Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Any thoughts that a starring role on the New York Yankees was too big for Giancarlo Stanton to handle should officially be put to bed.

Winning the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player Award might have been the worst possible thing for Giancarlo Stanton. For all it did was heighten the expectations around him in 2018, his first season as a member of the New York Yankees.

“We’re like .500 after 14 games,” Stanton told Marc Carig of the Athletic about when he realized that the Bronx wasn’t anything like Miami. “And it’s like, the world’s going to end.”

To be fair, Stanton was off to a dreadful start. But as I noted back in April, it wasn’t the first time the Yankees had seen a big-time superstar struggle mightily in his first 14 games as a member of the Yankees. Alex Rodriguez suffered a similar fate.

PlayerBAOPSXBH (HR)RBI
Rodriguez (2004).196.5894 (1)3
Stanton (2018).220.7617 (3)10

While A-Rod would go on to have a fantastic 12-year run with the Yankees, one that included two AL MVP Awards, seven All-Star selections, three Silver Slugger Awards and a World Series ring, he did everything the wrong way. He was never a likable figure.

Whether you like Stanton or not, it’s impossible to disagree with what Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told Carig back when the newest Yankee slugger was struggling.

“In this town with this type of coverage, you’re judged a lot of different ways, not just by your performance but by how you handle your good times and your bad times. It’s about being a professional, and I’ve seen nothing but professionalism from him.”

Let’s not forget, Stanton was being mercilessly booed after every out—whether it was a strikeout, a screaming line drive or a deep fly to the warning track—at Yankee Stadium. He was getting trashed on sports talk radio.

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He could have thrown his hands up and said: “I’ve got my money, screw it.” He could have lashed out at the fans in a postgame interview. He could have made snide remarks about having a MVP Award while his more successful teammates didn’t.

Instead, he celebrated his teammates—and owned his performance.

“With my mistakes out there and not playing well, it just showed that there were games where you could beat guys by five runs without me participating, without me doing anything,” Stanton explained to Carig. “As long as I wasn’t a distraction — with the boos and all that, as long as I wasn’t bringing the team down — then whatever.”

Some may take that last part—the “then whatever”—and try to spin it into the narrative that Stanton doesn’t care. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In a city where every game counts—something he admitted was “way different” than anything he had ever experienced before—Stanton took the high road. And now it’s starting to pay off.

Over his last 10 games, he’s hitting .294 with a .415 on-base percentage, a .647 slugging percentage and 1.062 OPS. Six of his 10 hits during that span have gone for extra bases (three doubles, three home runs). He’s driven in seven runs and walked (six) nearly as much as he’s struck out (eight).

If he were overwhelmed by the moment, by the city, the run he’s currently on never happens.

Stanton has done everything right off the field. Now, the on-the-field stuff is taking care of itself. He’s proven that he can handle New York.

No, he’s never going to take it over. The Yankees are and will continue to be Aaron Judge‘s team. But Stanton is poised to become Robin to Judge’s Batman. Pinky to Judge’s Brain. Keith Richards to Judge’s Mick Jagger.

Just don’t call Stanton “Mike.”

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