However talented, Stanton lacks Giant appeal 

click to enlarge Giancarlo Stanton
  • Jeff Chiu/AP
  • Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton is the type of player the Giants need, but probably don’t want to afford after he signed a 13-year, $325 million contract in the offseason.
Traffic stopped when Giancarlo Stanton strode across Third Street on Thursday afternoon. Literally. Cars came to a halt and backed-up motorists honked.

Upon stepping out of a blacked-out Chevy Tahoe that had dropped him off near the player entrance south of King Street, across from AT&T Park, autograph seekers and picture takers immediately rushed the 25-year-old Miami Marlins slugger. Even with his 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame, it was difficult for Stanton to work his way through the mob and commuter jam. Once he hit the sidewalk, he made a quick dash for the gate while being pushed and pulled by his admirers.

And so goes the life of Stanton, the superstar with Major League Baseball’s richest contract in terms of length (13 years), money ($325 million) and expectations (gargantuan).

“Yeah,” Stanton said. “It can get a little crazy.”

Stanton came into the game slugging .731 against the Giants, the highest mark ever against the club for players with at least 125 plate appearances, according to Stats. The right fielder went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the series opener, and the Marlins pummeled Tim Hudson for 15 hits (17 total) in a 7-2 win. The Giants again fell below .500 and 4½ games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers.

Stanton’s Most Valuable Player-caliber talent made him one of the faces of baseball in the 2014 season. He has next-level power. He is a game-changing talent. He also is young. He smiles for the camera as one of the sport’s most marketable players.

Stanton is the type of player the Giants have come to know over the last handful of years. From Tim Lincecum to Brian Wilson to Matt Cain to Buster Posey to Madison Bumgarner, the Giants know their way around a superstar.

Yet Stanton is the antithesis of the franchise that has won three World Series since 2010. The Giants have done it with payrolls of $98.6 million in 2010, $118 million in 2012 and $134 million last year. All of those sums ranked in the game’s top 10 for those seasons, but Stanton’s mammoth deal is the kind of luxury the team has won without.

Posey has the team’s richest long-term contract at $167 million over nine years, barely more than half of Stanton’s total, and it was signed after the team had won two titles. The first two seasons of the deal combined to pay Posey $13.5 million, comparative peanuts for a player of his caliber.

While the star players have played big parts in the Giants’ championships, cheaper role players like Andres Torres, Marco Scutaro and Michael Morse were vital to them as well. Morse, who hit an eighth-inning home run to tie Game 5 of the National League Championship Series that eventually helped clinched the pennant last year, returned to AT&T Park as a member of the Marlins and received his World Series ring in an on-field ceremony. Morse’s contract before the 2014 season — one year, $6 million — was the kind with which the Giants have thrived.

“There’s a Giants brand of baseball, and there are certain players they look at,” said Morse, who signed two-year, $16 million deal with Miami in the offseason. “There’s always pieces that they look for, and not everybody fits, and they seem to know who will. That’s a testimony to how great that organization is.”

It is not that the Giants couldn’t be better with Stanton or even afford him. The franchise is worth $2 billion and had the game’s fourth-highest revenue total at $387 million last year, according to Forbes.

But spending in that fashion is not their style, although they spend to a lesser degree on homegrown talent. That is why it was odd to see them push hard for Jon Lester this past offseason, extending a seven-year deal for about $168 million in December, according to reports.

When Lester took less money to play for the Chicago Cubs, and when Pablo Sandoval spurned the Giants for the Boston Red Sox, the Giants shut the checkbook and spent $4.7 million on Nori Aoki to replace Morse and $4.8 million on Casey McGehee to replace Sandoval.

Quite anticlimactic after the rush of pursuing a coveted free agent like Lester, and even the back-and-forth with Sandoval, everyone said. There is no backlash, though. This franchise and front office have earned plenty of slack from its fan base because of those three titles.

As for the Giants dipping into the pool of the $200 million-plus player, it will eventually happen. But when it does, it will fall in line with inflation as the game gets richer. It won’t be the eye-popping oddity it currently happens to be.

“We probably aren’t too far away the way the game’s going,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I wouldn’t be surprised by that at all.”

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Anthony Witrado

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