8/12/2014 7:23 P.M. ET
As his homers soar, humble Stanton remains grounded
By Terence Moore / MLB.com
Did you hear about Giancarlo Stanton on Monday night in Miami? He made one of the most ridiculous catches of the year. After he ran forever in right field at Marlins Park, he dived toward the wall, stretched his glove so far while flying through the air that you thought his left arm might fall off and snagged the ball as he slid across the warning track.
A few innings earlier, this defensive whiz who also slugs for the Marlins, ripped a pitch toward the north side of Mars.
What else is new?
Stanton is turning the impossible into the routine during his fifth Major League season. Then again, such things happen when you're pretty good. His glove is impressive, and so is his arm. He also can hit a little. Entering Tuesday night's action, he was tied for the Major League lead with 31 home runs, and he was tied for the league lead in intentional walks (19) -- for good reason.
If you had the choice, why pitch to a guy with all of those long (long, long) balls, along with a .292 batting average and more RBIs (82), total bases (249) and overall walks (71) than anybody in the National League?
You wouldn't, especially when you know he has the ability to knock the stitches off a baseball with the greatest of ease.
That glove thing is nice for Stanton. The same goes for his laser throws. But it's those intergalactic shots from the bat that make this guy the constant talk of the game. When his third-inning blast Monday night against the Cardinals' Shelby Miller landed in the far reaches of the Budweiser Balcony in left field, it was his second home run of the evening, and it also was his franchise-record 13th multi-home run game. Actually, it was more significant than that, because it was his seventh home run of the year of more than 450 feet.
Nobody else in the Major Leagues has more than two of that distance. The Giants have five as an entire team.
Stanton's latest blast was estimated at 470 feet. In April, he sent another pitch toward that same area that went at least 14 feet farther away from home plate than this one. It's enough to make you wonder about a bunch of things involving his ability to become the closest thing to a 6-foot-6, 240-pound Godzilla whenever he steps into a batter's box. For instance: Is Stanton ever shocked by his own power after brutalizing a pitch?
"The only thing I do is just go by the reaction of people around me after I hit [a monster blast] as to knowing how it was, because when it comes to me, I really don't know," Stanton said. "I'm not looking at it that way. So when you hear teammates or other players from other teams or ex-players talk about a particular home run that you've hit, that's when you realize it's something special."
Stanton hears praise from all of the above often these days. Even so, he has to wait for them to finish rubbing their eyes in disbelief after they watch one of his shots take forever to return to Earth. That's in addition to the oohs and the aahs that pound his ears from fans in Miami and elsewhere. Most folks with a baseball clue know about his reputation as a legendary basher by now. So, just like the days of Babe, Mickey, Reggie and the rest, they expect Stanton to do something extraordinary whenever he swings the bat.
He obliges more often than not.
Which brings something else to mind: Does Stanton just, well, know? I'm thinking back to Monday night. Right before his tape-measure shot, his left foot shuffled forward with anticipation as soon as Miller's breaking pitch left for the plate. I mean, are there times when he feels as if he is only milliseconds away from putting rocket boosters on a ball?
"Not really," Stanton said. "It's more post [the pitch]. There are pitches that you see great, but then you try to do too much with them and you find yourself pulling off of them. Sometimes you hit the farthest ones when you don't even swing as hard. It's the direction, it's the back spin, it's a lot of different things that go into it. But it's not like, 'Oh, here's my pitch. This is the one I'm going to hit.' You constantly have to think about staying within yourself."
Sounds like Stanton is a thinker as well as a slugger. This isn't pleasant news for pitchers, especially because he keeps improving like crazy at 24, and remember: He already has spent much of his career at a high level. Just two seasons ago, he ignored the shaky Marlins team around him to hit .290 with 37 home runs and with a slugging percentage of .608 to lead the Major Leagues. His overall numbers sank in 2013 due to injuries, but he still became one of the nine fastest players ever to reach 100 home runs.
He also still crushed pitches. He always has done that, spanning from his prep days in Los Angeles through his time in the Minor Leagues that included one of his home runs soaring over a scoreboard in deep center field in Montgomery, Ala., for an estimated journey of 500-plus feet.
Which makes you wonder if Stanton has a favorite blast of all-time.
"Uh, let's see," he said, pausing. Then he paused some more, before sighing and saying, "I like some of the ones that have hit the concourse up there [at Marlins Park], you know, the Budweiser bar. There have been a few in Colorado that I like, but the air is a little better to hit up there than it is anywhere else. So you don't take those as much when you take the air into consideration.
"But, really, if I hit a home run something like 500 feet, that's more for the fans and people around me than it is for me. The way I look at it, it is more important for me to hit a home run in a certain situation -- you know, to help us win a particular game -- than anything else."
That reminds me. The mostly soft-spoken Stanton also is among the Major League leaders in humility.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.