With one flick of the wrist, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. reached for a full-count curveball over the outer edge of the plate. Its destination was a few rows back in the right field seats at Yankee Stadium and for the 40th time this year, Guerrero trotted around the bases.
It was a history-making trot as well. When Guerrero Jr. hit his latest homer, those in attendance saw him join his father Vladimir Sr. as the second father-son duo to produce at least one 40-homer season.
“I have front row seats to watch this whole season,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “What he’s done, that’s not easy to do. This guy he’s going to be one of the best players in baseball. Actually he already is and it’s been fun to watch somebody that young be that good at the plate.”
Montoyo also had a close up of Vladimir Sr. in 1996 when the pair were teammates for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League
. While Montoyo was in his last season as a player, the elder Guerrero was a 20-year-old on the way to a Hall of Fame career and his stop in Harrisburg featured a .360 average, 19 homers and 78 RBIs in 118 games. It was among the 16 times Guerrero Sr. hit at least .300 in a professional season.
“I’ve been there,” Montoyo told a reporter in 1996 about what was ahead of Guerrero Sr.. “He has to keep doing what he’s doing, letting his bat do the talking.
At age 22, it is hard not to imagine Guerrero producing several more 40 seasons and letting his bat do the talking with many, many, loud sounds. In the meantime, the Guerrero family joined Cecil and Prince Fielder as the second father-son duo to homer 40 times in a season.
“That’s amazing,” Toronto’s Marcus Semien said. “I knew when we took BP, it was a good day to hit to right field. He didn’t hit on the field but I mentioned that to him. He’s so good he did it in his first at-bat. It’s something special. There’s a long way to go this month and he looks like he’s getting really hot and that’s something we’re going to need.”
By comparison, Cecil Fielder’s first 40-homer season was in his age 26-season when he hit 51 for the Detroit Tigers following a one-year stint in Japan that came after he hit .243 and 46 homers in four seasons for the Blue Jays. Cecil Fielder followed it up with 44 more homers in 1991 and then finished with four more seasons of at least 30 homers. His son Prince Fielder made it 40 homers in his age 23 season when he slugged 50 in 2007 for Milwaukee and produced 46 homers in 2009 en route to 319 for his 12-year career.
Guerrero Sr. totaled 449 and reached the 40-homer plateau twice when his son was a toddler. In 1999, Guerrero hit 42 homers and reached the mark in the penultimate game of the season at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium off Paul Byrd.
The next season, Guerrero Sr. got 44 homers, reaching the mark on Sept. 18, 2000 in an otherwise inconsequential game against the Miami Marlins.
Twenty-one years later, he is the proud Hall of Fame father of a son, who not only hits for power for average and does it fairly consistent for a lineup that might wind up being the biggest obstacle to the Yankees’ quest for getting the home game in the wild card or even getting to the play-in game.
“It seems like Vladdy’s been steady the whole time,” Semien said. “He takes his singles but he will take you deep too. He’s been so consistent this whole entire year. Even when people say he’s in a slump, he’s still probably hitting over .250 which is still good. So, he’s so talented and he knows his swing too. So, it’s scary I think.”
And by the way, Guerrero’s historic drive came on a three-hit day that gave him a .414 average in a 14-game hitting streak and a .321 average in a season where his average has been over .300 following 134 of the 135 games he has appeared in.
“It’s not easy to do at that age but more impressive to me is the singles he’s getting to the opposite field,” Montoyo said. “He’s not looking for home runs and that’s why he has a good hitting streak.”
The differences in the Blue Jays and Yankees can be seen in batting average even though it is a number not valued by some segments in baseball.
Toronto’s first seven hitters each ended Monday hitting .260 or higher, giving the Blue Jays a .264 team average. The Yankees ended their seventh loss in nine games since their 13-game run to the top of the wild card spot with a .236 average and nobody in their starting lineup ended the day with an average higher than .291.
Guerrero also did what Joey Gallo could not do. Gallo did not come close to homering or getting a hit with a four strikeouts (three looking) and is down to .130 with 61 of his 123 at-bats for the Yankees ending in strikeouts.
And while Guerrero will not homer in each game (we think), the Blue Jays showed a lineup capable of coming through more often than not as opposed to the Yankees, who even during their longest run since Sept. 1961 were not great in that area.
“We’re coming through with runners on more,” Semien said. “That’s something we’re going to need to do down the stretch,” he said. “We’re starting to get a feel for how teams are attacking us, especially with runners in scoring position.”