The blessing of the 2017 New York Yankees has turned into 2018's curse
2017 was as successful as a non-Championship season could be for the New York Yankees. The team’s rebuild that had started in 2016 seemed to have completed much earlier than anticipated. The Yankees had found their next superstar in Aaron Judge, their next ace in Luis Severino and another core group of stars led by Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius. The 2017 Yankees found themselves just a game away from the World Series. It was a remarkable feat when you take into account that there were almost no expectations on Joe Girardi’s squad. All the Yankees wanted to do was prove to themselves and to Major League Baseball that the rebuilding process that they began in 2016 was not only the right move but they had the right players to make it work. The hardened New York fan base bought into the idea that the team needed to get younger and could not rely on aging stars with bad contracts anymore. Things couldn’t have gone better for the Yankees. There was a renewed excitement in the Bronx. The New Yankee Stadium began to feel a lot like the Old Yankee Stadium as the Yankees began their march into October. If Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman had a checklist for everything he wanted to accomplish in 2017, one would have to assume that he checked all the items off that list. Even though the Yankees fell to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, MLB and more importantly the fans knew that the Yankees were back. Thus, the blessing 2017 was became 2018’s curse.
The Yankees fan base didn’t expect anything out of their team in 2017 but 2018 is a different story. The renewed optimism has brought out the worst in the fans. Some of this was brought on by Cashman. No longer was Joe Girardi good enough to run the Yankees so he brought in a novice in Aaron Boone. The likable Baby Bombers needed a facelift to the old hated Yankees so reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton was acquired via trade and the rest of MLB was put on notice that the Yankees weren’t rebuilding anymore they were back and ready to claim their 28th World Championship. Here we are 16 games into the season and the 8-8 Yankees hardly look like a championship contender while Boone and Stanton deal with most of the fans vitriol.
Getting to Game 7 of the ALCS and trading for Stanton meant that the expectations were through the roof for New York. Most of the fans and a lot of pundits proclaimed them preseason World Series favorites without doing justice to just how good Cleveland, Boston and Houston are. It also meant that the fans couldn’t sit back and enjoy the season and see where it took them like they did in 2017. It meant this team better start the season 14-2 bludgeoning teams or someone would feel the wrath. Most of the time that has been Giancarlo Stanton.
Giancarlo Stanton’s play in the Bronx has been abysmal. Following Tuesday’s awful 9-1 loss to the hapless Marlins he is 3-35 with 20 strikeouts at home which has drawn the ire of the fans and they’ve let him know by showering him with boos. However, on the road, Stanton is 10-31 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI. Those splits tell you there is more than meets the eye with Stanton. Stanton worked rigorously in Spring Training going the other way and with the short right field porch in the Bronx and his prodigious power it only made sense. However, maybe it is the wrong approach for him. He often seems caught in between at home almost as if he’s too conscious of going the other way. Maybe he doesn’t take that approach on the road and that’s why his splits are so drastic. Or maybe the booing has gotten in his head now as evident in his very awkward post game interview from Tuesday. Stanton was booed from Day 1 in the Bronx. Granted, he did strike out five times but the fans never gave him a chance to get acclimated to a new league, a new city and a new team. This was all after he hit a home run in his first at bat of the season to show the fans he was ready for the bright lights of Yankee Stadium. Instead of giving Stanton at least a few weeks to get accustomed to New York, they’d rather have A-Rod 2.0 on their hands and shred the guy to pieces and make him the poster boy of all the Yankees early season struggles. Nothing Alex Rodriguez did for the Yankees was ever good enough for the fans. If he hit three home runs in a game and struck out in his fourth at bat, he would be booed. Not even two MVPs and a being the hero in the 2009 postseason could save him from it. Granted, there was always extenuating circumstances around Alex but he was never welcomed with open arms before any of that hit the fans and now Stanton is getting the same treatment 14 years later.
In the mind of the fans they’d rather have Stanton answer questions about him being booed than him trying to figure out how to get himself and his team going. Sound preposterous? Well, not really. If they didn’t want him to answer those questions they’d stop the booing and give the man a fair shake to show if he can play in the Bronx and one game, no matter how bad it was, was not giving Stanton a fair shake. Truth be told, it’s too late. It’s become the “cool” thing to do. Stanton and his mega contract and promises of hitting 60 home runs have made him public enemy number one in the Bronx and the face of the team’s early struggles. At the end of the day, he is a grown man and can handle himself and will figure out how to produce in New York. He just shouldn’t have to deal with booing every time he doesn’t.
Anyone who covers a professional sports team knows a fight you will always lose is one with the fans. No one wants to take the fans to task but they should be alerted when they are giving a player a raw deal. It doesn’t matter that Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka have struggled. It doesn’t matter that outside of Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius, no one has gotten hot offensively. It doesn’t matter that the bullpen has struggled mightily despite being looked at as one of the best in the game. It doesn’t matter that Jacoby Ellsbury and Greg Bird have yet to play due to injury or that Tommy Kahnle, CC Sabathia, Aaron Hicks, Brandon Drury and Luis Cessa have all spent time on the DL already this season. All that matters is that someone needs to be the whipping boy for all of this and the fans have chosen Giancarlo Stanton.
It’s not right no matter what the excuse a fan gives you. “This is New York. We expect more here.” Probably not as much as they expect in Boston and they don’t treat their players like this. “I paid money for a ticket so I can do what I want.” Ok, just because you paid for the right to attend an event doesn’t mean you also paid for the right to display a certain level of ignorance too. There are others but those are the most common and demonstrate the point clearly. The bottom line is, through 16 games the Yankees and Giancarlo Stanton are struggling and as a fan you have the right to be frustrated but you should want to show the world that the stereotypes about Yankees fan aren’t true and booing Stanton does just the opposite of that.
No one has a crystal ball. No one knows if the Yankees and Stanton will break out of their funks and live up to the expectations of 2018. The one thing that the fans should do is rally behind this team and their struggling slugger. Yankee Stadium was a place the opposition feared in 2017. Now, only the men in the home pinstripes fear the crowds in the Bronx but that’s what happens when 2017’s blessings turn into 2018’s curse.
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