We all knew that the long balls would be graphic on national TV. As much as we all loathe hearing Chris Berman’s tired phrases, and his Flintstone-like delivery, we tuned in to see what Giancarlo Stanton would do on the big stage.
He batted 7th in the first round, which gave the event just enough build up to make his entrance all that more impressive. And the blasts came – one was estimated to have traveled over 500 feet. The all-stars in attendance were giddy and screaming like teenage girls at a Bieber concert. It was impressive.
Even ESPN did its best – stating Stanton played for the “Florida Marlins”.
But the night went on like a Stanton moonshot – the trajectory for the favorite was expected to be nothing short of astounding. Instead, after sitting cold for about an hour, Stanton, who achieved a 2nd round by because of his first round 6 homers, threw up a goose egg. He went cold and then we were forced to witness a Todd Frazier (who?) and Yoenis Cespedes showdown for the Final. Jose Bautista, the AL leader, also had a 2nd round bye and then went cold and only hit 4 home runs in his face-off with Cespedes.
So, blame the format more so than anything. It is funny because I was going on about how Yasiel Puig is extremely overrated, which agitated the Dodger fans, of course. Then when Stanton threw up the donut, it was a horrible reminder of what being a Marlins’ fan, and even a south Florida sports fan, means: a little sunshine with massive chances for rain.
This has been a tough week. Lebron James leaves for Cleveland (probably the first and last person to say that about) and leaves Heat fans stinging. Still, you don’t worry about the Heat because Pat Riley is at the helm and will correct things. Along comes Giancarlo Stanton who has a chance to shine at the Home Run Derby with even the pundits – for once – were picking a Marlin and were forced to actually mention the franchise on a national TV stage. Stanton had a chance to pick us all up and he did so – for the most part. His home run power is tantalizing and there probably isn’t as raw a home run hitter in the game as Stanton and not since Mark McGwire has anyone silenced the crowd with breathless anticipation of what he may do in the batter’s box.
Along with the accolades comes the constant, knife-twisting reminder that Stanton may possibly not be in Miami for much longer. There are trade rumors – which for the most part don’t have any teeth to them. Still, when you have a talent this good, you can expect everyone is going to be trying to get a piece of it. The Marlins know this, Stanton knows this, and you know his agent knows this.
And such thoughts should not be the focus for now. What can be seen in Stanton is not just the potential to be the most electric athlete in south Florida, but to extend his reach nationally. He could be an ambassador for the game here, he could reach out to fans with his performance and get them to come to the ballpark with more frequency. He could reverse the perception of this franchise with an extension. If those two things fall into place, then he could serve like a magnet, attracting the best players via free agency to come here for the chance to compete and hit in a lineup with a powerhouse like Stanton.
The fortunes of a franchise that is more known for trading away Miguel Cabrera than winning two World Series titles could be changed. The Marlins are on the rise; as is Stanton. It is time to hitch these two things together and witness a new era in sports here in south Florida.