BALTIMORE — Giancarlo Stanton can do things mere mortal major leaguers can’t, and Thursday he proved definitively that it is indeed possible to come here as a visitor and hit a home run to left field in the newly reconfigured and almost impossible Camden Yards. Stanton, the strongest post-steroid player in the game, smashed the very first homer to left by a visiting player here this year, offering a challenge to the rest of the league to match it.
No guarantee anyone else will do it, as Stanton is a cut above when it comes to power. Not many folks can claim to be stronger than AL MVP leader Aaron Judge, but Stanton is one who can. Very likely the only one.
“To have a front-row ticket to see [Stanton and Judge], it’s something you have to appreciate,” Yankees slugger Anthony Rizzo said.
Stanton is a show all right. Of the 10 hardest hit base hits this season, Stanton has five of them. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise. If MLB had a strongman competition, no one else need enter. He stands alone.
Stanton isn’t off the charts; he is the chart. Of the 10 balls hit 120-plus mph since Statcast started, Stanton has all 10. Of the 21 balls hit 119 mph plus, he’s hit 17 of them. Of the 36 balls his 118 mph-plus he’s hit 23 of them. And so on.
If there was an argument about who’s MLB’s most powerful batter, it is long over.
The Yankees finally lost a game here, falling 9-6 to the Orioles, and it was a messy one, with the bullpen finally blowing up after entering the game as the best unit in the sport, and an uncharacteristic throwing error by Josh Donaldson that started the rally on a heave that Rizzo might have snagged at first if he hadn’t been ejected for arguing a couple strike calls the inning before.
Amid the mess, though, Stanton’s at-bats stood as works of art. In three at-bats, he hit three lasers. The second one was the homer that stands as unique, the third a liner with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth that hung up and was caught in center.
The first ball he hit smashed off that left-field wall for a single here, but a homer anywhere else, according to Statcast.
That might upset most folks. But not Stanton, who’s as soft spoken as he is hard hitting.
“We’re not in [those other parks] so you’ve just got to roll with it,” Stanton said. “You’ve got to crush it pretty good. [The Orioles] have hit a few, and they’re playing with the same dimensions.”
Even with a deadened ball and a universal humidor, he’s hit rockets as hard as 118.1 mph this year, which is only topped by Shohei Ohtani, the one-in-a-billion man himself. Stanton is performing Herculean feats almost daily, and he left here leading the majors in RBIs with 35. Yet he sometimes seems almost the unnoticed man on this 28-10 juggernaut.
In spite of the stats and the stature, he’s seemingly somewhat obscured by outfield mate Judge, who is slightly bigger, and to this point ever so slightly better. At 6-foot-6 and built like a Greek statue, that isn’t easy.
As the second man in their twin towers operation, he sometimes is as underappreciated as he is unnoticed. Many were questioning at different points whether the trade that brought him from Miami was worth the effort, and the outlay. Stanton hasn’t repeated the 59-homer output he achieved at spacious Marlins Park but his performance is as consistent as anyone’s. His lifetime OPS is .900 and he nearly hits that mark every year.
The idea he wasn’t made for New York could not have been more wrong, either. He carries a lifetime 1.108 OPS in the postseason, among the best in history for those with at least 50 plate appearances.
The Yankees gave up not much of value, as it turned out, and the cash-poor Marlins actually had to throw in $30 million to complete the deal with the Yankees, who have a dollar more than the GNP. Thank you, Derek Jeter.
Some were saying a slugger isn’t worth taking for the final seven years of a backloaded $325 million deal. But the reality is, this one was. The deadened ball and humidor now being used by MLB actually make Stanton and Judge more valuable, as their long drives still go out while those of most others are dying at the warning track.
While some vaguely complained Jeter wanted to help his old friends with the Yankees, that seems highly unlikely, as he first tried trading Stanton to the Giants, then to the Cardinals.
The Giants, Stanton rejected because he said he wasn’t sure they were ready to win again. And as a product of Tujunga, in the San Fernando Valley, he still bleeds a little Dodger blue.
The Cardinals he declined as well. He was very likely holding out hope one of his top two choices came through.
Word at the time was, the Yankees and his hometown Dodgers were the ones most active in the late bidding. But when word came to him it was New York, he didn’t hesitate. He said yes “right away,” a Yankees person recalled.
He came to New York, he said, because he wanted to be “playing games like this” for a team like this.