Jose Fernandez, in his own effervescent way, predicted Giancarlo Stanton would be a Yankee one day. The late Marlins pitcher was at the 2016 All-Star Game with then-teammate Stanton and told him that next year, they would be back to the Midsummer Classic. Stanton, he said, would win National League Most Valuable Player. And one day, maybe — just maybe — they would both be Yankees.
“He said, ‘If this doesn’t work out down here, I’m going to be a free agent and I’m going to be with the Yankees, and I’m taking you with me,’ ” Stanton recalled Sunday, accepting his MVP award at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards dinner in midtown Manhattan. “Now that I’m here, I’m going to take a little piece of him and bring it with me.”
In many ways, Sunday — where the biggest names in baseball were honored for their contributions to the 2017 season — was a preview of what’s to come. Stanton and fellow award winner Aaron Judge sat side by side, sporting similar haircuts, wearing similar tuxedos, the aura of superstardom orbiting around their massive frames.
The Yankees’ new power duo stuck by each other most of the night as those around them couldn’t help but anticipate what they could mean to baseball in the coming months and years.
“The modern-day version of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris,” said Bob Costas, presenting Judge with his three awards: American League rookie of the year, toast of the town, and New York player of the year.
“Not only is this going to be great for the Yankees and Yankees fans, it’s going to be tremendous for baseball. There’s going to be a buzz about this — there has been already in the offseason, into spring training. It’s not just going to be in the Bronx, this is going to be the best road draw in all of baseball, and people are going to be showing up early for batting practice every night in every ballpark. It’s one thing to be effective and to be excellent and it’s another thing to have a quality of myth and legend about you.”
Judge recalled 2013, when he somehow — now laughably — thought his time with the Yankees was in jeopardy. He was invited to take batting practice with the team in Oakland and was in the outfield with Brett Gardner. He was so nervous, he said, he completely missed the ball he was supposed to field.
“I thought my days with the Yankees were numbered,” he said, only moments from getting a partial standing ovation. “Thank you to the city of New York for embracing me — and all the fans that support us day in and day out, even when we’re struggling.”
Not that too many people expect too many struggles in the Bronx this season.
Stanton, who used much of his speech to pay tribute to Fernandez — who died in a boating accident two months after that All-Star Game — said that his old teammate motivated him last year and will continue to do so.
“This has been an amazing ride,” he said. “I’m excited to be here in New York and experience the big city and bright lights . . . [Fernandez] was a big factor in achieving this and doing something special for him, that was a big part of this season.”