Three weeks, no home runs (and no, it's not Albert)
Like Albert Pujols, Giancarlo Stanton has yet to hit a home run this year. And like Pujols' Angels, Stanton's Marlins are in last place. Stanton is handling it well, but it's about time he starts handling it by hitting some home runs.
NEW YORK -- Giancarlo Stanton isn't Albert Pujols.
He doesn't have 11 years in the big leagues, or 445 career home runs, or a $240 million contract.
But fair's fair. If we're going to ask why Pujols remains homerless as the season enters its fourth week, we've got to ask the same about Stanton.
After all, when CBSSports.com asked us to predict who would lead the two leagues in home runs this year, I said Pujols and Stanton.
Too bad the question wasn't, "Which two sluggers will reach the final week of April without hitting a home run?"
Pujols and Stanton are homerless, and perhaps it's no coincidence that Pujols' Angels and Stanton's Marlins are both in last place.
It's not just them, but . . .
"I know everyone expects a lot from me," Stanton said Wednesday. "As they should."
To Stanton's credit, he isn't hiding from this, and it says something that the 22-year-old Stanton was the first Marlins' player to meet with reporters after Wednesday night's 5-1 loss to the Mets.
It says even more that he didn't accept the Marlins' struggles -- and his own -- as just an early-season anomaly.
"I don't know if we're pressing or taking it too lightly," he said. "It seems lackadaisical on the field. That sense of urgency without panic is not there."
The Marlins have lost four straight games on this trip to Washington and New York, scoring just four runs and hitting .148 as a team.
What they could really use is a big home run. But Wednesday, Stanton went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, dropping his average to .241.
He's hardly the only struggling Marlin. Jose Reyes has a .217 batting average and has scored just six runs in 17 games. Hanley Ramirez is 0-for-14 with seven strikeouts on the trip.
"Before the season's over, we'll come out of this," manager Ozzie Guillen said.
I'm sure they will. I'm sure Stanton will hit home runs, just as I'm sure Pujols will.
Stanton doesn't have the track record Pujols has, but he has more reasonable excuses for his slow start than Pujols has for his.
In fact, when I mentioned the Pujols comparison to Marlins hitting coach Eduardo Perez, he said, "I don't think they're in the same sentence. Albert did get his at-bats in spring training."
Stanton didn't, because of knee trouble that still affected him when the season began.
"The beginning of the year, I didn't really trust my legs," Stanton said. "If you don't have legs, you're not hitting home runs."
Along with the lack of a true spring training, Stanton has had to deal with the new Marlins ballpark. Its huge dimensions have already cost him a couple of possible home runs, although he refuses to complain.
"You can't be begging," he said.
He does seem to be handling this well, acknowledging that he has thought about the lack of home runs ("Of course. I'm known for my power."), without seeming to let it get too much into his head.
He knows that Pujols also has no home runs, just as he knows that Matt Kemp already has a whole bunch.
"The only comfort [from Pujols] is that we're all human," Stanton said. "Kemp has 30 home runs already. We have none. But you don't want to fall back on the thought, 'He has none, too, so I'm good.'"
Stanton doesn't have the long track record that Pujols does. But Stanton did hit 34 home runs last season, after hitting just two in April (and none before April 21).
He was Mike Stanton then, before asking this spring to be called by his given first name.
"He should go back to Mike," one scout joked. "No one named Giancarlo has ever hit home runs in the big leagues. Plenty of guys named Mike have."
Stanton jokingly suggested a different change, saying that the Marlins could extend the Clevelander nightclub so that it goes around the entire outfield (and thus shortens the dimensions).
For someone with Stanton's power, Marlins Park shouldn't be such an issue. By the end of the year, perhaps it won't be, just as by the end of the year, perhaps no one will be putting "marine layer" and Albert Pujols in the same sentence.
But for now, Stanton and Pujols are homerless, even while 233 other big-leaguers have already homered this year.
I thought they'd be linked this year, thought they'd be atop the home run lists.
Instead, for now at least, they're linked at the bottom.
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