By Jon Weisman
Three kids and nearly 13 years into being a dad, my belief in my kids’ athletic skills is about what most people had in Alex Guerrero in January, or Dee Gordon the previous January, or Marlon Anderson and Ronnie Belliard immediately after their “Why bother?” acquisitions in the summers of recent pasts.
Which is to say, practically hopeless.
A couple of months ago, during my 7-year-old’s basketball season, there was what I call an “Awakenings” moment.
Youngest Master Weisman can string some baskets together from about five feet out in the driveway, but that’s been about it. In his league games at our local rec center, games he enjoyed mainly for being with the other kids, little was happening aside from his amusing clown-car dashes from one end of the court to another.
Then, on consecutive Saturdays, he went nuts. One of the parents tallies rebounds, assists and steals (not points, because of course, we’re not those kind of parents), and my kid had 14 rebounds. And I knew he had scored three or four baskets. It was unprecedented.
The next week, I decided to keep track myself, and my son had his first double-double, on a basketball court or at In ‘N Out or anywhere. This kid had 10 points and 15 rebounds. It was unbelievable.
And as cynical as I can be about my children and sports, I thought there might have been an actual breakthrough.
There wasn’t. The next week, the scoring disappeared, the rebounding almost entirely disappeared. He was the player he had been before those two crazy weeks when everything fell into place.
That doesn’t say anything about what his future will bring, and it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have celebrated the Awakening while it happened. But it is a reminder that what’s right in front of your face isn’t necessarily reality.
Alex Guerrero is having a wondrous month, and I’m certainly more inclined to believe in his athletic skills than I was in those of my youngest boy. In February, I watched Guerrero field (which has been considered his missing link since nearly the day he joined the Dodgers) and hit, and wondered what deficiencies I wasn’t seeing. March came, and nothing changed, even as the talk continued to be that he was being handed a roster spot out of obligation rather than reward. Now it’s April, and he’s the Cuban Yasiel Puig.
Or he’s this:
Of course, Guerrero is younger (28) than Anderson or Belliard were. I’m definitely sympathetic to the idea that Guerrero should be given a chance to show how much of this breakout performance is real. No one’s going to be happier if he’s Roy Hobbs than me.
But I also feel that the Dodgers are thoroughly justified in any skepticism they’ve built in more than a year of close observation. Even after four homers in 19 at-bats, it’s not clear that Guerrero is a better all-around player than the defensively dependable Juan Uribe (the fifth-best third baseman in the National League last year), or Justin Turner, whom Don Mattingly justifiably pointed out was basically Alex Guerrero at the plate last year and who had three doubles in a game only five days ago.
The question with Guerrero, as is the case with every Major League player, will be whether he can make the adjustments once the opposition adjusts to him. The best you can confirm for Guerrero us that he has earned the opportunity to try. Good for him, and good for the Dodgers.
But it’s naive to believe that Guerrero has proven himself beyond doubt, arrogant to suggest that the answer is obvious, and unfair to pronounce death sentences on any other players based on 15 games. Maybe Uribe is nearing the end of the line, but the perils of counting him out prematurely are underscored by how valuable he was in 2013-14.
I’m eager to see what happens next for Guerrero, with my heart wide open, but my eyes as well.