This was predictable.
What, you thought Giancarlo Stanton wouldn’t face a defining moment early in his Yankees tenure?
No one would identify the reigning National League Most Valuable Player as the face of his current franchise. Yet the big fella undoubtedly serves as the face of the 2018 Yankees’ most unsteady start.
Or, as the first-year Yankee said late Tuesday night, following a 9-1 loss to his old team the Marlins, “Track record don’t matter in the moment.”
The Yankees (8-8) stumbled back to .500 with this gruesome defeat to Derek Jeter’s tankers at Yankee Stadium, and Stanton got by with plenty of help from his friends in this one.
Masahiro Tanaka received a beatdown for his second straight start, giving up seven runs (six earned) in five innings; Luis Cessa relieved Tanaka in the sixth and departed in the eighth with an oblique injury that will send him to the disabled list; Tyler Austin and Didi Gregorius committed errors in the field; and the Yankees didn’t notch a hit against Marlins starting pitcher Jarlin Garcia, the same young man who held the Mets hitless last week in Miami, until Miguel Andujar’s one-out double in the fifth.
“Obviously we’ve got to play better baseball,” general manager Brian Cashman said afterward.
Those of the 34,005 announced ticket purchasers who braved the elements (good grief, a first-pitch temperature of 44 degrees) to actually watch this in person, however, honed in on Mr. Stanton.
In going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and a double play, Stanton dropped his overall slash line to .197/.293/.409, with 29 whiffs in 66 at-bats. Twice, he came up with Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner on base, courtesy of free passes from Garcia. In the first inning, with no outs, Stanton grounded into a double play. In the third, with one out, he popped out to the man for whom he was traded, Miami second baseman Starlin Castro.
Each negative result naturally generated a detonation of boos, impressive in volume given how few people actually were here and how cold it was.
Asked how difficult it is to block out the boos, Stanton said, “Very simple.” He elaborated: “Worry about the positive things, even if it’s not very many things. That’s all you can do. You worry about that, you’re going to keep twirling down.”
Good words, yet the numbers look ugly. Stanton’s home/road splits now read as follows: .323/.417./677 in eight road games, with nine strikeouts in 31 at-bats, and .086/.179/.171 in eight home games, with 20 strikeouts in 35 at-bats.
Asked whether he could explain this glaring disparity, albeit notably small-sampled, Stanton said, “No.”
Aaron Boone, asked the same question, cited the sample size and praised Stanton’s focus.
“And I’m confident that once he gets rolling, it’ll be a juggernaut,” Boone said. “I want him just for peace of mind to get going a little bit and kind of settle in and get into the rhythm of the season, but long-term, he’s too good for it not to start happening.”
Is he? As stated here previously, he can’t match the résumés of other high-profile hitters who chose to come here mid-career like, say, Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira. While his stature, exit velocities and home-run distances have made him a larger-than-life figure, his résumé shows him to be an above-average player, but not consistently elite.
After eight years with the irrelevant Marlins, Stanton has to prove that he can shake off something this bad and this public.
“Keep working,” he said. “It’s early. Not too many [positives], but you’ve got to own up to it and understand and find a way to get better. Find a way to get out of it.”
Boone expressed openness to the idea of dropping Stanton a spot or two in the lineup.
“He’ll get it rolling here,” the manager vowed. “Eventually, the league will pay for some of his early struggles.”
Probably. Not definitely. It’s on Stanton to turn this blight into a blip.
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