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Stanton 'Cruzing' toward an MVP campaign

MLB.com @RichardJustice

Now that's how you kick off Players Weekend. Giancarlo Stanton owned the opening day on Friday with two more home runs -- including a jaw-dropping 462-footer, his fourth-longest of this magical season, per Statcast™.

In a weekend devoted to loosening things up a bit and showing off some new colors, as well as some personal color, Stanton ran his season total to 49 -- 12 more than the next closest player (Aaron Judge).

Now that's how you kick off Players Weekend. Giancarlo Stanton owned the opening day on Friday with two more home runs -- including a jaw-dropping 462-footer, his fourth-longest of this magical season, per Statcast™.

In a weekend devoted to loosening things up a bit and showing off some new colors, as well as some personal color, Stanton ran his season total to 49 -- 12 more than the next closest player (Aaron Judge).

Welcome to the Weekend of Cruz in what is becoming the Summer of Cruz. That's his uniform nickname for the weekend, which actually is part of his longer legal name: Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton.

Cruz is about to make 60 home runs a magical number again, and that's probably the coolest thing he's doing for his sport this season. The National League Most Valuable Player Award would be a pretty cool thing, as well, and he appears on his way to winning that, too.

First, a word about the MVP. Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rendon and about half of the Dodgers are in the mix. Rendon is having the quietest great season of them all, leading the NL in Wins Above Replacement (5.7), with Goldschmidt (5.5) and Stanton (5.3) close behind.

Because he plays on a team with Bryce Harper, it's sometimes easy to overlook Rendon. But his teammates know how great he is, and Nationals manager Dusty Baker certainly knows.

Back to Stanton. He leads the NL in OPS (1.044), extra-base hits (76) and a telling little statistic, weighted runs created plus, or wRC+ (163), which attempts to weigh a player's value in terms of total offensive output while adjusting for ballparks and leagues.

It's the home runs that captivate us, and Stanton doesn't just hit them. He hits them in bunches -- 28 in the past 44 games, 11 in the past 15 -- and he hits them in places many players barely dream about.

Video: MIA@PHI: Statcast™ measures Stantons 115.7 mph HR

Statcast™ has tracked seven of Stanton's home runs at 450 feet or better this season. By comparison, Judge has hit just four that far. To be fair, one of Judge's sailed 495 feet and may stand as the single most jaw-dropping moment of this season.

Now, Stanton is closing in on 60 homers -- needing just 11 in 37 games to become the sixth member of what was once one of baseball's most exclusive clubs.

Babe Ruth became the original member after he belted 60 homers in 1927. Roger Maris then joined him with his 61 in '61 -- and for 37 years, the club had just two members.

And then ...

In a four-season stretch between 1998 and 2001, the 60-homer mark was reached six times. After baseball implemented the best drug-testing program in professional sports, almost 16 years have passed since the last 60-homer season.

So enjoy this one. Enjoy not only the accomplishment, but the man himself. From the moment Stanton made his debut for the Marlins in 2010, this is kind of season we envisioned.

Injuries kept getting in the way. Stanton played his 125th game of the season on Friday, which is already the third-highest number in his career and the most since he played 145 in 2014.

After all the injuries and frustration through the years, Stanton has arrived at this sweet place. His surge has helped the Marlins win 11 of 14 games to get over .500 (64-63) for the first time since April and sit 4 1/2 games out in the race for the second NL Wild Card berth entering Saturday.

Some have wondered if the Marlins -- with new ownership, including Derek Jeter -- will trade Stanton because of the 10 years and $295 million remaining on his contract.

There's just no way that happens. Jeter understands greatness. He understands what it does for a team, a franchise and a community. These players should not be traded. Instead, they should be the foundation on which everything is built.

Enough about that. Rather than fretting about what will happen this offseason, let's sit back and enjoy what this special player is giving us. On Players Weekend, hats off to one of the best.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Miami Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton