Griffin: Vladimir Guerrero era for Blue Jays is over before it started
The Vladimir Guerrero experiment has ended. He still wants to play, but he wants to play in the majors, for the Blue Jays right now. In the end, it cost the organization nothing.
"There was no guarantees, there was no financial guarantees at all," Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said. "It was just let's take a shot and see how he looks."
Following Monday night's game at Cashman Field, in Las Vegas, the former free-agent outfielder, current Jays' farmhand and future Hall-of-Famer Guerrrero packed his bags and let Blue Jays management know his feelings. He was ready for the majors and if it wasn't the Jays it was someone else. The 37-year-old DH let 51's manager Marty Brown know he was done with Triple-A and the 51's. In this case, it seemed what stayed in Vegas, especially if it was Vlad, would no longer happen in Vegas.
There had been rumours Tuesday morning that Vlad had enough and was retiring from baseball. There were other rumours that there had been a June 11 deadline, that if Guerrero was not in the majors by 1:30 p.m. then he could choose his release. But, as The Star's Brendan Kennedy reported, neither of those seems true.
“We never had a date, but we always told him throughout the process that any time that he felt that he didn't want to be here,” Anthopoulos explained the process. “Even though we don't have out clauses, we did have a handshake agreement that any time he could indicate if he wanted to go, we would grant him his release.”
The Jays have done the same with many others under their third-year GM. Think of it. Why would Guerrero retire right now, especially after a four-hit game in Vegas on Monday and the earnest manner at his May press conference with Jays media in Dunedin at which he had emphasized his goal of 51 more home runs to reach 500?
And, again, why would the Jays, at the start, tie themselves to a June 11 deadline to bring Guerrero to the majors, knowing they had six games upcoming at National League parks in Milwaukee and Miami, for which the defensively-restricted Guerrero could only pinch-hit?
No, this Vlad gambit was strictly a Guerrero power-play, by a former star tired of playing in the minors and perhaps financially needing to kick-start his pro-rated $1.3 million major-league salary as soon as possible.
“I talked to his agent (Bean Stringfellow) Monday morning,” Anthopoulos said. “We said a week ago we would re-evaluate things after the (Jays) road trip.
"He got hit in the hand and missed Saturday and Sunday's game. His agent and I spoke on Monday morning, I told him, 'Look, if we have to make a decision right now, we're not prepared to call him up, so if he wants his release we would do it. If not, he can strictly go day-to-day then he has the ability to control the process. But if the decision has to be made right now, we'll certainly grant him his release.'
“He played last night and he decided that was going to be enough for him. He felt he was certainly worthy of a callup and we're just not prepared to do that right now.”
Maybe it was the pressure on Guerrero of those reported $25,000 monthly child-support payments, revealed from recent court documents -- eight children, five mothers -- or perhaps it was simply his ego. But the fact of the matter is the Jays and GM Alex Anthopoulos were not about to be held hostage by a fading star that had had all winter to find a team willing to give him a major-league chance and could not do it.
There were stories emanating from Guerrero's camp that the player felt he had been manipulated, treated like a child, promised things that weren't delivered in terms of the timing of a recall.
“I never spoke to Vladdy directly,” Anthopoulos said of the report of mixed messages. “All I can say is we had great dialogue with his agent. We always told him he had the ability to go whenever he wanted to. From that standpoint, he's a great player, a Hall-of-Famer, a great teammate for us, he handled himself extremely well, a tremendous guy, but we weren't prepared to call him up right now.”
The real likelihood is that l'affaire Guerrero was more a by-product of a good professional working relationship between a major-league general manager, Anthopoulos, and a respected player agent, Stringfellow – this time gone sour.
Guerrero had been stymied at every turn this winter in his search for a guaranteed major-league job. Near the end of training camp, he changed representatives, hooking up with Stringfellow, who then assigned a trusted lieutenant, Jay Alou, to Vlad's account.
The Jays had formerly been interested this winter in offering Guerrero a non-guaranteed invitation to spring training, a virtual tryout. He and his ego had turned it down, still wanting a guaranteed roster spot. So Stringfellow, who had negotiated the two-year-old, good-for-both-sides contract of Jose Bautista and then, more recently, the short term bailout of free-agent reliever Francisco Cordero, Bean called the Jays and Anthopoulos made the same offer he had in the spring. No guarantees, no strings attached.
Anthopoulos has not been soured just because of the way the Guerrero experiment turned out. The young GM called the Bautista negotiations among the best he had ever had with any agent, so there was and is a mutual trust between the two men. Stringfellow would likely have seen the Jays offer as a way to get his client back into the mainstream of affiliated pro ball, allowing other teams to witness what it was that Vlad had left in the tank. Vlad should have been grateful for that opportunity. Agent was. Player wasn't.
Guerrero clearly did not see things the same way as his agent. A lot of us in life think we're still as good as we once were. We don't like to hear otherwise. After doing everything the Jays had asked, going to extended spring and playing games against teenagers, playing at A-Dunedin in front of 600 fans nightly, then moving up to Triple-A, believing he had found his rhythm against pitchers the next level down from the majors, Guerrero decided to gamble and go all-in. The Jays called his bluff.
Vlad is definitely ahead of where he was in his comeback dreams a month ago. But the 51 additional home runs and 500 for his career seem a long way off.