Alex Rodriguez was pretty good in 2004, just not as great as his MVP season the year before.
He hit 36 homers with an .888 OPS and finished 13th in AL MVP voting, yet he never sustained the brilliance that motivated the Yankees to acquire him with seven years years left on what at the time was the largest total contract in North American team sports history, especially when they already had the face of their franchise, Derek Jeter, playing his natural position.
Rodriguez’s age-28/Yankees debut season ended with ignominy, the Yanks blowing a three-games-to-none ALCS lead to the Red Sox. Rodriguez was not the only culprit — for the first seven games of those playoffs against Minnesota and Boston, he was the Yankees’ best hitter — but he became the face of the collapse. Because of the size of this talent and contract and because his acquisition was deemed a finishing piece for a team that had reached the World Series the previous season.
Giancarlo Stanton has been pretty good in 2018, just not as great as his MVP season of last year.
He has 33 homers with an .838 OPS and if the season ended today would probably finish between 10th and 15th in MVP voting. Yet Stanton has not sustained the brilliance that motivated the Yankees to acquire him with 10 years left on the largest total contract in North American team sports history, especially when they already had the face of their franchise, Aaron Judge, playing his natural position.
Stanton’s age-28/Yankees debut season is in jeopardy of ending in ignominy. What was on Aug. 1 a six-game lead for the top wild-card spot over the A’s was down to one after Wednesday’s games. The Yankees’ postseason could come and go Oct. 3 in Oakland. Stanton has not been the only culprit imperiling the team. But even without the polarizing personality of Rodriguez, Stanton should understand that the size of his talent and contract are going to make him the face of the failure if the Yankees do not right themselves.
So the pressure is on the Yankees collectively to find the best of themselves, which was lost around mid-July, and for Stanton to find the best of himself, which has never really arrived in a sustained way. Or else Stanton could learn — as Rodriguez did — how difficult life can be even as a successful player in New York, such are the expectations that envelope the big guy and this franchise.
Look, this is not hopeless. Aroldis Chapman and Judge can get healthy, Luis Severino can rediscover his first-half level and the Yanks can win it all.