A 28-year-old MVP coming off of a historic season for an irrelevant franchise and then thrust into the spotlight of the Bronx. A great first season in pinstripes dimmed only by astronomical, unrealistic expectations from fans.
Giancarlo Stanton and Alex Rodriguez have almost too much in common when comparing their acquisitions and first seasons in New York. Both were the highest paid players in the game, and both of the blockbuster trades came seemingly out of nowhere. In 2004, Alex Rodriguez had a great year. He slashed .286/.375/.512 and socked 36 homers all while learning a new position and adjusting to life in New York. However, coming off of his 2003 MVP season in Texas (.298/.396/.600) many fans were disappointed. A-rod was great in the 2004 playoffs as well. He hit .320 across 11 playoff games against the Twins and Red Sox, driving in eight runs while cracking three homers. Despite the entire team melting down in the ALCS, Rodriguez took most of the blame for the collapse, and the same lazy narratives that would go on for 15 years were born.
“A-rod can’t handle New York.”
“He isn’t clutch.”
“A-rod isn’t a team player.”
“He can’t hit in the playoffs.”
Sadly, despite an overwhelmingly successful career in New York, Rodriguez never stopped hearing the same tired criticism from misinformed fans. He really couldn’t win- if Rodriguez put together an MVP season, people simply said, “Well that’s what he’s supposed to do.” Anything less, and he was shredded. In fact, the only seasons he escaped criticism were 2005 and 2007 (MVP years) and 2009 (carried the Yankees to a 27th world championship.) Luckily the championship muted most of the doubters, but I can only imagine how Rodriguez would be viewed by Yankee fans if they didn’t win that World Series.
Giancarlo Stanton faced relentless scrutiny throughout 2018. Despite hitting two homers in his first game as a Yankee, he was booed just three games later in the home opener after going 0-5. The booing kept up during the season, despite Giancarlo being the most productive player on the team. He led the team in home runs and RBIs, and he was second in hits despite playing most of the season on a tight left hamstring. While virtually all of his teammates missed time on the disabled list, Stanton sucked it up and played hurt all summer, playing in a team-high 158 games. His toughness and insatiable desire to compete should never be questioned. Stanton did struggle in the playoffs despite homering in the Wild Card game. Like A-rod in 2004, Stanton took the brunt of the blame for losing a playoff series to Boston, even though there was plenty of blame to go around.
Looking Ahead to 2019
Stanton had an awesome 2018, however, 2019 should be even better. All of the first year adjustments are done. He has settled into his new city with his new teammates in his new apartment. He knows the coaching staff. More importantly, he knows the American League pitchers. After spending his entire career in the weaker National League, he should be fully adjusted to American League pitchers, ballparks, and the overall landscape. In A-Rod’s second season in New York, he slashed a ridiculous .321/.421/.610 with 48 home runs en route to his second MVP award. With a full season under his belt, there’s no reason Stanton can’t put up MVP numbers. He’s done it before and can do it again.
At this point, I’m sure Stanton knows that anything less than MVP numbers and World Series championships will bring constant criticism from fans.
I have no doubt that he can carry those expectations on his massive 6’6 frame-but if it ever gets overwhelming, I know a special adviser who he can lean on that’s been there and done that.