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April 22, 2018

4/13/2018 7:26:00 AM
Let's not rush to judge Stanton after 10 games

Nick Sabato
River News reporter

The talk of the Major League Baseball offseason was the New York Yankees acquiring last year's National League MVP and home run king Giancarlo Stanton.

The talk was how lethal the Bronx Bombers would be with the 6-foot-6 Stanton and 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge in the same lineup and the same outfield. The twin towers finished first and second in home runs last season, so the expectations were naturally and justifiably high.

Judge has a .289 average with seven RBIs through 10 games, but he only has two homers and has struck out 13 times. Meanwhile, Stanton has gotten off to a historically bad start after launching two dingers in the season opener. He has three total home runs and seven RBIs thus far, while striking out 20 times in 42 at bats.

Stanton got booed off the field after striking out five times in his first appearance at Yankee Stadium and now national pundits are already talking about whether the Miami Marlins were going to win the Stanton trade.

It's pure madness. It has been a brutal, cold spring and more importantly, there are 152 games to play.

During the first 10 games of Alex Rodriguez's career with the Yankees in 2004, he had the same average as Stanton (.167), with just one home run and three RBIs. He would go on to hit .289 with 36 homers and drove in 106 runs. The following year he won the AL MVP. Albert Pujols didn't send one over the fence until the 28th game with Los Angeles Angels after signing a gigantic contract in the offseason. Pujols ended up hitting 30 that year, with 105 RBIs.

In the social media age where opinions can be voiced at the touch of a button and content needs to be provided 24/7, we simply rush to judgments far too quickly.

Think of how quickly the NFL playoff race changes from Week 4 to the end of the season. The New England Patriots started the season 2-2, while Tom Brady had six touchdowns, four interceptions and completed 59 percent of his passes. Eventually the Patriots went to the Super Bowl, Brady completed 66 percent of his passes for the season, while throwing 32 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions. That's in a 16-game season.

The Utah Jazz were 19-28 on Jan. 22 and just clinched the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference after going 28-5 since then. That's in a 82-game season.

MLB plays 162. Perhaps Stanton won't duplicate his 59-homer season from 2017, but he still has plenty of time to turn it around, reach his career average of .267 and hit 35 home runs.

It's not as if Stanton hasn't made an impact either. Shortstop Didi Gregorius has flourished hitting behind Stanton, averaging .375 with three home runs, 10 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .524.

It's a pipe dream, but for once, I'd like to see a season reach the midway point before making a judgment on a player or team.

If Stanton is still struggling at the all-star break, then perhaps it's time for Yankees fans to be concerned.

The same goes for Milwaukee Brewers fans after the team dropped five of its last seven since sweeping the Padres in San Diego to start the season.

Save for a few exceptions, most of the MLB is hovering around .500 at the moment. The season cannot be defined in 10 games.

Best things I saw this week:

- University of Minnesota-Duluth captured its second NCAA Division I hockey championship on Saturday after defeating Notre Dame, 2-1, in St. Paul, Minn.

Men's and women's hockey are the only sport in which Bulldogs are Division I, competing at the D-II level in every other sport.

While mid-majors struggle in football and basketball to compete with top programs in the country, the fact that hockey is a niche sport allows for team such as UMD to compete at the highest level.

A team that would be considered a mid-major or not even DI in some cases has won the national title in hockey seven times in the last 10 years, with UMD winning two, Yale, North Dakota, Denver and Union College, which is a D-III school in other sports, all winning titles.

- The Vegas Golden Knights finished its first regular season in the NHL with 109 points, good enough for fifth in the league. The 51 wins posted by the Knights was not only fourth-best in the NHL, but it marked an unprecedented level of success for an expansion franchise in its first season in professional sports.

- While Stanton isn't living up to his billing quite yet, Japanese rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani is for the Angels. Ohtani - a two-way player - is hitting .389 with three home runs and seven RBIs at the plate, while going 2-0 in his first two starts on the mound, striking out 18 and only allowing three earned runs in 13 innings of work.

If Ohtani can continue his success at the plate and on the mound, it could open doors for more pitchers to hit on off days.

Nick Sabato may be reached at nick@lakelandtimes.com or via Twitter @NickSabatoLT.

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