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The new sultan of swat: Stanton's year won't be forgotten
By TIM REYNOLDS
MIAMI (AP) In the Year of the Homer, Giancarlo Stanton had the most out of everyone.
More than anyone in a long time, too.
The Miami Marlins' slugger led the majors with 59 home runs this season, the most by a big leaguer since 2001. Stanton spent the final three games chasing the ultimately elusive No. 60, his quest ending with a ninth-inning strikeout in Sunday's finale as 25,222 fans - some of them surely thinking it was Stanton's final swings with the club - gave him a long ovation.
"Sums up my year and the appreciation of me for the fans, the fans for me," said Stanton, whose 132 RBIs also led baseball. "Closes the book on 2017."
Derek Jeter was in the stadium on Sunday, watching the club that will soon be his. A group led by Jeter and Bruce Sherman is expected to close on their $1.2 billion purchase of the Marlins from Jeffrey Loria as early as Monday, and one of their major offseason decisions will surround Stanton - whose salary will soar next season to $25 million.
Stanton is three years into a 13-year contract, one that was seriously backloaded. He's still owed $285 million in that $325 million deal, and the Marlins lost money this season.
"Everything's going to be, in some way, different moving forward," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
Stanton said he will have a very simple approach when it's time to sit down with Jeter and the new Marlins leadership.
"I'm going to see what they got, see what the plan is, and we'll brainstorm from there," Stanton said.
There were more than 6,000 homers hit across the majors this season, the most ever. But no one hit more than Stanton, who became the first NL player since Prince Fielder in 2007 to even reach the 50-homer mark.
To fully appreciate Stanton's year, the challenge that comes with his home ballpark must be taken into consideration.
Marlins Park is certainly no launching pad, even after the fences were moved in slightly before the 2016 season. Going into the weekend, only Fenway Park in Boston, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and AT&T Park in San Francisco had surrendered fewer home runs this season than the spacious pitcher's paradise that the Marlins call home.
"He's had a phenomenal year," Cincinnati's Joey Votto said. "He's doing it in a ballpark that's not conducive to easy home runs."
Colorado first baseman Mark Reynolds said what Stanton has done in 2017 "is historic."
"I remember I hit 44 one year and it felt like I hit one every day," Reynolds said. "I can imagine what he feels like. I know how hard it is to stay that consistent over a period of time. He's had a great year. He's a big boy who can hit the ball a long way and he's done it very consistently."
And to think: Almost every franchise passed on Stanton when he was a high schooler who went by Mike a decade ago.
Stanton was the 76th player taken in the 2007 draft. Of those taken before him, 21 have played fewer than 100 games in the majors and 27 never made a big league debut.
Every team except Houston, which had no top-100 selections that year, passed on the chance to get Stanton - and most of those teams had multiple chances. San Diego and San Francisco each took six players while Stanton was on the board; Washington, Toronto and Texas each took five. The Marlins didn't even use their first pick on Stanton, going instead with Matt Dominguez in the first round.
There were 21 teams that drafted at least two players before the Marlins finally snared Stanton.
"I believe what Stanton has done is incredible because he is not only showing the power he has but is also hitting for average, especially for how big the man is," said Denny Almonte, a Miami native who was taken at No. 75 in that draft - one spot before Stanton - and is now an agent.
Before this season, the Marlins team record for homers was 42 by Gary Sheffield in 1996. Stanton's career best for homers was 37, in 2012 and again in 2014.
This year, everything worked. He stayed healthy, playing in more games than ever before. He scored more runs than he had in the last two seasons combined, and raised his batting average by 41 points. A single he hit on Sunday measured at 122 mph, MLB's Statcast said, calling it the game's hardest-hit ball since at least 2015.
Cubs slugger Kris Bryant said Stanton's numbers are "like from another universe."
"You see him," Bryant said. "You see how he swings the bat, you see how big he is, you see how hard he hits it. It hasn't surprised me because he's just an unbelievable player."
AP Sports Writers Pat Graham in Denver and Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this story.
Updated October 1, 2017