BALTIMORE — Giancarlo Stanton is a former MVP, an intimidating destroyer of baseballs, and last season, his first calling the Bronx home, delivered 38 home runs with 100 RBIs.
The Yankees, by any measure, really should miss a player of that stature. Especially when you factor in the additional absence of Aaron Judge, another potential 50-homer bat.
Incredibly, they don’t.
Not right this minute, anyway. The Yankees keep mashing homers, scoring runs and racking up wins at a clip that no one could have anticipated without Stanton and Judge. Before Wednesday night’s game at Camden Yards, their 73 home runs ranked seventh in the majors and their .774 OPS was ninth. Then D.J. LeMahieu, Thairo Estrada, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres (twice) all went deep as this week’s pummeling of the Orioles continued in a 7-5 win.
The Yankees have the whole power thing covered, and sitting atop the AL East, life in pinstripes is pretty good these days. They’re just fine with their top two sluggers taking as long as they need with the healing process.
This is not meant as a slight to either Stanton or Judge, two Yankees who won’t be returning any time soon — and no apparent urgency for them to do so. Stanton got as far as a Class A game Monday night in Tampa. But he’s now back on the 10-day injured list after Aaron Boone announced Wednesday that Stanton was diagnosed with “a mild calf strain,” supposedly the delayed result of being hit by a pitch during live BP over the weekend.
Why the Yankees first described Stanton’s issue as “left calf tightness” in their original email to explain the end of his rehab assignment is anyone’s guess. But when it’s come to Stanton’s health this season, the team hasn’t done a great job of getting their stories straight.
First there was the biceps strain, then the shoulder strain which apparently stemmed from the biceps strain, and now the calf strain. As a result, Stanton has been shut down for a week to 10 days, after which he will be re-evaluated. This series of injures has a very Ellsbury feel to them, one snowballing into the next. And for someone like Stanton, it’s troubling to see so many pile up just as he keeps inching closer to a return.
Stanton is earning $26 million this year, and this is the totality of his production so far: three games, two singles, zero homers, zero RBIs. If this was last season, right after the blockbuster swap with the Marlins, Stanton going MIA would have been a disaster. Now? He’s practically an afterthought. Other than on the occasions when we ask for a medical update.
‘The good news, at least it seems like it’s somewhat minor in the grand scheme of things,” Boone said Wednesday afternoon. “Obviously we want G back and I know he wants to be back yesterday, so it’s a bump in the road. But hopefully it’s not something that keeps him down very long.”
The Yankees have prescribed plenty of hope for their injured players this season, and it’s been about as effective as sugar pills for a migraine. Stanton seemed only days away from rejoining the club before this setback. As for Judge, progress for him is playing catch and tracking pitches in the bullpen, mundane stuff to allow the oblique strain to mend.
Boone refuses to even venture a guess when Judge might return, and they’re going to keep him on the most conservative timetable possible. Why risk it? While they won’t always be playing the Orioles, next up is the lowly Royals (17-31) in Kansas City, and the Yankees already have shown they can handle top clubs like the Rays and Twins, too, with their current roster.
In regards to Judge, they’ve learned their lesson after being off by weeks in the prognosis of last year’s fractured wrist. But unlike last season, when the Yankees slowed to 25-20 in his absence, they’ve been on a 19-7 roll since Judge landed on the IL on April 21.
“I don’t even want to speculate on it yet until he’s really full-go on the baseball activities and swinging a bat and stuff,” Boone said. “I would say I think he’s doing really well.”
The Yankees can afford to be patient. In the meantime, enjoy Clint Frazier, Cameron Maybin and Kendrys Morales. This season, whoever winds up wearing pinstripes is enough, even as Stanton and Judge remain spectators for the foreseeable future. Crazy, but true.