One sure sign of true charisma is a multitude of nicknames, and along with the legendary name he inherited, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Toronto Blue Jays' powerful first baseman, also answers to Vlad Jr., Vladdy and Vladito. Then there's Plákata, which is more of a synonym for Guerrero than a nickname, the same way Beast Mode is just another way of saying Marshawn Lynch. Plákata is slang born in Caribbean baseball for the kind of barrel contact that typically results in a long home run -- an adjective, in other words, not a noun. But who cares? It's a perfect fit, both for Vlad Jr. and for what he does to baseballs: plákata.
Not all generational sluggers slug the same way. For every Pete Alonso with a short, lumberjack hack, there's a Manny Ramirez, whose swing was loose and easy, like he was tossing out a fishing net. Guerrero's swing, meanwhile, has a rare, whipping violence the game hasn't seen since peak Gary Sheffield, who had one of modern baseball's two most terrifying swings, and peak Vladimir Guerrero Sr., who had the other. Their bats were huge, and they swung them so hard it was as if the bat swung them. Vlad Jr.'s swing is a mirror image of his father's -- it's the first thing everyone notices about him. His frame very much is not -- that's the second. Junior looks like Senior if you wrapped Senior in dough and let it rise for an hour.
Vlad Jr. is also blessed with a preternatural plate discipline that, suffice to say, he did not inherit from his father. Senior's most iconic base hit was an otherwise inconsequential single against the Orioles in 2009. The pitch bounced in front of the plate, but Senior swung anyway and knocked it into left field. Junior is far choosier. He's got such a good eye and such a flawless swing path that he exposes the fundamental unfairness of pitching vis a vis hitting, which is that the ball has to go past him first. He dropped a ton of weight before the 2021 season, and now his wrists are so fast there's nowhere safe to pitch him. Your best bet is inside, on the hands -- like really inside, really in on the hands, where it's too risky for both of you. Anywhere else, and he plákatas it to the moon.
Guerrero is one of four baseball scions in the Jays' relentless lineup, along with shortstop and fellow All-Star Bo Bichette (son of Rockies slugger Dante), left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (son of Cuban league legend Lourdes Sr.) and third baseman Cavan Biggio (son of Hall of Famer Craig), and with the exception of Biggio, who has struggled so far, they're all ripening at once. Stir in free-agent center-fielder George Springer, who's spent half the season injured and the other half raking, plus a career year from free-agent second baseman Marcus Semien, and the result is a historic offense hiding in plain sight. Over a single 24-hour period in early September, spanning three games in Baltimore -- a Saturday doubleheader and a Sunday matinee -- the Blue Jays scored 44 runs (and the first two games were only seven innings). During one four-inning stretch that weekend, they scored a MLB-record 27 times.