Giancarlo Stanton is Yankees’ enigma only he can solve

Imagine you own a vintage luxury-car collection. Yes, let’s dream big.

You show off your garage to a visitor, describing each vehicle in loving detail. Then you turn to your 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato.

“My most expensive purchase,” you say wistfully. “Can’t get it going recently. Brakes, shocks, steering — it’s been one problem after another.”

At that point, what do you really have?

Similarly, it’s natural to wonder: What do the Yankees have in the can’t-get-going Giancarlo Stanton?

“That’s an impact bat, and he’s not just a DH. He’s much more than that,” Brian Cashman said of Stanton on Thursday, before the Yankees opened a series with the Indians at Yankee Stadium. “He’s an athletic outfielder despite the size. So hopefully we’ll be in a position to utilize him.

“… He’s also coming back from a serious injury that takes time to heal.”

Actually, in his second year as a Yankee — with eight more (yeesh) to go — Stanton has endured multiple serious injuries that have limited him to a startling nine games and 38 plate appearances.

The 29-year-old spoke to the media on Thursday, his first such availability since he suffered his latest setback, a strained PCL in his right knee on June 25. That marked his sixth game back from the injured list after an array of maladies — left biceps, left shoulder and left knee/calf — sidelined him from April 1 through June 17. Stanton voiced a cautious optimism about his return this season, saying, “I do want to have a few weeks of at-bats before October, for sure.” He hasn’t done anything outside so far, his rehabilitation limited primarily to work on a treadmill and in a batting cage, so the Yankees should score it a victory if Stanton returns to active play by Sept. 15.

“It’s been brutal on my side,” he said of his very odd season. “It’s been really good to see the team playing so well. That’s what’s really kept it not so bad to me, is to watch everyone bringing together wins in all different types of ways. Not one hero every night.

“That’s what I’ve been focusing on, not ‘Poor me,’ all the stuff. I’m just watching how good we’ve been playing. What games, what strategy for me to come file in, not to just be back playing, but to give another boost to what we’ve already been doing very well.”

Therein lies one of two key questions surrounding Stanton’s future: Will his return disrupt the team? Everyone knows that the 2019 Yankees offense has outperformed its immediate predecessor, which Stanton led in plate appearances. These Yankees hit for average far better (.272, entering Thursday’s action, compared to .249) and perform at a superior level with runners in scoring position (.304/.379/.536 compared to .253/.342/.442). The shocking surge of outfielder Mike Tauchman, one of the many “heroes” that Stanton acknowledged, has ensured that Yankees fans won’t hold group prayer sessions regarding Stanton’s return.

The countering side of the argument should prevail in a debate; we are talking about one of the most prodigious hitters of the last decade. Nevertheless, you know what can occur in small sample sizes. You saw it last October, when Stanton fizzled in his postseason debut. You sure as heck don’t want to see a repeat of that and wonder what might have been with someone else getting those at-bats.

The second key Stanton question: Is he breaking down? How can you not be at least moderately alarmed by this season’s array of ailments?

Asked whether the volume of Stanton’s injuries concerned him about the player’s long-term viability, Cashman said, “No.”

“We haven’t talked about that,” Stanton said, and he later said, “Fluke things happen.”

While he’s too liked and respected in the Yankees’ clubhouse to draw comparisons to human tire fire Jacoby Ellsbury, Stanton would help both his cause and his team’s by getting back out there in September and contributing in October. By doing his part to ensure that, no one in the Yankees’ universe speaks wistfully of him this early in their long-term commitment.

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