They don't love Giancarlo Stanton yet at Yankee Stadium, and maybe not ever. They don't dislike him, even though there have been the times when they've booed him -- most notably when he struck out five times at the Yankees' home opener, a day when the weather made fans even
They don't love Giancarlo Stanton yet at Yankee Stadium, and maybe not ever. They don't dislike him, even though there have been the times when they've booed him -- most notably when he struck out five times at the Yankees' home opener, a day when the weather made fans even more cranky than Stanton did. They never loved Alex Rodriguez, either -- another 50-homer guy who brought a tape-measure contract of his own to Yankee Stadium and then signed a bigger one later.
The fans don't boo Stanton as much lately. My friend Pete Caldera, the fine baseball writer for northjersey.com, said on Wednesday night that when Stanton makes an out in a big spot, "it's more like groans." Stanton was cheered on Wednesday night when he got hits his first three times up -- one a scorched RBI single right by Nationals' third baseman Anthony Rendon. By the end of the Yankees' 5-4 loss to Washington, Stanton's batting average was up to .248, to go with his 15 home runs -- just three fewer than Aaron Judge -- and 35 RBIs, on the team with the best winning percentage in the sport.
But to say that Yankees fans are keeping Stanton at arm's length is an understatement about the same size as he is. These fans love Judge. More than anybody, Judge is the player they come to see, the at-bat they want to watch, even if Stanton hit more home runs last season for somebody else. On Wednesday night, the place rose up for All Rise when he seemed to hit one out to left-center in the fourth and ended up denting the top of the wall instead. They remembered that swing, and the home run that their 21-year old second base star, Gleyber Torres, hit later.
Yankees fans even went home talking about the Nationals' gifted teenager, Juan Soto, who hit two home runs on this night. The first was a bit of a surprise, finally dropping out of the sky and into the first row of the stands in left-center. The second was the one to remember, a Judge-like shot over the Yankees' bullpen in right-center, projected to be 436 feet.
So the teenaged kid had made history. They always love history at the Stadium. Yankees fans love Judge. They love Yankees kids like Torres and Miguel Andujar already. They are theirs. Stanton isn't and -- again -- might never be. There was always a lot of that going on with Reggie Jackson. Roger Maris was never Mickey Mantle. Alex Rodriguez was never going to be Derek Jeter.
There is never any real science on ballpark polling, any real good analytics on why a ballpark or a fan base reacts this way or that way to a star athlete. Kevin Durant has now won two straight MVPs in the NBA Finals. Warriors fans are always going to love Steph Curry more. He came first. They won with him first. The Yankees didn't win it all last year with Judge. But he sure gave them a ride.
I walked around the Stadium on Wednesday night and talked to fans about Stanton. And the best explanation I got about the reaction to him so far, came from Lance Gordon, lifelong Yankees fan, Woodbury, N.Y., in Sec. 118 with his family.
"The only way I can explain it is that we've got too much Judge in us," Gordon said. "[Judge] just swept us all away last season."
In the first game of the season, Stanton hit two home runs. And you know what the coverage was? That he and Judge were going to hit 100 home runs between them and opposing pitchers were going to have to be threatened with bodily harm to even come out of the clubhouse. This was going to be Mantle and Maris and 1961, when the two of them chased Babe Ruth's 60 and ended up with 115 homers between them.
Stanton is on a pace to finish with 46 home runs in a home run park in a home run time. That may be exactly who he is. It may turn out that last season was an outlier season for him in Miami. He was healthy enough to play 159 games, and he clubbed those 59 home runs. He'd only played 150 games once in his career before that. The most homers he had previously hit in a season was 37.
Stanton was great in Miami last year. He's not in Miami any longer. And they better get used to him in New York. He's the one with A-Rod's contract now. He's not going anywhere. In so many ways, because of the size of the contract and his numbers last year and the size of him, Stanton remains one of the most interesting guys in the world -- just not the way we thought. It's too early to judge how this season will work out for him, of course. But not for this: He's not Judge on 161st St. Not theirs, at least not there.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com and the New York Daily News and is a best-selling author.