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Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. is apparently major league enough to be MLB’s social media sensation

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Recently, we have been talking about the near-certain upcoming manipulation of No. 1 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.’s service time by the Blue Jays. That his service time will likely be manipulated comes as no surprise, as the same was done to Kris Bryant a few years ago when he was an über-prospect. The Braves didn’t have Ronald Acuña Jr. open the season on the major league roster last year so they could gain an extra year of service time as well. The Phillies did the same with Maikel Franco. Bryant and Franco, in fact, filed grievances that ultimately did not go anywhere.

Service time manipulation is one piece of the puzzle in the current labor climate in Major League Baseball. We also seen a stagnant free agent market, which has encouraged younger players to agree to team-friendly contract extensions well before they reach eligibility for free agency. Ultimately, these are issues that will need to be addressed when the current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season.

In the meantime, front offices will continue to deflect as they gain that precious extra year of contractual control. Last week, Jays GM Ross Atkins said of Guerrero, “I just don’t see him as a major league player.” In the minors last season, Guerrero obliterated pitching to the tune of an aggregate .381/.437/.636 triple-slash line with 20 home runs and 78 RBI in 408 plate appearances. He had a .323/.425/.485 line in 2017. Atkins cited defense and a “physical aspect” — presumably referring to Guerrero’s weight — to defend having him start the season at Triple-A rather than on the Opening Day roster of a rebuilding team.

Despite this, Major League Baseball’s own social media accounts have found Guerrero major league enough to post about him.

Guerrero’s double above was from Sunday afternoon’s Grapefruit League game, which went viral because he one-armed it.

MLB even promoted Guerrero last year, quoting Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who said, “I think he’s going to be just as special as [Vladimir Guerrero, Sr.]” Vlad Sr., who spent 16 seasons in the majors, is a Hall of Famer, too.

I propose a rule: If Guerrero is good enough for MLB to drum up excitement around him and profit off of his image, then he’s good enough to not be disingenuously stuffed in the minors for two weeks (or more) to start the season.

Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.

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