bench before a game. The guard told Griffey that the owner of the Yankee, George Steinbrenner, had issued an order to clear the dugout. They did, but not before Ken Sr. pointed out that the son of a teammate, Greig Nettles, was taking the Grounders at third base at that very moment.
The finding — that the white player was given privileges that the black player didn’t — emboldened Griffey Jr., who hit 41 homers against the Yankees in his career, including five wins in a five-game playoff series in 1995. (Only one team, the Minnesota Twins, allowed Griffey more homers.)
Guerrero’s father, Wladimir Sr., never played for a New York team in his Hall of Fame career, although his career batting average against the Yankees (.319, postseason included) is slightly better than his .316 career batting average throughout. regular season. and playoffs. Whatever the origin of Guerrero’s Yankee problem, it seems to hurt him just as deeply.
“This is a private matter,” he said on Sunday. “It goes back to my family and I’m not going to talk about anything more. Things have happened in the past and I’ll just leave it as it is.”
Like Griffey Jr., Guerrero Jr. flourished against the Yankees. His .614 hitting percentage at Yankee Stadium is the best by any player in the stadium’s 15-year history (at least 100 balls). His 12 homers in the Bronx are more than he’s hit in any road stadium.
“You come in here and get booed and you can do one of two things,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “Reggie Jackson said, ‘They don’t boo anybody,’ so I think Vlady worked that out a bit. We all know what a striker he is.”
Toronto starter Kevin Gausman, who won seven innings against the Yankees on Sunday, said Guerrero is enjoying the heel role.
“He seems to enjoy playing here,” Gausman said. “He says he doesn’t like coming here, but he plays pretty well here. Every time he comes to bat, we all pay attention because he just hits the ball so hard. He’s a guy who likes to be the villain when we come here.”
George Springer of the Blue Jays has a history of bickering; he played for the champion Houston Astros in 2017, their year sign theft scandal, and was among the players booed by opposing fans once the scheme was revealed. Springer said that Guerrero is naturally calm, trusting his talent and his process. But most of all, Springer is impressed by this subtlety.
“The way he processes information is next level,” Springer said. “He learns the game in his own way. The way he does business, I mean he remembers everything.”
Including, quite obviously, something from the past that makes Guerrero beat the Yankees every chance he gets.