Maybe it won’t matter. Maybe the thought that the Yankees can actually make a bell-lap sprint for the playoffs is as much of a mirage as whenever your favorite cartoon character of choice is crawling through the desert, spies a pool of fresh water and instead guzzles a mouthful of sand.
Maybe the season is already too far gone to be salvaged by anyone stepping up and catching fire. It’s sure hard to argue after watching the Yankees get stomped 9-2 in Chicago on Wednesday night by the playing-out-the-string White Sox. They dropped another series to a dreadful team at a time when they desperately need to stack as many wins as they can on top of each other.
Maybe the upcoming trip to Miami — with an army of live arms that aren’t exactly what the doctor would prescribe a struggling offense — and then a detour through Atlanta will put the Yankees away for good, finally put a sleeper hold on the season.
Still, it would be a good thing if the home run Giancarlo Stanton clobbered in the seventh inning Wednesday night was at long last something more than a tease, the way so many of Stanton’s starts in this start-and-stop season have been teases. Every now and again the man who was, for a time, the most-feared slugger in baseball offers a glimpse, a fleeting snapshot, of that once-upon-a-time.
Every time you wonder: has he figured it out?
And so far this season, and for several seasons, the answer returns rapidly:
Giancarlo Stanton has not figured it out.
Giancarlo Stanton has not been able to remember what it was like to be Giancarlo Stanton. A brief power splurge will be followed by a dozen at-bats in which he seems positively mystified. A spate of good at-bats was interrupted by one terrible piece of baserunning that Yankees fans aren’t ever going to be able to quite forget.
And here is one serious problem for the Yankees: So much of whatever hope is attached to the balance of the season is also fastened to Stanton, at the least, approximating what he was in his first year as a Yankee (remember that?), when he played in all but four games, crushed 38 homers, drove in 100 runs and finished 19th in the MVP vote. Heck, even two years ago, he was .273/35/97 with an .870 OPS. And as recently as last year, he was an All-Star.
The player he was is not that far removed from the player he has been this year. He’s still only 33 years old. This shouldn’t be a ceremonial victory lap of a season for him as it is for Miguel Cabrera. He can still make that happen.
He just has to make that happen.
“I see better swings and more signs of the old G,” manager Aaron Boone said this past weekend, after Stanton had clubbed one of his patented Stantonian blasts into orbit against the Astros. “I think we can all feel things starting to come together for him.”
Of course, Wednesday, Stanton followed his seventh-inning bomb with a flailing strikeout an inning later, when he represented the tying run. Another start knee-capped by another stop. It is the rhythm of a brutal season, for the Yankees and for Stanton: One step up, two steps back. One series win in their last 11. Stanton sitting at .204/.278/.463. Ugliness all around.
And of course there was also the base-jogging incident heard round the world Saturday, when he race-walked home for a scone on a two-out single and opted not to slide, an instantly immortalizing moment the internet — and a ton of salty Yankees fans — won’t soon forget.
You know what will make them forget?
For Stanton to truly join Aaron Judge as the fearsome 1-2 punch everyone envisioned when Stanton came aboard in 2018. Maybe it’s too late to matter. But it’s the time to find out. Forty-seven games left. Five-and-a-half games out. Now is the time. Now is the moment. Stanton can make the first five months of the season disappear like magic in the final five weeks. It’s a wonderful opportunity. Now he merely needs to seize it.