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So what word best describes Giancarlo Stanton’s move to the 10-day injured list on Monday?
“Sobering”? Only the truly silly, willfully ignorant of history recent and distant, could have attained intoxication from what Stanton had accomplished to date in 2021.
“Frustrating”? Nah, it takes two forces to frustrate — one to frustrate and one to get frustrated — and again, how could anyone get frustrated when Stanton’s track record features more pauses than a Bob Newhart speech?
“Unwelcome”? Always, for the Yankees and their fans. “Unneeded”? Yup, an unneeded reminder of Stanton’s durability issues.
How about a noun, “ceiling”? Because this transaction serves as the latest argument that Stanton’s Yankees legacy will be limited not by his bat, but by his body. The best to which he can aspire is to be a favorite mistake.
“I don’t have that answer,” Aaron Boone said Monday, before the Yankees opened a series with the Rangers at Globe Life Field, when asked about Stanton’s continuing injury problems, this time a strained left quad. “He obviously is in very good shape. He works hard, takes care of himself.
“He has had, over the years, these things pop up. In his case, we try to take things more conservatively, because of that history.”
“Pop up” is a rather generous breakdown of Stanton’s past battles with staying on the field. When the Yankees acquired him from the Marlins in December 2017, he was coming off a 159-game season in which he won National League Most Valuable Player honors — and he followed that by posting for 158 games in his 2018 maiden voyage with the Yankees, plus five (not great) playoff games. However, in Stanton’s seven full seasons with the Marlins, from 2011 through 2017, he averaged 127 games.
If Stanton plays in 127 games this season, including the playoffs, producing at the level he has to date (.282/.347/.534, with nine homers in 131 at-bats), the Yankees should take that with a smile, given that he averaged 26.5 games, including the playoffs — don’t forget that last season featured only 60 games — for 2019 and 2020. Same goes for the subsequent six seasons for which he is under contract.
Boone said the hope is that Stanton misses only the minimum 10 days, which would put him back in action May 25 in The Bronx against the Blue Jays, a big series. If that hope comes to fruition, it would be a triumph for second-year director of player health and performance Eric Cressey, who saw Stanton and his fellow behemoth Aaron Judge last longer into the season before hitting the shelf than both had each of the prior two seasons.
Nevertheless, it still has to be concerning for the Yankees that all it took for Stanton to go down was apparently a strikeout against Rich Hill’s slow stuff last week at Tropicana Field. Another dreaded soft-tissue injury, the kind that crushed the Yankees in 2019, leading to Cressey’s arrival on the scene, as opposed to the sort of trauma that Aaron Hicks just experienced in tearing the sheath in his left wrist.
“As much as he wants to be out there, I think he also realized that if it’s something that he pushed through, it could turn into a longer-term situation,” Boone said of Stanton. “Better to get out in front of this thing.”
We’ll see over the next week how much in front of this thing Stanton and the Yankees are. How much they can avoid more such timeouts. Can Judge, who has taken two two-day breaks without visiting the IL and has put up monster numbers, serve as a prototype for Stanton? Should the Yankees be even more proactive in managing Stanton’s load.
These questions very likely will stick around for as long as Stanton is playing. They are his ceiling. No matter how much he tantalizes with great runs of exit velocity and dingers, you no longer should be floored by news of his absence.
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