Giancarlo Stanton is 18 points of batting average away from the Triple Crown. You might think that it's impossible for him to pick up 18 points in a month, and you're mostly right. Winning the Triple Crown is hard. But he has about 118 at-bats left, and if he could get 56 hits in those ... or if the people at the top all go into a slump at the same time ... or if ...
Fine, it's probably not happening. But take a spin through the National League leaderboard, and make up your own crown. Lump any three stats together, and Stanton has a good chance of being on top of all three. WAR, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Adjusted OPS, runs created, and WPA. Dingers, dingers that go far, and dingers that go hella far. Stanton is atop all those and several more. He's a 24-year-old having a better season than some Hall of Famers ever had.
Miami and Money
Miami and Money
This is great news for the Marlins. This is awful news for the Marlins. Great because he's keeping them afloat in the wild card chase, if barely, and giving them a look at what it might take to build the next great Marlins team. Get this guy healthy here, replace that guy there, upgrade here ... The Marlins' race for .500 isn't just ornamental. It's showing them how close they are to being relevant again. It's awful because Stanton walks around the dugout making old-timey cash register sounds after every home run.
I mean, that's what I'd do.
An extension for Stanton was already going to be prohibitively expensive, but this season had the one-two punch of a) being historically fantastic and b) shaving another year off the risk matrix. The further away from free agency, the cheaper the player gets, giving up some annual salary in exchange for his arbitration years turning into guaranteed money. Stanton is now just two years away from free agency. That's close enough where he can mix in a down year and still get as much from another team as the Marlins are probably willing to pay him now.
In February, we explored the possible scenarios in which Stanton would commit to the Marlins for 10 years. It was almost impossible to find one.
The easy answer: They'll have to contend. Christian Yelich will have to be the monster he was predicted to be. Fernandez will need to stay healthy, and he'll need help from pitchers like Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi. Young players will need to reach their potential. Veterans will need to stay healthy and perform. Ownership will need to spend more money to reinforce the young talent.
But that easy answer only makes sense in a general sense, and it only makes sense if you think of the Marlins as a normal team with an unremarkable history. They are not. They are a team with a herky-jerky transaction history, and an unfortunate legacy of rebuilding when fans are expecting reloading. If someone wrote, "Pirates decide to Marlin away their good players" in a headline in some horrible alternate reality, you would know exactly what they meant. "Marlins" is a loaded term.
Which means that the easy answer isn't good enough. The Marlins would need to have a season or two that are so amazing, so transcendent, that a player would feel comfortable committing for the next decade. The seasons should erase any doubt of the Marlins' future direction.
The Marlins are just three back of the second wild card, and it would be so Marlins if they were the first team to win a World Series through the second wild card. So don't give up on that transcendence yet. It's likely not going to be that kind of season, though. The promising, flawed Marlins are promising and flawed, and they'll finish at or around .500. That's better than a lot of people expected, but not enough to make Stanton have an epiphany that the Marlins are suddenly his destiny.
Just ask Giancarlo Stanton:
The question was whether the events of this season had altered his top-down view of the organization. He'd raised his eyes, thinking.
"Five months," he said, "doesn't change five years."
Oooooooh. Now that's a quote. It's at this point that I started giggling at the thought of Jeffrey Loria, shoulders slumped like one of his favorite cultural icons, watching the press conference with the Red Sox and Stanton, knowing that one of the greatest young players in league history slipped through his fingers because of the short-sighted weirdness of the third Marlins teardown. Oh, how that schadenfreude tickled me.
Except this is a group of words that exists on the Internet:
Jeffrey Loria bought the Marlins for $158M in 2002. Under the purchase agreement, the sale price was reduced to $143 million when the team did not get a new stadium within five years.
Forbes magazine valued the club at $500M in March, 2014.
Bloomberg valued the franchise at $595M in October, 2013.
One of the most wall-punchingest sentences you'll ever read, at least related to sports. Loria will win because the Lorias always win.
More than that, though, it's hard to pretend deserve's got something to do with it when it comes to the Marlins and Stanton because there are fans involved. There are still die-hard Marlins fans, who have stayed stoic and resolute while the Marlins did their thing for the third time, who are the statues under Loria's pigeon, who haven't gone anywhere and who won't go anywhere. Loria would get to dive into his pile of doubloons, and those fans would be crushed. I feel for them so danged much.
I figured out another possible scenario, though. The first one is still for the Marlins to become the Big Teal Machine and make everyone in Miami baseball-crazed and rabid over the next two years. The second one might be more realistic, though. In this scenario, the Marlins spend spend spend in the offseason, and when it doesn't work out in 2015, spend spend spend after that season, too. The Marlins reacting to failure like a normal team -- a team looking to dust themselves off and improve -- might be a brick in the wall that keeps Stanton in Miami until his mid-30s. That seems extraordinarily unlikely.
We're a season closer to Stanton's final decision. Everything that's happened this year seems to push him away a little more. Five months doesn't change five years. And it's hard to see now the next 25 months will change them, either.