TORONTO – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had been kicking himself from the moment he made the out at second base that John Schneider later termed “inexcusable,” so when the interim manager sought him out after the game, the Toronto Blue Jays all-star was ready to be accountable.
“I know I didn't run very hard when I hit it and when I got to second base, I understood why I was out,” Guerrero, speaking through interpreter Hector Lebron, said Wednesday of getting thrown out at second during the sixth inning of a 5-2 loss to the New York Yankees the previous night.
“At that moment ... I thought to myself that I had to put a better effort on running hard. If I were to run like I'm capable, I would have made it to second base. When John came to me, I knew what he was going to tell me and before he even said anything, I said, ‘Hey, I should have put out a better effort. I should have run harder. And if you have to say anything to the press about that, I don't have any problem with that.’”
Schneider had already spoken to media, making his most pointed public criticisms of a player since taking over as interim manager 2½ months ago in the aftermath of a loss that clinched the AL East for the Yankees.
While that was inevitable, the way in which it happened was not.
Guerrero’s lackadaisical baserunning in which he went home to second in 10.09 seconds – for context he’s done that in nine seconds or less 14 times in 38 opportunities this season – and Bo Bichette’s split-second disengagement with the bag at second ended a sixth-inning rally.
While Schneider’s blunt post-game comments largely singled out Guerrero, the message was directed at the entirety of a team that has too often this season allowed small details to slip through the cracks.
“My view is, as a whole if we take care of little things that we can control, we usually are in a good spot to win,” said Schneider. “We're very talented and when we play clean and take care of things that should be taken care of, physical errors aside, we're just as good as anybody in the league.”
Guerrero feels the same way, and a few teammates had already taken him aside to discuss the gaffe before the game had even ended. By the time he connected with Schneider, he felt it was important to own his mistake and decided to begin the conversation with that.
“Very easy – I understood I did something wrong,” Guerrero replied when asked why he handled the issue that way. “I'm the kind of player that if I did something wrong, I've got to admit it, I've got to say it. Nothing changes if I deny it. I didn't make any excuses to him. I told him next time I'll run harder and it won't happen again because these games are very important right now. The rest of the games are very important. That play could have changed the tempo of the game. Who knows?”
What finished as an RBI single for Guerrero in that sixth inning cut the Yankees' lead to 5-2, but the Bichette mishap cost the Blue Jays at least another run, with the potential for more had the slugging first baseman been standing at second.
The mistake won’t keep the Blue Jays from advancing to the post-season, but if they finish a game shy of home-field advantage in the wild-card round, well every little miscue could be the one that makes a difference.
“This time of year is always important, but every game is important,” said Schneider. “We'd be doing everyone a disservice if we talked about being one game short last year and every game counts and not doing everything we can to cover all of our bases. So whether it was yesterday, today or April, I think it's a good thing for those guys to hear.”
“We've got to be mentally strong as a group and we have to do the little things,” he said. “We've got the talent. If we can do the little things, fundamentally, we're going to be fine.”