Perhaps the Yankees didn’t need to see Giancarlo Stanton’s first game in pinstripes to realize their offseason acquisition of the reigning National League MVP was a smart business move.
But knowing that to be true after just two pitches? That has to stand for something.
In the Yankees’ 6-1 Opening Day win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Thursday, Stanton hit not one, but two towering home runs and a double for an impressive four RBI afternoon.
“If I’m on time and I get my foot down and the barrel there, all I need is a chance, and good things can happen,” Stanton told reporters after the game.
“That was cool, man. I tried to be as calm as possible coming up. The anticipation was big for me, but I was able to settle it down and understand that it’s just a game, even though it’s a big time, Opening Day, my first one as a Yankee. But I was able to calm it down.”
Even for a player of Stanton’s stature and grandeur, the mere image of this type of performance in a New York debut was almost dream-like. In fact, it was surely what the Yankees had envisioned and drooled over in early December when Brian Cashman pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal with Derek Jeter’s work-in-progress Miami Marlins.
And the first instance of Stanton’s potential came on just the second pitch thrown by Blue Jays’ starter J.A. Happ. With leadoff man Brett Gardner on first base with one out in the first inning, Stanton took an 0-1 fastball to the right-center field seats with relative ease. His renowned opposite field power was stunning. It seemed effortless.
And of course, the ball traveled with an exit velocity of 117.3 mph — the fastest speed for a batted ball at Rogers Centre since Statcast began tracking hits in 2015.
Oh, and the home run was measured at a pedestrian 426 feet.
Although Stanton’s first at-bat as a designated hitter was memorable, his final at-bat of the game was even more striking. With a 3-2 count and two outs in the ninth inning, Stanton took a changeup to the decorative bunting hanging in the second deck in center field. It was the epitome of a no-doubter, as Jays’ reliever Tyler Clippard didn’t even bother to turn his head while the ball was in flight.
After Stanton rounded the bases, he returned to the dugout and received the silent treatment from teammates. He went along with the fun, and gave himself air high-fives.
Awkward, yes. But wouldn’t any player want to receive the silent treatment on Opening Day? That could only mean good news.
“I wasn’t ready for that one, so I’ve got to have a better act next time I get through them,” Stanton said. “It’s all in good fun. It helps solidify a win and have fun in the process.
“It’s an interesting feeling, man, similar to my first [home run] ever… Everything felt new today.”
It certainly felt new for the Yankees, and by no means will it get old.
However, John Sterling still has plenty of time to find a fitting call for the behemoth slugger. “Giancarlo, non si puo de stopparlo!” were the Italian words exclaimed by the Yankees’ radio voice. Mentioning a “Stanton ovation” or a “Stantonian swing” seems good enough, simple enough.
Nevertheless, the Yankees didn’t need to wait to long to fully grasp the Stanton & Co. experience. Of course, 161 games still remain. But the club is embracing the outside world’s lofty expectations. The attenton is right where the Yankees want it. Right where it used to be. Right where they hope it remains.
And through it all, Cashman’s response to Stanton’s success will be tempered — as if the baseball world didn’t expect any of it.
“It’s a nice way to start,” Cashman told the New York Daily News. “I asked Boonie before the game who he ‘picked to click,’ and he said Stanton. He was right…Hopefully it’s the beginning of a lot of good things.”
“I just feel like the last week, [Stanton’s] been starting to find that good timing,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Timing is so important obviously to any hitter, but I think for a guy with his talent and his power, once he gets on time, he’s deadly.”
It’s no secret that the Yankees’ odds of reaching a World Series for the first time since 2009 are contingent upon the health of their sluggers and the consistency of their starting pitching. Those factors apply to any club in playoff contention.
But New York demonstrated its brute offensive power on Opening Day, and at the moment, it’s too easy to taste more of the same. Too easy to question how high the ceiling really is — especially if Stanton continues to do Stanton things.
Anyway, we’ll see what Game 2 has in store. Plain old Game 2. Of 162.