John Lennon said, “Today, America is the Roman Empire, and New York is Rome itself.” Although this statement was made decades ago it still rings true for New Yorkers, especially for Yankee fans who set an imposing standard of excellence.
Many who have come and donned the pinstripes have failed in the bright lights of New York City, from Ed Whitson to Carl Pavano and Dave Collins to Jacoby Ellsbury. The thing that makes New York the most difficult city to play in is also what makes it the absolute best place to play. Excellence is expected in New York and winning is the key. If you can get your hands on that key, you are king.
Other cities expect to win, but in New York it is believed to be a birthright. Case in point, in no other city in Major League Baseball would a reigning MVP and home run champ have been booed in the team’s home opener!
Welcome to New York, Giancarlo Stanton!
Things didn’t get any better for Stanton on Sunday in the bottom of the 12th inning, with two outs, when the Yankees trailed the Orioles by a run but had the tying and winning runs on base. Stanton stepped up to the plate, already 0-for-6 on the day with four strikeouts.
Four pitches later, the Yankees lost and Stanton had an unthinkable five-strikeout game for the second time in less than a week. The 2017 National League MVP ended the season’s first homestand batting .167 and facing possibly the biggest challenge of his career, figuring out how to thrive in New York.
Since the only way a new Yankee star can survive the Big Apple is to thrive, what would the ever critical Yankee fan consider a successful year for Stanton? Stanton is in a difficult situation, facing a set of circumstances similar to those Alex Rodriguez faced.
It’s reasonable to wonder if Stanton has the temperament to thrive here.
There were times in Miami when Stanton was visibly annoyed by the media, particularly last year, when he was peppered with questions about fellow outsized slugger Aaron Judge.
There are only three outcomes that will ultimately be viewed as a successful year by Yankee fans.
Scenario one: The Yankees don’t win the World Series, but Stanton hits 50-plus homers, bats over .250 and does not slump in the playoffs.
Scenario two: The Yankees win the World Series, Stanton hits 40-plus homers, bats over .250 and has a monster playoff, a la 2009 A-Rod.
Scenario three and best possible outcome: The Yankees win the World Series, Stanton hits 50-plus homers, bats over .270 and is a key force in the playoff run.
These are all lofty expectations, especially considering Stanton had never hit more than 37 home runs in a season before last year. However, this is New York, and stars are expected to perform on the biggest stage when the lights are the brightest. 2018 will set the tone in determining the narrative of whether Stanton will be the next Yankee superstar or the next Yankee bust.
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