This was predictable.
OK, maybe not two platinum sombreros in his first week wearing the pinstripes, or the substantial, repeated booing, or Giancarlo Stanton looking more lost at home plate than the titular band of “This Is Spinal Tap” wandering backstage in Cleveland.
But the game’s highest-paid player, and the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, from a team that didn’t play a meaningful September game in his eight seasons there, directing himself to the Yankees and then getting off to a lousy start and receiving an ocean of boos?
More predictable than rush-hour traffic in The Bronx.
The Yankees suffered a terrible, 12-inning, 8-7 loss to the Orioles Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, and you couldn’t have drawn up a more fitting conclusion than the new guy Stanton receiving a situation to be the hero, only to wind up the goat once more. The big guy’s strikeout against Baltimore right-hander Brad Brach, with teammates on first and second and two outs, concluded this four-hour, 48-minute slog — and followed Aaron Judge’s 1-2-5 double play with the bases loaded and none out — and gave Stanton five whiffs on the day, tying his career high … which he established in Tuesday’s home opener.
In the six games of this homestand, during which the Yankees went a modest 3-3, Stanton posted a .107/.167/.214 slash line with one home run, two singles, two walks and … wait for it … 16 strikeouts in 27 at-bats.
All together now: Yeesh.
The Yankees, altogether, have to bail out Stanton now — with the mighty Red Sox up next on the slate Tuesday — in the hopes he’ll return the favor later.
“You’ve just got to look at it as a bad week,” a soft-spoken Stanton said. “The season’s much longer than a week. A couple of good games, turn it around and help us win.”
Asked about the booing, which intensified in concert with the biting cold and the escalating strikeout count after the Yankees blew a 5-0, first-inning lead, Stanton said he wasn’t surprised, saying, “They’re not going to cheer for that. What do you expect?”
Let’s flip that around: What do you expect from Stanton? It would’ve been stunning if he hadn’t struggled, given the journey he took here. Back in 2015, in discussing Brian McCann’s rough maiden Yankees voyage, longtime general manager Brian Cashman said, “I think our experiences have been, for players coming outside of the Northeast environment in New York, it doesn’t matter who you are. There’s definitely a settling-in period.”
Stanton is settling in, all right. His spectacular two-homer Opening Day in Toronto, which featured a round-tripper in his very first Yankees at-bat, never was going to be the final verdict on this matter. You can’t outrun the weight of this transition in one work shift. Since then, Stanton has four hits (two homers, a single and a double) and 19 strikeouts in 42 at-bats. Sunday proved quite a capper, as he stranded nine teammates and committed a throwing error in right field.
“I think in time he’ll be fine,” Aaron Boone said. “He’s too good a player. That’s the nature of it. … I feel quite certain that he will and before long, it’ll be an old story.”
“He’s one of the best hitters in the game,” Brett Gardner echoed.
Let’s discuss that. No one would dispute Stanton’s talent. But we shouldn’t overlook that he is not a consistently elite performer. The Yankees’ December trade might have felt like an Alex Rodriguez acquisition in terms of enormity, yet Stanton, like nearly everyone else, lacks the track record that A-Rod brought to New York.
It would be surprising if Stanton finished as, let’s say, a below-average hitter. It would not surprise at all, however, if his OPS+ ranked him somewhere like 20-25 percent above average as opposed to last year’s 64 percent.
“Everybody goes through it,” Judge said. “We’ve got his back.”
They had best, for the Yankees’ sake. If history holds, Stanton might require plenty more help before he starts paying it back.