ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Giancarlo Stanton knows better than almost anyone what Aaron Judge is doing this season.
Five years ago, Stanton hit 59 homers in his NL MVP season with the Marlins.
He’d already signed his massive contract with Miami, so a new deal wasn’t what sparked the offensive onslaught.
And even with Judge headed to an arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Wednesday and perhaps free agency following the season, Stanton said that’s not behind what could be Judge’s finest season in the majors.
“He’s showing he’s motivated and he doesn’t need any extra motivation,’’ Stanton said. “I know this year he’s got plenty of it and every bit helps, but to do what he’s doing, it takes a mindset where you don’t need that added motivation.’’
Instead, Stanton said it was a realization that he was in the midst of a special year in the prime of his career.
“For what we do, the window is very small for when you know you have the talent and capability of doing what he’s doing and you want to show it,’’ Stanton said. “When you’re career is over, there’s going to be so much failure and missed opportunities, you have to get your mind right when something like this is happening.’’
Judge entered Monday with an MLB-high 25 homers, having hit 24 over a stretch of 47 games prior to the four-game “drought” he brought into Monday’s game against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Stanton did most of his damage in 2017 in the second half. Through 66 games, he had 17 homers compared to Judge’s 25 and it’s the grind of the season that will likely be a challenge to Judge — especially as he plays center field more than ever.
Asked the most difficult part of staying consistent in a season like the one Judge is having, Stanton paused and said, “I would say the overall wear and tear.
“Even when it’s going great and you’re playing well and you don’t have to go through the frustration of slumping, it’s still very taxing to be on base so many times, scoring so many times and always moving,’’ Stanton said. “And you’re out there every day, running in the outfield, running the bases and then you have to stay mentally prepared for every at-bat and not giving any away.”
Which gets harder as the year progresses.
“You get drained during the season,’’ Stanton said. “It’s how you deal with that and grind it out when you’re not feeling it in five at-bats. You have to have self-awareness for when to make adjustments. You have to be on point all the time to have a magical season.’’
Being surrounded by dangerous hitters is also key, something Stanton had, since the Marlins hadn’t traded Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna — or Stanton, for that matter — in one of their many sell-offs.
Judge is in the middle of arguably the best lineup in the majors, but no one has approached his production.
“It’s been amazing to watch,’’ Stanton said. “He’s playing on the next level from where everywhere else is playing. … It’s entertaining watching the frustration of the best pitchers in the world trying to get this guy out.”