Because it’s relatively hard to make the MLB playoffs you’ll often hear teams and fans choose a more modest goal.
“We want to be playing meaningful baseball in September” is a common refrain. The phrase is meant to describe a state where at the very least you’re in the mix - regardless of where the chips fall.
The Blue Jays haven’t played “meaningful baseball” since 2016. That changes on Friday.
That doesn’t mean Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is good enough to vault this team into contention. But only because no single player could. The Blue Jays could trade Billy McKinney for Mike Trout and not experience October baseball in 2019.
No, this isn’t meaningful baseball in the most traditional sense, as it pertains to wins, losses, or competing for a playoff spot. This is meaningful baseball in terms of witnessing history.
There is no guarantee that Guerrero Jr. is going to put on a laser show the likes of which we’ve never seen. He’s probably not a great bet to set any rookie records either, especially given the time he’s missed thanks to service time manipulation.
However, Vladdy is undoubtedly the best prospect the Blue Jays have ever had, he’s definitely the best prospect in baseball, and he might be the best hitting prospect the sport has seen.
It’s hard to conceive of anything that the 20-year-old doesn’t do exceptionally well at the plate. He hits home runs ballparks can’t contain with regularity. He takes his walks and almost never strikes out. He sprays line drives to every corner of the field at remarkable speeds. The crack of his bat is already legendary. The way the ball flies off of it makes us question our understanding of gravity.
Every MLB fanbase is familiar with an over-hyped prospect who wilted under the spotlight at the highest level. It only takes a couple of years for a young player to go from potential franchise cornerstone to dead weight. The most recent example for the Blue Jays is probably Travis Snider, who ultimately carved out an MLB career, but was never a difference maker. That kind of outcome can make it hard to fully believe in the next guy to come along.
In all likelihood, Vladdy will erase all doubts in short order. He’s been so much better than everyone he’s played against thus far in his life, and he will be much better than most people he faces in the majors. There will be occasional slumps and detours because baseball is an exceedingly difficult game. Ultimately, though, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be who you’d hope he’ll be.
The moment he steps on the field, the Blue Jays are worth watching. The centrepiece of their future is on display and that makes them infinitely more compelling. Friday makes the time for Blue Jays’ nihilism to end.
These games are about to mean something - even if the wins and losses don’t.
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