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It isn’t just that Giancarlo Stanton is swinging a smoking-hot bat now, or that he looks utterly impossible to retire at the plate, or that he is playing with the kind of swagger he used to have in surplus back when he terrorized the National League in the Miami baseball witness protection program.
Stanton, right now, can serve a higher purpose.
A unifying element, if you will.
Because as bad as things are going for Francisco Lindor on the other side of town — and make no mistake they are bad; his hitting woes officially bled into the field Wednesday afternoon, so he’s also costing the Mets runs now, not just failing to create them — he isn’t the first to pass through unforgiving corridors of baseball struggle.
For a while, it seemed like Stanton had planted his flag there.
For a while, it was hard to imagine a more unpopular baseball player in New York than Giancarlo Stanton, and that wasn’t reserved to the 2021 chapter of that narrative. Stanton had some nice moments in last year’s playoffs, but to many Yankees fans he is emblematic of all that hasn’t happened in The Bronx since his arrival in 2018.
There hasn’t been a world championship.
There hasn’t been a World Series appearance.
There hasn’t been what was expected to be the natural climb from being one game shy of the Series in 2017, when Stanton was bashing 58 home runs in the anonymous bliss of South Beach. Stanton has had his moments here. He’s also been hurt a lot. He’s failed in spots. And he makes an awful lot of money (even if much of it is being paid by the Marlins).
When he woke up in Cleveland on the morning of April 23, the boos from a fruitless homestand still rang in his ears. He was struggling so mightily that Aaron Boone took mercy on him and sat him a game. He was hitting .158. He was slugging .333. He had 21 strikeouts in his first 57 at-bats.
Before that cross-section of futility became known as Lindor Lane, it was Stanton Street. It was a terrible part of town.
That was all of 13 days ago.
Thirteen days later he has taken 48 at-bats. He has 24 hits. That’s a .500 batting average in any league. He had three hits again Wednesday night, another homer (his eighth), three more RBIs (now 21 for the season) and there isn’t a pitcher on planet Earth right now who wants to see him sauntering to the plate.
“I’m doing a great job on mistakes,” Stanton said after the Yankees were done schooling the Astros for a second straight night at the Stadium, 6-3. “Pitcher makes a mistake down the middle of the plate, I’m doing damage on it. That’s my job. Some stretches are better than others, but I’m pretty pleased right now.”
This stretch is otherworldly, and it is a useful reminder — for Stanton and any other big-ticket player muffled by a suffocating slump — that it really doesn’t take forever to turn a bad stretch around even if it feels that way when you’re in the middle of it.
“It’s tough,” he said, “when you’re climbing out of it. You feel like you’ll never get there. Even now, I don’t feel like I’ve climbed out of anything. I still have work to do.”
As far as Lindor is concerned, what might be most encouraging is how the Stadium soundtrack has completely gone inside-out. Lindor has only heard mild booing at Citi Field (though that could certainly change by this weekend).
Stanton? Before the raucous Bronx crowds of the past two nights harassing the Astros made 10,000 fans sound like 50,000, there were some long walks back to the first base dugout where the boos cascading on and around him made it sounds like 100,000. Anger trailed him like a vapor.
The tune has changed now.
“It’s huge,” Stanton admitted of the suddenly happy-go-lucky Yankees fans who serenade him now, rather than slandering him. “It fires us up. Gives us an extra boost.”
Said Yankees manager Aaron Boone: “I always love seeing our fan base rally behind our guys. I always love that.”
Nothing lasts forever, of course. Not this remarkable streak. Not the era of good feeling. The good times are fleeting. But they are reminders that the bad times really aren’t eternal, either. Easy to feel when you’re hitting .500 and bashing baseballs everywhere, the way things are going for Giancarlo Stanton, Beloved Yankee, right now.
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