|Giancarlo on a happier day.|
Baseball woke a darker place on Friday.
It's defining star, Giancarlo Stanton, lay in a Wisconsin hospital, nursing a plethora of injuries which horrified the watching masses and likely robbed his Miami Marlins of a postseason opportunity.
The mighty slugger, so adored throughout the game, was unintentionally struck in the face by an 88-mph fastball from Brewers starter Mike Friers in the fifth inning on Thursday, leading to a quite horrifying delay at Miller Park.
A clutch of medical personnel attended to Giancarlo, who, seeping blood from his mouth, was loaded onto a cart and ferried to a specialist care facility nearby. A slew of examinations, including X-rays and CT scans, revealed multiple facial fractures and dental damage, in addition to lacerations requiring stitches.
The baseball world let out a collective gasp, distraught at the prospect of losing for the year one of it's finest and most exciting heroes in a truly gruesome manner.
I discovered the deeply disturbing news early on Friday, when surfing for baseball news as is routine. I woke with a particular spring in my step, giddy pennant fever gripping my mind and stirring tremendous anticipation. Like any other day, I checked with boundless enthusiasm exactly how Giancarlo had performed overnight, hoping to read the box score or watch another of his titanic home runs with wide eyes of wonder.
Nobody could be prepared for the horror that lay in waiting.
I shuddered watching the clip. A pang of deep regret. A paroxysm of gloomy despair. An immovable, unshakable, impenetrable feeling of frustration and sorrow and whole heaps of empathy. Just why did it have to be so?
Stanton, easily the most enthralling player to emerge in many years, looked to have finally cracked the code in 2014, avoiding injuries to stay on the field and unleash with vociferous intent his behemoth talent. At the time of the freak accident, he possessed a .287/.395/.554 slash line with 37 home runs, 30 doubles, 94 walks and 105 RBI. In an age of offensive famine, these numbers are simply stupefying; numbers of a worthy Most Valuable Player.
It's been a pure and simple delight to watch Giancarlo Stanton perform this season. The guy is a dream, a treasure to be cherished, a marvel to behold. At the age of 24, he already has 154 career home runs and 399 RBI, accomplishments which capture unequivocally the attention and love of baseball fans, that most history-appreciative, record-chasing of species. I follow and support and root for Giancarlo with equal fervour as for my own Chicago Cubs. He's that rare player capable of putting on a sufficient show of strength and drama as to demand such attention, like Barry Bonds, Vladimir Guerrero, and Manny Ramirez before him.
Giancarlo Stanton hearkens back to a golden era of baseball and, in a quite inspirational way, stands, alongside Mike Trout, as the game's only bridge to future prosperity. Those two young megastars will lead baseball for the next decade and are capable of finally propelling it back to the astounding heights we all once knew.
Thus, to see Stanton hurt in a serious way, amid his most remarkable season to date, is jolting to everybody involved.
I've been unable to shake the large and heavy displeasure all morning, worrying about his short-term pain and long-term fate. Will Stanton require surgery? How will this impact his confidence, poise and vision at the plate moving forward? Has my generation just witnessed it's own gut-wrenching “Tony Conigliaro” moment? All these stupid, frenzied, unsubstantiated, yet well-intended, questions zip through my mind.
I've spent plenty of time shaking my head, sighing loudly and staring vacantly into the distance, pondering why it had to end like this. Now, whenever I daydream about baseball, there will be a blockade to the fantasy, because Giancarlo is down and likely out for the rest of a season that looked so promising.
Ultimately, this sorry episode serves to illustrate two great truisms of baseball. Firstly, it's a dangerous and unforgiving game capable, rather like life itself, of shooting you down in full flight; and, secondly, it remains the undisputed king of inciting emotion, inviting sentiment, and igniting the sweet caring passion of humanity.
Get well soon, Giancarlo. We need you.