Comparing Guerrero Jr.’s amazing first half to other Blue Jays greats – Toronto Sun

Author of the article:

Steve Simmons

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays is thrown out at first base by Mike Zunino #10 (not pictured) as Ji-Man Choi #26 of the Tampa Bay Rays makes the tag during the first inning at Tropicana Field on Saturday.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays is thrown out at first base by Mike Zunino #10 (not pictured) as Ji-Man Choi #26 of the Tampa Bay Rays makes the tag during the first inning at Tropicana Field on Saturday. Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice /Getty Images

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is having a half-season for the ages with the Blue Jays, his numbers leaping off the statistical pages as the all-star break approaches.

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He leads the American League in batting average, is second in home runs, first in RBI, first in on-base percentage, second in slugging, first in OPS, first in hits, second in runs scored.

At a time when offensive statistics are in decline, when strikeouts are on the rise, when baseball is choking itself with spin rates and analytics, Guerrero appears to be doing the impossible, seemingly having the greatest offensive season in Blue Jays history.

Contextually it might be. Statistically, not necessarily.

Vladdy Jr. was hitting .340 heading into Saturday afternoon’s game in Tampa. But in 1993, John Olerud went to the break hitting .395. In 1999, Tony Fernandez was batting .372 at the break.

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Guerrero has 28 home runs: With a game Sunday in Tampa, he’s unlikely to catch Jose Bautista, who had 31 at the break in 2011. George Bell had 29 in his MVP season of 1987.

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In Carlos Delgado’s monster season of 2000 — one of many monster seasons — he had an OPS of 1.185 heading to the all-star game. Both Bautista and Olerud had numbers better than Guerrero’s current mark of 1.113.

The RBI number that seems impossible from afar: Delgado had 97 at the break in 2003. Nine Blue Jays —three of them being Delgado, two of them being Edwin Encarnacion — had more RBI at the half than Guerrero has now with 71.

But when Bell became the first Jay to win MVP in ’87’, the only category he finished first in was RBI. He was second in homers, 12th in batting, 36th in on-base percentage, fifth in OPS, 2nd in slugging, second in runs scored.

Those numbers put Guerrero’s current standing in a crazy place in Blue Jays history: The most complete offensive half-season we have ever witnessed.

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THIS AND THAT

So, if you had $5.5 million to spend, and you’re playing the home version of the general manager game so many of us play, who is the better buy, Phillip Danault or Zach Hyman? … For salary cap reasons, the Leafs need to lose Alex Kerfoot in the expansion draft. That drops $3.5 million their cap. That would give them about $12 million to spend in the off-season on six players. If they lose Travis Dermott, for example, then they have just $10 million to spend, barring trades of any kind … I suspect the Leafs know which player Seattle is taking from its expansion list. Wouldn’t that have been part of the conversation, allowing assistant coach Dave Hakstol to become head coach of the Kraken? You don’t give up something without getting a little something back in return … Should the Leafs have $12 million to spend, you can buy two relatively decent players — maybe a $5-million purchase and a $4-million buy and then spent the rest of your cap space on lower salary fill-ins and hopefuls … If Frederik Andersen wants $5 million a year, he can’t get it from the Leafs. If he’s willing to come down in price — and the market may dictate that — the Leafs would welcome him back … I seem to be in the minority on this: I think Jack Campbell has become a fine NHL goaltender. I think he’ll be able to play 50 games and represent himself well. What the Leafs need to find, and this is huge, is a goaltender who can play 30-40 games, if need be … Someone is going to overpay for Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman in free agency, unless Tampa re-signs one of them. They are good, solid, third-line wingers, playing with an exceptional third-line centre in Yanni Gourde. Will they be difference-makers without Gourde? Remains to be seen.

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HEAR AND THERE

If every player on every Major League team isn’t vaccinated — and they’re not — how will the Canadian government allow ball teams into Canada to play, assuming the Blue Jays eventually find their way home? That will be the central and complicated issue that needs to be cleared up before the Jays will be playing again at Rogers Centre … I’m convinced that if the Blue Jays played the Red Sox in a playoff series, right now, the Jays would win. So can someone please explain how the Jays are nine games behind a team they’re better than heading into Saturday? … And Charlie Montoyo is doing a great job. I know that because they keep telling me that … If Jacob deGrom, the best pitcher in baseball, and Jose Altuve, two of the baseball’s best players, don’t care enough to go to the all-star game, why should we care enough to watch? …. Kyle Funkhouser pitched for the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. He never did appear on Curb Your Enthusiasm … Masai Ujiri turned a young 51 the other day and is working on the upcoming NBA draft and the beginning of free agency for the Raptors. The way he’s working, it sure looks like the unsigned Ujiri isn’t going anywhere … Shohei Ohtani has hit 33 home runs and has an earned run average of 3.49 in 13 starts. Can you say MVP? … The way Nick Suzuki played for Montreal during the playoffs caught the eye of those picking Team Canada for the upcoming Winter Olympics. Suzuki’s battle though — too many great forwards to contend with … One player unlikely to be picked for Team Canada, Steven Stamkos.

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SCENE AND HEARD

Bill Manning is president of the Argos and president of Toronto FC. The soccer team, for lack of a better word, stinks. It has been in decline for two seasons now. They’ve had three coaches in their past 13 games. The Argos, last two seasons under Manning, have an 8-28 record. They’re on their third coach in three seasons. Which begs the question that nobody cares enough to ask: How is it this kind of performance accepted? … In the last 11 months, the rather ordinary city of Tampa has celebrated two Stanley Cup wins, a Super Bowl win, and a trip to the World Series, and had an NBA season from a team that wasn’t theirs. Three championships in 11 months in the big four and they don’t have their own NBA team: Toronto has three championships in the past 344 months, give or take a week … Former NHL player and coach Bugsy Watson passed away the other day. If you’re of a certain vintage, you will remember the battles Watson had when Bobby Hull was dominating the NHL. In Detroit, coach Sid Abel once said to Watson: “If Bobby Hull goes to the concession stand, you will go with him and put sugar in his coffee.” Not many players could control Hull. The late Watson found a way … There are three months until the NHL season begins, which gives Rogers Sportsnet three months to figure out what it hasn’t figured out in six seasons — how to do Hockey Night In Canada properly. The sell-out show opening for the night the Stanley Cup was won, with LeBron James and company pumping his Space Jam movie, bordered on embarrassing.

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AND ANOTHER THING

I haven’t covered much soccer over the years but I was fortunate enough to be at Old Trafford when Diane Matheson scored a late goal that won Canada the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. It was the kind of special moment that never leaves you. Matheson announced her retirement recently. What a moment to carry around for the rest of your life … Saw this in the neighbourhood Saturday and it made me smile: A road hockey game in July. Last goal wins … Watching Team Canada lose in the Olympic qualifying basketball tournament in Victoria left me with one clear impression: Individual players don’t win in international basketball. Teams win. Canada had talent. It didn’t have a team … One other thing: You can’t win at any level of basketball anymore if you can’t hit threes. Canada shot 24.3% from three in their loss to the Czech Republic. And that’s with a shorter three-point shot than those we see in the NBA … Denis Shapovalov’s performance against Novak Djokovic was as great a Canadian men’s tennis performance as I’ve ever seen. And I go back to Daniel Nestor’s Davis Cup win over Stefan Edberg and Steve Rogul’s loss to Bjorn Borg … Hockey marketing: Win the Stanley Cup, show up semi-juiced at your post-game news conference, don’t both to wear a shirt, say some funny things, insult a few fans, and you know what you get if your name is Nikita Kucherov — a contract to market Bud Light … Stick tap for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which had voted to no longer discipline fighters who test positive for cannabis … This is good: CFL training camps are open … I tore my Achilles tendon playing tennis in 1997. It wasn’t Randy Ambrosie’s fault … Would you give up anything of consequence for Vladimir Tarasenko, the one-time highlight reel man, who has scored seven goals the past two seasons, playing just 34 games? Not sure I would … Auston Matthews was voted to the second all-star team in the NHL, the fourth Maple Leafs centre to get that honour in the modern era. Dave Keon and Mats Sundin were voted twice to the second team and Darryl Sittler made it once … Happy birthday to Andre Dawson (67), Bill Barber (69), Chico Resch (73), Bob Bailor (70), Joey McLaughlin (65), Adam Foote (50), Jordan Binnington (28), Al MacInnis (58), Sam Giguere (36), Roger Craig (61) and Joey Bosa (26) … And hey, whatever became of Sebastien Lareau?

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JUST THE BEGINNING FOR VASILEVSKIY?

Andrei Vasilevskiy has now won two Stanley Cups in a row, which is extraordinarily rare for someone who has been called the greatest goaltender in the world.

When the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Cups in a row recently, they used both Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in goal. Neither was thought to be best in the world.

When the Blackhawks won three championships, none of them consecutive, they used Antti Niemi and then Corey Crawford as their goaltenders, not anywhere close to best in the world.

In fact, you have to go back to a string of championships — the five won between 1999 to 2003 to find sure-thing Hall of Fame goaltenders in net for each championship team. It started with Ed Belfour in Dallas, then Martin Brodueur, then Patrick Roy, then Dominik Hasek then Brodeur again. A murderer’s row of goalies winning year after year.

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Just not lately.

Jordan Binnington was a flavour of the month kind of goalie in St. Louis when the Blues won the Cup. Braden Holtby was always a decent NHL goalie when Washington won its Cup, just not the all-time great type. Other championship goalies in recent years include Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas, Chris Osgood, J.S. Giguere and Cam Ward. None of them all-time greats.

Bernie Parent won twice in a row in Philadelphia in the 70s and he was exceptional. Ken Dryden won four Cups in a row with the great Montreal Canadiens and he too was spectacular. Grant Fuhr was the perfect goalie for the high-flying Edmonton Oilers teams but best in the world, not really?

It makes you wonder: Vasilevskiy, who won a 1-0 game to win the Cup, won a 1-0 game to get to the Cup, how many more championships will he make possible? He turns 27 later this month. He is at a level no one else, including Carey Price, can compare to.

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OLYMPICS WON’T BE THE SAME WITHOUT FANS IN ATTENDANCE

There is something exceptional about every Olympic Games. The atmosphere. The breathtaking athletic achievement. The stories that come from nowhere and stay with you forever.

The experience is there for everyone in attendance and everyone at home, watching on television. But so much of what Olympics are about will be taken away when the Games begin, assuming the Summer Games do begin, in Tokyo two weeks from now.

Village life won’t be village life for the athletes competing. For them, that is so much of the definition of being an Olympian. We tend to get caught up in who wins what medal and how but the highest percentage of athletes from around the world and from Canada come home with cherished memories, but no medals. They come home talking of friendships made, the experiences of being in a new country, life in the village, life in their sport: This is the big show for almost every sport. This is their moment in time.

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But it sounds as though there will be no one in the stands, or not many anyhow, because of COVID-19. There won’t be the usual social aspects to the Games, for those going or those competing. You will run your race, pack your bags, and go home. No time to take in the Olympic experience. No time to be part of a culture you might be unfamiliar with.

On television, knowing the quality of the producers involved, it will look like the Olympics. A studio version, anyhow. But as someone who has been to the Games 17 times in 14 countries, I feel for those going for the first time. They won’t get the usual experience in Tokyo. What makes the event so grand will be missing this summer.

DJOKOVIC ON TRACK TO BE THE GREATEST MALE TENNIS PLAYER

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Novak Djokovic will compete for his 20th Grand Slam victory on Sunday at Wimbledon. That number seems somewhat unbelievable when you consider that Bjorn Borg won 11 Grand Slam tennis championships and John

McEnroe managed just seven.

And they made movies about them.

Even the great and powerful Pete Sampras won 14 Slams, which seemed rather impossible by itself before the Big

Three of tennis came along and changed everything.

Should Djokovic hit the 20 mark on Sunday he will tie Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, each of them with the same number of Grand Slam victories. And more incredible: All from the same era.

In the last 18 major tournaments, Djokovic has won seven, Nadal six, Federer three and Dominic Thiem somehow was allowed to win one. The 18th will be played Sunday. By comparison, on the women’s side of the Grand Slam ledger, 13 different players have won major tournaments over the past 18 championships which represents a five-year look at the sport.

And in the last 17 of those, Serena Williams was not the champion in any of them.

What Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal have managed, in competition with each other, playing different styles on different surfaces, defies credulity. Federer turns 40 this summer and clearly is nearing the end. Nadal just turned 35 and has begun to slightly fade. But one year younger, Djokovic at 34, the least popular of the Big Three, will soon become the most decorated.

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