Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has emerged as a nemesis for the New York Yankees, much like Ken Griffey Jr. did in the past. Guerrero, 24, is currently at the peak of his career, inflicting damage on the Yankees just as Griffey did during his prime years. In their recent series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Guerrero, the formidable first baseman known for his power hitting, made his presence felt.
During the series, Guerrero kicked off the scoring on Friday with a two-run home run, and on Sunday, he repeated the feat by launching a scorching line drive into the left field seats near the foul pole, securing a 5-1 victory for the Blue Jays. This series loss marked the first time the Yankees had dropped a series this season.
As Guerrero rounded the bases after his home run, he made his feelings known. He pointed to the sky, added a stutter step while passing third base, and kissed his wrists in a dramatic flourish. The crowd responded with boos, but Guerrero seemed to thrive on the hostility.
When asked about the fan reaction, Guerrero, who boasts an impressive batting average of .341, responded in Spanish through an interpreter, “Of course, you listen to it, but they’re not going to take that home run away from me. I’m just going to continue to run the bases and enjoy it.”
While Guerrero cannot become a free agent until after the 2025 season, he publicly declared last offseason that he would never play for the Yankees. This declaration mirrored Griffey’s stance when he was with the Seattle Mariners, stating that he would retire if the Yankees were the only team offering him a contract.
Griffey’s decision was influenced by a troubling incident from his youth when, as a teenager, he and his father, Ken Griffey Sr., were asked to leave the Yankees’ dugout due to an order from the team’s owner, George Steinbrenner.
Ken Sr. had pointed out that the son of a teammate was allowed to practice at third base, highlighting unequal treatment between white and Black players. This incident fueled Griffey Jr.’s determination to excel against the Yankees, hitting 41 home runs against them during his career.
Vladimir Guerrero Sr., unlike Griffey Jr., never played for a New York team during his Hall of Fame career, but he maintained an impressive batting average of .319 against the Yankees, including postseason games.
Whatever the root cause of Guerrero Jr.’s animosity towards the Yankees, it runs deep and remains personal.
Like Griffey Jr., Guerrero Jr. has been exceptionally successful against the Yankees. His slugging percentage at Yankee Stadium is an impressive .614, the highest among all players with a minimum of 100 at-bats in the ballpark’s 15-year history. Additionally, his 12 home runs in the Bronx surpass any other road stadium.
Blue Jays Manager John Schneider commented on Guerrero’s ability to thrive under pressure, saying, “Reggie Jackson said, ‘They don’t boo nobodies,’ so I think Vladdy kind of worked off of that a little bit. We all know the kind of hitter that he is.”
Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman, who delivered a seven-inning shutout performance against the Yankees, observed that Guerrero seems to relish the role of the antagonist, saying, “It seems like he loves playing here. He says he doesn’t like coming here, but he plays pretty well here.
Anytime he comes up to bat, we’re all paying attention because he just hits the ball so hard. He’s a guy that kind of likes being the villain when we come here.”
George Springer of the Blue Jays, who has experienced heckling as a former member of the Houston Astros during their sign-stealing scandal, described Guerrero as naturally composed, placing his trust in his talent and process.
Springer also praised Guerrero’s exceptional ability to process information and his keen memory, qualities that undoubtedly contribute to his consistent success against the Yankees.
Guerrero’s motivation, seemingly stemming from a past incident, continues to drive him to conquer the Yankees at every opportunity.