When a routine grounder becomes a meme

Welcome to Notes on Baseball, a Sunday rundown of my favorite writing and stories in baseball this past week.

When a routine grounder becomes a meme

The Pirates are terrible and the Cubs are surging and that looks like this:

The best part of the entire debacle has to be Baez standing still at home plate, calling Wilson Contrerras safe, and then still easily reaching second base safely. And it’s all thanks to Will Craig’s inexplicable decision not to simply step on first. Said Craig:

"I guess I'm going to be on the blooper reels for the rest of my life.”

Yes. Yes you are.

And I have to agree with Mike here:

Twitter deemed the play memeworthy:

The Cubs, despise a relentless onslaught of injuries—David Bote being the latest—have won six straight as of Sunday morning and are just a half game back of the Cardinals.

Card chaos

Trading cards are surging in value and popularity. “Flippers” people who buy sports-related and other cards at retail and then resell them online, have become increasingly aggressive as the triage opportunity grew. If you can buy something in Target for $20 and sell it right way for $100 online, that’s going to attract people.

Target recently stopped selling cards in its stores:

Target announced that it is suspending in-store sales of all MLB, NBA, NFL and Pokemon trading cards effective May 14, citing an incident outside a Wisconsin store as the tipping point. A fight broke out in the parking lot and a gun was brandished, though not used. 

That’s one hell of a tipping point.

The Athletic’s Molly Knight took a deep dive into the situation in Target stores. Spoiler alert: It was bad all over the country.

“Then when the store opened these people would come in and lurk near the aisle where the cards were,” a third associate said. “So we had weird middle-aged dudes hanging out in the little girls’ clothing section, which was already sketchy.”

“We got screamed at every Friday,” said a fourth associate. “There were never enough cards for everyone.”

Stimulus checks and shutdowns are cited as key reasons for surge in interest in trading cards. As the world reopens, maybe we’ll see a return to a more normal marketplace.

Vlad is mashing like dad

When Vlad Guerrero, Jr. arrived in the major leagues in 2019, he was surrounded by immense hype. Due in part to his lineage and in part to his potential, Guerrero was expected to be an instant star.

He’s on his way.

And let’s give him a break: Guerrero was only 20 when he joined the Blue Jays. He was productive in 2019 and 2020, but this season he is blossoming into the superstar many expected him to be:

After belting five home runs in the last week (including two against the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays on Monday afternoon), Guerrero leads the majors in dingers with 16, tied with Adolis García of the Texas Rangers

Guerrero leads the majors in WAR:

Guerrero worked hard in the offseason, losing weight and making swing changes:

Guerrero has made some obvious improvements, most notably in increasing his launch angle, which means fewer grounders and more fly balls, although he's still below the major league average in that area.

The Blue Jays have been forced to play at their spring training home in Dunedin, Florida, thanks to Canadian COVID rules. On June 1, they will move to Buffalo and play their home games there through the All-Star break.

Will the move affect Guerrero?

There is one caveat to Guerrero's hot start. Guerrero -- and his Blue Jays teammates -- have thrived while playing at their spring training home. He has hit .410/.521/.897 with 11 home runs in 78 at-bats at TD Ballpark and .267/.371/.456 on the road.

Probably not. He seems well on his way to handling the pressure of expectations and leaving his own mark on the game.

Thanks for reading! See you next Sunday.