Let’s start with this: a uniform has yet to be made in which Giancarlo Stanton wouldn’t look good. So whether it might be pinstripes or creamy yellowish or pantone 294, he’d at the very least dominate on team photo day.
Jeffrey Loria loved Giancarlo Stanton. Probably still does. The Marlins drafted Stanton a decade ago. He hit 22 home runs as a 20-year-old and 34 the following season and 37 the season after that, when those three years combined cost Loria less than $1.5 million, and don’t think Loria wasn’t counting.
Now Loria is all but gone, having unloaded his beloved tax shel … ballclub … on Bruce Sherman, Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan and more than a dozen other investors for $1.2 billion, and the fate of two towering figures rest in the hands of the new owners. Those icons would be Stanton and that home run sculpture thingy.
First, the dinger machine. It stays. Make it bigger, in fact. Let’s see it from space. Let it scare the crap out of North Korea. A grim franchise, and one that has not played a postseason game in 14 years (the Marlins, not North Korea), a streak that will run at least to 15, requires levity. Requires passion, even mechanical passion. Requires flamingos and orbiting fish. Now stick a quarter in that thing and let it fly.
Second, Stanton. A touch more complicated.
You know about the contract. It was shocking at the time, that day in November 2014, when Loria and Stanton sat shoulder to shoulder at a folding table, Loria having committed $325 million of his (or somebody’s) money to one player, and Stanton committing at least another six years (and possibly another 14) to Loria (or somebody.) The Marlins had been last in the league in attendance in 2014. They’d be last again in 2015. Their TV deal was not competitive. They were going through managers like most teams do rosin bags.
And yet, there they were, together, tethered to a new ballpark and an uncertain future. That lasted not quite three years. Stanton had some trouble staying on the field. The Marlins lost a lot of baseball games. And now Loria is getting out.
Leaving Stanton, the big money still coming, an opt-out after 2020, full no-trade protection, more than a dozen new bosses, and a CEO (Jeter) whose opinions on things like massive contracts in smaller revenue markets and massive fish-flamingo-palm-tree-spinny things is yet undefined.
Oh, and Stanton can hardly swing the bat lately without hitting the ball like 460 feet.
He is upright, getting pitches, and never been better. He hit his 44th home run Tuesday night, his sixth consecutive game with a home run, and his 11th in 12 games and 23nd in 35. He is fourth in the National League in OPS, first in home runs, third in WAR, 18th on on-base percentage. He’s batting .367 in August.
The fish on the sculpture have complained of vertigo.
This is not a man you trade. Not today. This is a man smart people lash to the front of the sled. He is 27. Trade Giancarlo Stanton and in a year or two or three you’re looking for that big, proven bat to make you legit. Trade Giancarlo Stanton and in a year or two or three you’re still waiting on, oh, say Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Frankie De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Mike Rabelo to make you whole. Yes, the time he’s missed – he’s played in as many as 145 games in two of eight seasons, and should again this season – is real. But also eight more like the last eight and he’s going to the Hall of Fame.
The new regime – Sherman, Jeter, et al – can choose the easy path, get out from under the hundreds of millions of dollars coming due and promise tomorrow will be better. Or, it can take Stanton, for all that makes him great and fragile, and aim for something better. Something that can pitch a little. Something that looks good today, too.
Get rid of Stanton, may as well topple that little piece of art in left-center too. See, he’s part of the solution.
*** WHAT ELSE:
With any sort of luck – or competence – at Target Field the Minnesota Twins would still be standing with the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. As it is, the Twins are the only team with a winning record, and one of seven teams overall, to be under .500 at home. This is not new. Since 2010, when Target Field opened and the Twins were 53-28 in their new digs, they are 234-282 in what has come to be known as a pretty neutral park. (In more than a few of those seasons the Twins weren’t very good on the road either.) These things are usually hard to explain, outside of Colorado. Not here. The Twins don’t pitch at Target Field. Their home ERA, WHIP and home runs allowed rank last in the AL. Just weird, is all.
Did not see the Los Angeles Angels coming. Though a few games over .500 isn’t so hard to believe. So maybe it’s an American League thing. There are seven winning teams as of this writing, which seems about right, but only three – in Houston, Cleveland and Boston – seem sturdy, and the folks in Houston might be feeling squishy about that right about now, in spite of 72 wins. As for the Angels, the offense needed to perk up, which it would when Mike Trout got healthy. But here’s something of a surprise: C.J. Cron, who hit .213 with two home runs in the first half (and struggled through hand and foot injuries) and was demoted for it, has returned in the second to hit .343 with seven home runs, and .413 with four home runs in August.
Beyond that, the Red Sox are wading through a beastly portion of their schedule, starting with the Yankees last weekend at Yankee Stadium. For 13 games, through Aug. 24, they’ll have played six against the Yankees, five against the Cleveland Indians and two against the St. Louis Cardinals. And there’s still four more against the Yankees out there, beginning at the end of the month.
Not that the Yankees are the be-all or anything, unlike two weeks ago when they won the deadline, only to lose August.
The rise of one almost always means the fall of the other, and both are stories. It’s the way it works in those places where it can be difficult to discern which brings the greater joy. Either way…
The probables at Fenway Park: