Back when they were big boppers on bad ball clubs, The Toy Cannon and The Capital Punisher used to hear people say the same thing Giancarlo Stanton is hearing now.
Theyll pitch around him.
Hell never get anything to hit.
Theyll take their chances with everyone else, but not him.
Jim Wynn and Frank Howard werent just sluggers on crummy teams, like Stanton is now with the denuded Marlins, who are almost universally targeted for 90 to 100 losses this season.
They were the only guys in the lineup who put fear in pitchers.
And, yet, despite all the skeptics, Wynn and Howard got their homers. As bad as their teams were, Howards Washington Senators and Wynns Houston Astros/Colt .45s, they piled up home runs, season after season.
They see no reason why Stanton, despite being the lone man on the totem pole, cant do the same.
You might suppress that kind of talent for a week, a month, or maybe two months, said Howard, 6-foot-7, 255 pounds who belted tape-measure blasts to equal his size. But after 162 games, that ability is going to surface. Youre not going to suppress that kind of ability. They might try to pitch around him, but hes going to catch his 40 or 45 maybe 50 home runs.
Said Wynn: Stanton will be on his own. But hes a good ballplayer, and once he learns the strike zone, hes going to be a very good ballplayer. He can hit the ball out of any park.
Stanton might have won the home run crown probably would have won the home run crown last season when he cranked out 37. But he missed a month because of a knee injury and finished second to Ryan Braun, who hit 41.
Hes already tallied 93 homers in his brief career, making him one of only six players in major-league history to hit that many before his 23rd birthday. The others are Mel Ott (115), Eddie Mathews (112), Tony Conigliaro (104), Alex Rodriguez (95) and Frank Robinson (93).
But how in the world will he continue putting the ball over the fence if hes the only concern for opposing pitchers in the Marlins thinned lineup? Manager Mike Redmond is thinking of having Placido Polanco provide protection in the cleanup spot behind Stanton. Polanco has 13 home runs in the past three seasons combined.
Hes got to be patient, said Andre Dawson, a Hall of Famer and Marlins front office assistant who once managed to win the Most Valuable Player Award with the last-place Chicago Cubs in 1987. Theyre going to take the approach theyre not going to let him beat them. Theyre going to avoid him at all costs and pitch to him only when they have to. When they do make mistakes, thats when he has to capitalize. Hes going to get pitches to hit, but not many.
Its not going to be easy. But its also not impossible.
Take Wynn, for example. The expansion Colt .45s of 1962 finished either last or next-to-last in seven of Wynns 11 seasons with Houston from 1963-73, and had 90 or more losses in the first six of those.
Yet the 5-foot-10 Wynn somehow managed to hit 223 home runs during that time, and he did so in a terrible park for hitters, especially power guys like Wynn: the Astrodome, which opened in 1965.
It was the toughest ballpark to hit a home run in in the 60s and the early 70s, Wynn said. And Stanton is dealing with the same thing now with their new ballpark.