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Can Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton Recreate History?

 Unfortunately, History Is Not On Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton’s Side

Most are familiar with George Santayana’s quote “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

The Yankees are hoping history does, in fact, repeat itself 57 years later while 29 other clubs are hoping the storyline trade will make bigger waves than the potential impact two right-handed hitters in one lineup could have on the rest of baseball.

Even though 11 of today’s 30 Major League Baseball teams had not yet existed and two were just holding their inaugural season in 1961, the quote comes to mind quickly these days with the Yankees adding prominent slugger Giancarlo Stanton in a trade from the Miami Marlins to an already lethal Bombers lineup.

Mantle and Maris X Judge and Stanton

With the trade, the Yankees are trying to recreate something that has only been done once, not only in franchise history but in league history: have two players produce 50 or more home runs from the same lineup. That only happened in ‘61 with Yankees’ legends Mickey Mantle (54 home runs) and Roger Maris (61) in the great home run chase part I.

It’s safe to say fans of the Yankees and of baseball are excited to see what the two behemoths can do batting back-to-back from the right-handed batter’s box for years in a division that isn’t exactly known for having the most spacious of ballparks.

That excitement will only build until March 29th when the two can start swinging their bats – a combined 69 inches, 65 ounces sounding like something from that of “the Bat” which stands outside near the remains of the old Yankee Stadium – from the 4 x 8.5-foot box to the right of home plate when the games and home runs matter for a club that was nine innings away from its 41st World Series appearance just months ago.

But history has a different tale, a storytelling for fans to maybe hold back some of that early excitement and expectations.

The numbers they put up in 2016 are indeed historical in their own rights, and if repeated, will go down as one of the biggest triumphs in sports. It’s not because they can’t do it, but because history is not on their side.

Add to the list that only four sets of teammates – Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig (1927), Maris/Mantle (1961), Barry Bonds/Rich Aurilia (2001) and Alex Rodriguez/Rafael Palmeiro (2002) – have hit for 100 or more home runs in a single season in all of baseball’s rich history. As you can see, none of the names mentioned have gone on to repeat that success together – though some did go one to have multiple 50 home run seasons (more on that later) – or with other sluggers despite many of them having terrific, Hall of Fame-worthy careers.

Not exactly ideal for two players that finished with 59 (Stanton) and 52 (Judge), respectively. Though, there are signs of potential.

Age Is On Their Side

For starters, Judge (26) and Stanton (28) do have age on their side. Going into 2018, the two will have a combined age of 54. If they go on to achieving such accomplishments this summer, the duo would have done it a year ahead of Mantle and Maris (55) and two before of Ruth and Gehrig (56). The gap then widens for the next group of pairings to a difference of nine years between A-Rod and Palmeiro (63) and 11 years between Bonds and Aurilia (65).

The age gap should only add optimism given the fact neither are likely to be playing elsewhere for quite some time with Stanton under contract until his age 39 season in 2028 – that is assuming he does not opt out of the contract after 2020. Judge, on the other hand, comes at a bargain for the Yankees as he’s still serving under his rookie contract and is under full control until 2022. Hard to imagine if the pair lives up to anything near its early reputation, their skills will be on display elsewhere.  

Of course, the two have already made their marks in home run history being only the 28th and 29th players to hit 50 in a season. To put that in perspective, that’s only three full lineups and two extras that hit the milestone. The list only then becomes much smaller having the number of players (nine) to have done it multiple times fill just one lineup card.

That full list:
Babe Ruth, 4 (20-21, 27-28)
Mark McGwire, 4 (96-99)
Sammy Sosa, 4 (98-01)
Alex Rodriguez, 3 (01-02, 07)
Jimmy Foxx, 2 (32,28)
Ralph Kiner, 2 (47,49)
Willie Mays, 2 (55,65)
Mickey Mantle, 2 (56,61)
Ken Griffey Jr., 2 (97-98)

There are many factors that lead to the diminishing of some players’ power numbers including being pitched around, pitchers finding their weaknesses hitting certain pitches or locations, age and durability.

A pair of those reasons is a cause for concern pertaining to the sluggers with pitchers somehow finding a way to slow down Judge’s production in August and where it mattered most – October. Can he make the adjustments and account for everything he is bound to see from the opposition? He is certainly talented and smart enough to do so.

As for Stanton, durability has been a major issue for him in his eight-year career, having only three seasons in which he played 140 or more games (’11, ’14 and ’17). When he can put together a healthy season, the results speak for themselves having finished second (’14- when he suffered a late-season, major jaw injury) or first in MVP voting (’17) in two of those three seasons. 

If there are two sluggers who can put together the first combined 100 home run campaign since 2002 or be the second pair of teammates to hit 50 home runs each in the same season, it’s Judge and Stanton. Their potential is endless – as they ranked first and seventh, respectively in exit velocity last year – in a time where home runs are at all-time high – whether that’s because hitters are bigger and stronger or the baseball has been juiced, or both – at the ripe prime years in their mid- to late 20’s.

Managing Expectations

The two sluggers should put up typical numbers seen out of a power hitter (30 home runs, 100 runs batted in) for years to come, but if fans expect the same numbers as last year, that is foolish, to say the least. To take into account, four members of the 600 home run club – Bonds, Hank Aaron, Albert Pujols and Jim Thome – have never had multiple 50 home run seasons in their careers. Aaron and Pujols have never hit that mark.

Only time will tell just how special the two along with the rest of the Yankees lineup will be as General Manager Brian Cashman has assembled a young and talented lineup.

One thing is for certain though, a pitcher’s ERA, the baseball itself  – sounding like the first explosion at a firework show coming off Judge’s and Stanton’s bats before going into orbit – and the Mariners’ single-season home run record of 264 is not safe from impact. The Yankees had 241 home runs just last year without Stanton’s presence in the middle of present-day makings of Murderer’s Row Part II.

But for now, sit back, get the popcorn ready and enjoy the show the two most feared hitters in all of baseball have in store for the Big Apple.

About Arthur Dowell

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