New York Yankees fans love them some Reggie Jackson. They fell in love with his aura the moment he put on pinstripes for the first time. All he did for them was hit bomb after bomb and perform at his best when it mattered the most. He gained the nickname Mr. October for good reason, and that’s likely why even though he only spent 5 years of a 21-year-long career with the Yankees he’s most remembered for his time with the Yankees. Well, that and the fact that we tend to make everything New York more important than it actually is, but that’s a digression for another time.
Giancarlo Stanton finds himself on the other end of the spectrum. From the day he first came to the Bronx, there was an uneasiness between Stanton and Yankee diehards. That’s never gone away and Stanton hasn’t helped himself with a series of injuries that have limited him to 41 games the past 2 seasons. To be fair to Stanton, it’s not his fault he’s faced some dire injuries. All you need to do is take one look at the guy and watch one of his workouts to see he is a guy who is doing everything he can to stay on the field. Alas, his body has had other ideas and as the injuries have piled up Yankees fans have piled on with the vitriol.
There isn’t a direct comparison to be made between Jackson and Stanton. There are definite similarities present, but Jackson was a tried and true 130 games a season player. Jackson only had a few injury hiccups throughout his career and he never had to overcome adversity in the same way that Stanton has. While a direct one-to-one comparison can’t be made, Stanton’s two-home run performance in a Game 2 American League Division Series loss to the Tampa Bay Rays the other night offers up one very easy comparison. Just like Mr. October, when it matters most and when the Yankees need him the most Stanton produces.
For his career, Stanton has a .265/.365/.694 slash line in 14 postseason appearances. Comparatively, Jackson slashed .278/.358/.527 across 77 postseason appearances. Yes, some of those numbers came with the Oakland Athletics and California Angels, but Jackson was always great in the postseason is the point. His numbers are eerily similar to Stanton’s, with Jackson having made a mite more contact but shown a smidgeon less power. What sets Jackson apart is a .357/.457/.755 slash line. That’s Mr. October’s numbers in the World Series when the lights are the brightest and all eyes were on him.
The true test for Stanton, and for Yankees fans, will be when he helps guide the club to a World Series appearance. If he mashes like he usually does in the playoffs and the Yankees win then Yankees fans should change their tune and cheer loudly for the former National League Most Valuable Player.
If he mashes and the Yankees lose, well, he should still become a fan favorite. If he doesn’t then that is completely on Yankees fans and their unwillingness to truly accept Stanton as a star on the team. They accepted Jackson based on his production and personality. If Stanton can provide his usual production in the World Series then there’s no reason that Yankees fans shouldn’t come to love him. He’ll never be Mr. October, Stanton lacks the personality that made Jackson more than just a ballplayer, but Stanton has everything needed to do in the playoffs what Yankees fans love most of all, win.