The M&M boys have not been overthrown yet.
But four years into the Giancarlo Stanton deal, the Yankees only now see the destructive potential of teaming up with Aaron Judge at the heart of their lineup. It was a long time ago.
When Stanton was imported from the Marlins as Brian Cashman’s Plan B to miss Shohei Ohtani, the immediate thought was the damage he would do with the 6-7 Rookie of the Year already wearing pin stripes. The measuring stick was, of course, the 1961 season, when Roger Maris (61) and Mickey Mantle (54) came together for the teammate record of 115.
That was within reach, given that Stanton came from 59 homers in Miami and the referee had just set the rookie record at 52 (broken two years later by the Mets’ Pete Alonso). Put those two seasons together and the mashup between Stanton-Judge would be number two all along.
They’re still trying. But after Stanton’s spectacular grand slam drive Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the two in-laws set a meaningful milestone with a total of 69 homers, four more than their previous high of 65 from 2018, the first season together.
Hard to believe it has taken so long. The difference? Just being able to stay in the lineup regularly. Sunday night’s league final was the 112th time this season, the two starting together (out of 156 games), and the Yankees were 64-47 (.577) in such cases.
Now that Stanton and Judge remained healthy for most of this season — despite the referee’s July battle with COVID-19, Cashman’s dream of 17 has come closer to reality. And not just for the raw power. Referee (142) and Stanton (133) are 1-2 in games played for the Yankees — not a small feat given the team’s frequent medical problems — and place them at the top of the club rankings in almost every offensive category. The referee hit .285 with 36 home runs, 90 RBIs and a .904 OPS. Stanton was just behind a .275 clip with 33 homers, 91 RBIs and a .872 OPS.
“It’s been huge for us,” Aaron Boone said before Sunday’s game. “In many ways, they have really carried the offensive for us, especially in the stretches where we have played well or turned our season around. The offense has been at the head of the two guys. I feel like both of them, at this point of the season, is physically in pretty good shape. ”
The transformation from a health point of view has been remarkable. The referee played 155 games in his rookie season, then he was limited by various injuries to 112 and 102 the following two years, and only 28 during the pandemic shortened 60-game season in 2020. As for Stanton, he logged 158 games in 2018 , his first in the Bronx, then only 18 the next year due to shoulder, biceps, calf and quad problems and 23 fights under the COVID-19 schedule.
Over the winter, the judge and Stanton reportedly changed their training routines with more focus on flexibility – yoga was mentioned – and less on weightlifting. Whether it directly helped this dramatic shift in their recent injury trends is hard to determine. There is also plenty of luck involved when it comes to a six-month regular season.
But aside from being more careful on the road, as the referee always promises to do, with mixed success, the other mitigating factor is managing the workload of two linebacker-sized baseball players. Despite appearing imperishable, the referee and Stanton have proved to be anything but, and the Yankees’ efforts to keep them upright have led them to still destroy baseballs within a week of the finish line.
“Communication is important with the two guys and making sure we are on the same page,” Boone said. “It’s always the friction throughout the year, because there’s never a day you necessarily like to have them out of the lineup. But there are days you have to have the discipline to do it and trust it to come. to serve us and them well. ”
The process has worked, and in Stanton’s case, he has never been more dangerous in pinstripes, despite pushing the Yankees’ risk-benefit analysis by playing 25 away games. Entering Sunday, Stanton hit .316 with 17 homers, 45 RBIs and a 1,008 OPS in 47 games since Aug. 3.
“Just being a little shorter, a little more direct,” Stanton said of his turn during that period. “I got hard contact, but right in the ground. Now I’m able to get a little lift more often.”
Probably the understatement in September. And the more the Yankees get from Judge and Stanton, everything seems possible.
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