I thought the 2019 season ended. I thought the nonstop, devastating injuries which ruined last season would end when the season ended. I thought an offseason of rest and recuperation would lead to a healthier Yankees season in 2020 and ultimately the team’s first championship in 11 years. I was wrong for thinking these things. A day after the Yankees announced Luis Severino needs Tommy Johny surgery and will miss the entire 2020 season and at least part of the 2021 season, the Yankees announced Giancarlo Stanton has a Grade 1 calf strain and will most likely not be ready for Opening Day.
The Stanton injury announcement was the the most and least surprisng news ever. After playing in just 18 regular-season games a year ago when a biceps strain turned into a shoulder strain and that turned into a calf strain (here is a detailed history of those injuries), Stanton returned for the postseason only to end up injured and on the bench again in the ALCS. I decided I would give Stanton a fresh start in 2020. No sarcasm to start the season, no snarky comments, no “Ladies and gentlemen” beginning on Opening Day. I would be positive when it comes to Stanton for as long as he let me be positive. He let me positive until Feb. 26.
I went to the first two games of the 2018 season in Toronto and when Stanton hit a home run in his first Yankees at-bat I couldn’t have been more excited for what was to come in the current Yankees era. When he hit his second home run of the game, I turned to my now wife Brittni and laughed out loud, while thinking of the endless possibilites for the Yankees’ lineup. Yet here we are, nearly two years since that game in Toronto and calling Stanton’s time a disapointment as a Yankee would be an insult to disappointments. While Stanton’s first regular season with the Yankees was OK, he followed it up with an atrocious postseason that ended with him flailing at a Craig Kimbrel slider which bounced several feet away from the plate. And then there was last season. Collectively, Stanton’s Yankees tenure has been a disaster.
I have no idea when Stanton will play a game for the 2020 Yankees, and the Yankees don’t know either. Given the way his biceps strain morphed into other injuries in different parts of his body, there’s no way of knowing what this current calf strain might become. If there were a prop bet on him being ready for Opening Day I would be borrowing money from any and every source in order to maximize my earnings. The way he found new and unusual ways to get injured while already injured on the injured list last season must have made Jacoby Ellsbury proud as Stanton is now the team’s new version of Ellsbury. The Yankees always seem to have an oft-injured player or pitcher signed to a long-term deal who can’t stay healthy, and that person is now Stanton.
For a player who finished his 20s playing in just 11 percent of the team’s games, I highly doubt Stanton is magically going to get healthier with age. He’s now 30 and he’s going to be a Yankee this season and next season … and the season after … and the season after … and the season after … and the season after … and the season after … and the season after … and then season after that in 2028, the Yankees can buy him out and pay him $10 million to not play baseball for them anymore. By then he will be 37 years old and I don’t even want to think about how many games he will have played or not played in the seasons leading up to the end of his career.
The Yankees were able to win 103 regular-season games and get to within two wins of the World Series without him last season, so he’s almost become a luxury. But he’s only a luxury when the team is somewhat healthy, and right now they are nowhere near being somewhat healthy. They are without their starting left fielder in Stanton and starting center fielder in Aaron Hicks. Their No. 2 starter in Severino is out for this season and part of next season and their No. 3 starter in James Paxton will miss at least the first month of the season (and has yet to ever pitch a full season in the majors). On top of these injuries, Aaron Judge has yet to really swing a bat and hasn’t played in a spring training game. So while the Yankees are going to start the season without two-thirds of their expected starting outfield, they are dangerously close to starting it without any of their expected starting outfielders.
I want to like Stanton and I want to root for him. I want him to be the player I thought the Yankees were acquiring when they were handed him by the Marlins, but it’s becoming more and more unlikely he’s ever going to be close to that player again. For now, I will accept him just being healthy and doing his job, which is playing baseball. Let’s start with him being in the regular-season lineup and then I can start to think about him being the middle-of-the-order, MVP presence he’s supposed to be.
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