Should Giancarlo Stanton participate in the Home Run Derby next Monday? It does not take much in the way of probing in the Yankees’ clubhouse for the prevailing opinion to emerge.
“I hope he does it,” DJ LeMahieu said. “I know L.A.’s a special place for him, Dodger Stadium’s a special place to him. He’s got the most raw power I’ve ever seen. I think we’d all love to see him bang away out there.”
Out there, of course, is Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, home of the 2022 All-Star Game on July 19.
As well as the childhood home of Stanton.
The outfielder grew up going to Dodger Stadium with his father, often arriving early to try to catch batting practice balls in the bleachers in left or rightfield (leftfield a little more often).
It’s the reason Stanton wore a big smile late Friday night in Boston after learning that he had been voted to the American League’s starting outfield for the game (joining teammate Aaron Judge).
Stanton, who hasn’t participated in a Home Run Derby since the 2017 event in Miami (won by Judge in what then was Stanton’s home ballpark as a Marlin), said with the same smile Saturday that he “definitely could be there” competing Monday night.
It is highly expected that he will choose to do it. If so, it will draw the eyeballs of just about everyone in the clubhouse.
“He’s going to be extremely good entertainment,” Aaron Hicks said. “I watch it every day [during batting practice]. Definitely going to be seeing a lot of balls hit in places you never thought they could be hit.”
“With those juiced Home Run Derby balls, he’s probably going to lose a few of those if he plays,” said Gerrit Cole, who was named to his fifth All-Star Game. “If I’m just going to act selfishly, I don’t need to see him do the Home Run Derby. I see him do the Home Run Derby every day. But I will say it will be the ticket of the evening in Los Angeles if he does decide to do it.”
Stanton is hitting .236 but has 22 homers and an .831 OPS in 71 games. His home run total is tied for second on the club behind Judge’s 30.
In his last 29 games, Stanton is 17-for-102 — but 11 of those hits have been home runs.
Speaking of Judge, the 2017 Derby champion and now four-time All-Star isn’t participating in this year’s competition (much to the disappointment of many, ESPN first and foremost). Judge said he won’t ever do it again unless it’s an All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. Not surprisingly, he falls in line with the rest of the clubhouse when it comes to Stanton and the Derby.
“That’s going to be some fun. I want to see him hit a couple out,” Judge said with a smile in the visitors’ dugout at Fenway Park over the weekend. “He’s done it in the past and won [in 2016]. I’ll be there [on the sideline] for his little timeouts, get him some Gatorade and water, get him right.”
Judge, no slouch himself when it comes to bludgeoning baseballs, nonetheless has always been fascinated with the way the ball leaves Stanton’s bat.
Kyle Higashioka, who came up in the minors with Judge, hinted as to why.
“The way it comes off his [Stanton’s] bat, it’s unlike anybody else,” the catcher said. “Obviously, Judge is incredible and has the same amount of power, but I would say Judge’s swing is more traditional, whereas Big G’s swing is very unique, so the way the ball comes off his bat is very unique. It’s like a low-rising line drive a lot of the time. It’s just fun to watch.”
Stanton’s 393-foot bullet into the Red Sox bullpen on Sunday night came off the bat at 114 mph and at an unusually low 16-degree launch angle.
Higashioka added: “I think just for the fans, it’s going to be something special if he does decide to compete. I know one of my favorite things in the entire game of baseball is watching him hit the ball . . .
“I think one of the things about sports is you get to see people, on an everyday basis, doing things that you could never imagine doing. When I watch hockey or soccer or football, I know for a fact that I can’t do that and they’re doing it at the highest level. But then Big G is a different level than that.”
Like just about everyone interviewed when discussing Stanton’s power, Higashioka was smiling.
And Judge flashed one more of his own when it came to discussing Stanton and his anticipated participation in this year’s Derby.
Said Judge, “I’ve got my money on him.”