During Friday night’s Toronto Blue Jays game, the incomparable Hazel Mae dropped a harrowing report about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on fans.
As she described,
“You may have noticed he’s been wearing his pink Mother’s Day sleeve for most of the season, and that’s because his mom Riquelma has been dealing with a serious health issue. Guerrero told me she is improving but still very ill, and the pink sleeve lets her know he’s always thinking of her, and […] also reminds him of what’s really important, and that’s family.”
Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the story of Vlad Guerrero Jr. will probably know how important family is to him, and particularly his mother.
Yes, when you think of Vlad Jr., you’re probably going to think of his Hall of Fame father, but while Vlad Sr. was off pursuing his Major League dream across North America, it was Vlad Jr.’s mother who raised him, along with his grandparents, in the Dominican Republic.
Consider, when then-Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos beat out 29 other GMs for 16-year-old Vladdy’s signature in 2015, he did not seal the deal by going to Senior. Instead, it was a meeting with Vladdy’s mom in which she and Anthopoulos, both of them from Montreal, spoke French over lunch at her home in Santiago.
And when Guerrero did put his name on the dotted line to become a part of the Blue Jays franchise, it was not one of his many uncles, brothers, or cousins, or even his father, who stood beside him as he did, but his mother.
One can imagine what he is going through right now, and certainly, all of us here at Jays Journal are wishing Riquelma Ramos a full recovery.
Take a step back though.
What Hazel’s report did, aside from direct the thoughts and prayers of a nation towards one woman, is bring up an important point.
No matter how badly the tall foreheads in the front office wish it was so, the players we watch on the field are not numbers in an algorithm; they’re people, subject to the same pushes and pulls, ups and downs, as the rest of us.
Much ink has been spilled, and many hours of content created, discussing Vladdy’s underperformance on the field this season. Most famously, MLB.com released its seminal “11 theories explaining Vlad’s confusing 2023 season” last month, laying down a litany of potential reasons for his relatively pedestrian 115 OPS+ and 1.7 WAR – from his pull rate to his lack of success against fastballs, to the new Rogers Centre dimensions, to his protection in the lineup, to an injury, to plain old bad luck.
Every angle covered, except, perhaps, the one that matters most.
Think of José Berrios taking to the bump against the Rays last year at the exact moment when Hurricane Fiona was ravaging his home country of Puerto Rico, letting up six earned runs in two innings, and getting crushed for it in both mainstream and social medias.
Sometimes it’s about more than fastball command, more than launch angle.
Even under the bright lights, these are just people.
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