OK, let’s start this off with a few very simple and true statements: 1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is an excellent baseball player and reigning Home Run Derby champ. 2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. can hit a baseball faster than I can legally drive a vehicle. 3. I would love it if Vladimir Guerrero Jr. played for my favorite Major League Baseball team.
But does that make him the right choice for MLB the Show 24 cover athlete? I’m on the side of the fence that says no.
To establish the criteria by which I’m judging Guerrro as a viable cover athlete, for me that choice boils down to three factors: 1. He’s got to have that exciting face-of-baseball appeal like Aaron Judge, Fernando Tatis Jr. or Shohei Ohtani 2. He’s got to be suuuper drippy like Jazz Chisholm or Javy Baez and 3. He has to be an excellent everyday impact player in Major League Baseball. In my extremely imperfect and subjective opinion, Vladimir Guerror Jr. is only working with one of those three factors.
I have no beef with Vladimir Jr. I’m a Padres fan so if I have a problem with anyone wearing the color blue, it’s not because they play in Toronto. He plays in the AL East so he’s only going to be a problem for my favorite team in the same sense that Juan Soto now is too.
But this isn’t about real baseball. It’s about video game baseball, and why Vladimir Jr. might not be the best choice for this year’s entry into a video game series we fans buy every season.
The MLB the Show cover athlete doesn’t always have to be the top player in baseball, despite the fact that Shohei Ohtani, the undisputed best player on planet Earth, graced the cover of MLB the Show 22. But that’s also probably the reason why Ohtani would never be the cover athlete this year – he was the cover athlete two years ago and they’re not about to recycle him for this year’s game.
MLB the Show 21 featured my boy, the pride of the Padres, Fernando Tatis Jr. and his epic batflip. Steroid rash cream and motocross accidents or not, Tatis was absolutely one of the most exciting and marketable players in baseball that year, and that’s the mark of the MLB the Show cover athlete. It’s about the hype and marketability of that player.
By the way, baseball fans can say what they want about the Tatis steroid scandal – the homers he hits against their teams this year will still count.
But I digress. The selection of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as the cover athlete is almost the same argument the community had last season, as Jazz Chisholm was the guy on the cover of MLB the Show 23. In terms of impact, Guerrero and Chisholm aren’t that different, statistically (2.0 WAR vs 1.2 WAR, respectively) but that doesn’t mean that Jazz Chisolm was a bad choice…he wasn’t.
Although no one would quite call Jazz the greatest player in the game, he is an awesome player, one of the drippiest and most exciting in the game. This is the guy who pimps outfield throws to the plate, he plays the game with a flourish that few others would ever even attempt and that’s the exact kind of energy you need from an MLB the Show cover athlete.
One of the best MLB the Show games ever, MLB the Show 20, sported none other than Javy Baez as the cover athlete. I don’t think there has ever been a season where Baez was considered the best player in the game but going into the 2020 season, he definitely was one of the games most exciting and electric players. In 2019, the Major League Baseball Instagram account was dominated by Javy Baez clips all year because he absolutely had that MLB the Show cover athlete energy.
Plus, Baez has always been a super drippy player in the same way Jazz is – he’s always rocking the chain with the cool shades and the wrist tape with custom gloves. Drip in general and obsessing over gear and equipment is part of what brings me back to MLB the Show season after season. Dripping out my ballplayer is a very important part of the experience for me and players like Baez, Jazz and Tatis Jr. are perfect for the game because they all bring that drip factor to the field.
The point I’m making is that in terms of being an electric, exciting player? I, respectfully, haven’t seen that from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. yet. Don’t get me wrong – if the Padres somehow worked a miracle and wound up with this man on the team (even though what they really need are outfielders at this point), I’d be elated, but that’s once again not what we’re talking about here.
His cover is cool – telling haters like me to shush it with the criticism. Also cool is the fact that it seems like San Diego Studios is including his shush as an in-game animation, as evidenced by the first official screenshot depicting exactly how this will look on next-gen consoles.
He’s a great ballplayer, a great addition to the lineup of any team, but in terms of marketability and the excitement he generates for the game of baseball, I think there were a few other great choices that were passed over.
For example, consider Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Atlanta Braves. This man just had a 40/70 season. 41 home runs, 73 stolen bases. That has never happened before in the history of the game. We baseball fans love to talk about Shohei Ohtani and how he’s doing things nobody has ever done before — how about Acuña?
And again, it’s not just about stats it’s about being an exciting and marketable force that’s gonna get people excited about baseball? Acuña is a problem for the entire National League (including the Padres) but I don’t know if there is a more exciting player on the field right now than Ronald Acuña Jr. Plus he has all the cool drip and yellow accessories that are perfect for MLB the Show.
And what about José Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians? He’s been putting up huge numbers for years and doesn’t get a lot of the recognition he deserves. Plus he’s super drippy and he even got a boxing knockout on the field last year. Lots of great reasons to include a player like José Ramirez.
But of course there are likely unseen reasons players like that aren’t on this year’s cover. Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners would be another exciting cover athlete choice but he was the cover athlete for EA’s MLB Tap Sports Baseball ‘23, so San Diego Studios isn’t about to turn around and put him on the cover of their game too.
In closing, I couldn’t be more excited for MLB the Show 24, regardless of who’s on the cover, to be honest. I’m an avid baseball fan, this is the closest thing to a true MLB simulator that exists, so I’m excited to turn the page on 23 and get into the new game. And once again, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a great ballplayer any team would be lucky to have on its roster, but there were other players who could have brought a bit more excitement.
In any case, I am pretty sure I’ll be eating my words come mid-June when players using Vladimir Jr. cards start laying waste to my all-Padres superteams in Diamond Dynasty.
Jesse B. Gill is a video producer at IGN whose love for Star Wars is only rivaled by his love of the San Diego Padres. He’d also rather not share his 2023 Diamond Dynasty win-loss record if it’s all the same to you.