How are the Yankees doing this year? If you were put on the spot and asked this question it’s possible your answer would be somewhat negative. But the Yanks have a positive run differential, are 6 games over .500 and 2 ½ back of the second wild card. That doesn’t sound terrible at all and in plenty of circumstances if a team was in that situation there would be a lot of praise and good feelings.
But that’s where expectations come in. When you’re the heavy favorite to represent the AL in the WS for the third year in a row and coming off a season where you barely made the playoffs in an expanded format when you had the exact same expectation in the preseason and hopefully it makes more sense to see why Yankee fans are disappointed in what has happened this year.
All of this is to just realize how much our expectations affect our assessment of performance and this leads me to Giancarlo Stanton. I just don’t get the level of hate thrown at this guy by Yankee fans and how he somehow is holding this team back but I think it all relates to his mvp season before the Yankees acquired him. Looking back and it’s easy to forget that in spring training 2018 there were Yankee fans talking about 160 combined homers from Judge, Stanton, Sanchez and the returning Bird. Not thinking how incredibly difficult that total would be and what that would mean from each player, no, we were just looking that Stanton hit 58, Judge 52 the year before. Gary hit 33 in what some considered a disappointing follow up to his rookie tear of 20 dingers in 2 months and several thought Boone would get the best from Gary (such an absolute joke when we look back on this one) and Bird was considered by many in the organization to be the best of the young hitters and was supposedly coming back healthy and ready to go on a tear.
It turns out Stanton would top the group with 38 while the rest struggled mostly with injury and Judge hit 27, Gary 18 and Bird 11 for a very underwhelming total of 94. The rest of the team bopped and overall they were quite a bunch of sluggers up and down the lineup but I was really impressed that even in a year where he did struggle to adjust to a new league and he battled some of his own injuries, I thought Stanton’s 130 ops+ was just fine but did hope to see more in future seasons. The playoffs that year, he knocked out a homer in the wild card game but also seemed a little small in the moment against Boston. Again, I wasn’t too terribly upset. We’ve seen plenty of big names struggle in their first taste of the postseason and overall even if the season wasn’t the huge success I hoped it would be, I hoped it would lead to success in future seasons.
Now, if you were frustrated by Stanton’s injuries over the next few seasons, I can’t blame you. I was too but mostly in 2019 because it never seemed like he was that badly hurt but yet he was missing huge chunks of time. But for the few games he played, I still he was just fine and also thought he did a pretty darn good job in the playoffs. He still wasn’t healthy but he was playing the outfield and was a contributor. But maybe that’s not enough. Fans weren’t looking at injuries and what he was able to do and were more looking at him as the former MVP who wasn’t doing that in NY.
The injuries in 2020 were again frustrating but that postseason, wow! 7 games 6 homers, a double, 13 rbis. Everything he did was huge and he’s the biggest reason the Yanks even managed to hang on as long as they did. I thought this would help Stanton with the fan base but I’m fairly surprised to see how many fans almost completely ignore what he did last year.
So now we get to this year. Stanton’s hitting the ball but a lot of his numbers came from an early hot streak and since then he’s been, okay. Fans have been conditioned to think he tears easier than toilet paper. Fans tear into the money that he’s owed and that he only DHs. I don’t understand how this blame falls to him? The Yankees traded for him so the Yanks knew what they were committing to. If they wanted to play the luxury tax game, maybe don’t go after the big fish? It seems like such a front office problem that somehow he’s being blamed for. Same thing with playing the field. We’ve been listening to Boone literally all season talk about how he wants to play Stanton in the outfield from time to time for a variety of reasons. We are now past the 100 game mark and still not a single game in the outfield. He was going to play in Boston, nah, maybe this weekend in Miami, probably not.
So what can Stanton do? Is there anything he can do that would win back a few fans? Is it nothing short of 50+ homers and MVP front winner enough? Have the Yanks screwed with us enough that we the fans will never believe he’s physically capable of getting through the season? He still has 6 more years on that contract! If this level of disgust remains, has there ever been a long term Yankee so disliked? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.