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SPORTS INSIGHT: Jabari Blash of St. Thomas Is At The Crossroads, Which Way Will He Go?

Jabari Blash

    Jabari Blash of St. Thomas

SAN DIEGO – The Padres acquired Jabari Blash in December with high hopes that he will be their first 40-home-run hitter since native son and four-time team MVP Adrian Gonzalez did it.

San Diego has had four managers since June 15, 2015 as the Padres finished second to last in the National League West division last year. If you don’t think even veteran players will be on a short leash for new manager Andy Green this year…imagine what it will be like for rookies.

And the city of San Diego is in danger of losing its NFL team the Chargers to Los Angeles this off season.

And the Padres in the form of San Diego General Manger A.J. Preller just got rid of Dominican slugger Rymer Liriano on Friday. Liriano was not only considered the jewel of the organization’s push into the Dominican Republic baseball gold mine, he was still thought of as a corner outfielder of the future even after striking out 132 times in Triple-A El Paso in 2015.

Which brings us to our guy Blash who everyone in the territory wants to succeed for the greater glory of the U.S. Virgin Islands sporting nation. After all, St. Croix’s Tim Duncan might be retiring from the NBA after this season with the San Antonio Spurs. We need another superstar pro player.

Like Liriano, Jabari has monster power – he hit 22 homers in 56 games at AAA last season – that’s one homer every 2.54 games.

If Blash were to play 162 Major League Baseball games for the Padres this season that would mean he would hit 64 homers over the course of the year. Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals led the National League in 2015 with 42 home runs.

But unlike Liriano, Blash got slapped with a 50-game suspension last year for using a banned substance.

“Not steroids or HGH, this was apparently for recreational drugs,” San Diego sportswriter Mark “Wisco” Whalen writes. “And you don’t get the 50-game suspension until the second time you’re caught. So we’ve got a 26-year old with ridiculous power who’s either smoking pot or doing coke or taking some other boneheaded drug. And who’s been caught twice.”

Whelan said that Blash’s alleged drug problem is the reason why the Padres were able to get him so cheaply despite his tremendous potential.

But like Liriano, Blash is expected to strike out a lot as power hitters do. Whereas Liriano struck out 132 times in 131 games. If Blash were to play a whole season for the Padres, Whelan said he could strike out 182 times in 162 games.

“We might have a guy (Blash) who strikes out so much that keeping in the lineup all the time costs the team wins,” Whelan writes. “Or we might have an immature kid who can’t keep his hands off the bong even when the prospect of tens of millions of dollars is looming in front of him. Or we might just have one of the many, many players who are decent in the minors, and can’t quite cut it at the big league level.”

Now that Caribbean super slugger Liriano has been let go this weekend, let’s hope Blash has the wherewithal to pull himself together for his big shot at the big leagues this year.

If Jabari can, he would be a role model for every Virgin Islander who has ever had a problem with substance abuse.

If he can’t, the name Jabari Blash might never be remembered here except for the local prospect he was – and what he might have been.

If Jabari Blash and drugs are mentioned in the same breath again – it will be his third strike – and we all know what happens after the third strike in baseball.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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