Giancarlo Stanton looks completely different, gets flamed by Jonathan Papelbon anyway

Why even bother to get better if Jonathan Papelbon is just going to scorch you anyway?
New York Yankees v Kansas City Royals
New York Yankees v Kansas City Royals / Ed Zurga/GettyImages

2024 will be a massive year for Giancarlo Stanton in pinstripes. It'll also be a year that begins with most Yankees fans (and Brian Cashman) wishing he were elsewhere.

That's what made this offseason so pressure-packed. For years, Stanton has always hit when he's been healthy, and his availability has been his only pain point in the Bronx. From the 2022 All-Star break forward, though, he hasn't hit much when ready, either; despite 24 homers in 101 games last season, his OPS+ was still a woeful 87. You know how poor your OBP and non-homer output has to be to dip you that far below 100? Despite occasionally running into one, Stanton never got on base (.275 clip), never found the gaps (a woeful 13 doubles), and posted a batting average that looked like prime Rob Deer (.191).

Something needs to change entering 2024. Even if a new conditioning plan doesn't work, it's the least Stanton can do after being muscle-bound and succumbing to tweaks during his whole Yankees tenure.

To his credit, the slugger reportedly entered 2023-24's offseason eyeing toning rather than bulking, and the early results show a tremendous difference, based on a recent photo. Unfortunately, that lost muscle mass -- which was lost for a reason -- still made Stanton the target of former Red Sox reliever Jonathan Papelbon.

Pap -- who is 43 years old -- took an unprovoked shot at Stanton on Tuesday night, despite being one of the few pitchers whose straight-ahead fastball Stanton could probably square up 100 out of 100 times these days.

Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton shows off bodily transformation, but Jonathan Papelbon would still bet against him

Nobody gives off stronger "High School Bully Who's 28 Now and Still Hangs Out Behind the Building Giving Kids Noogies" energy than Papelbon. Give it a rest, dude. Don't you have a Marcus Thames bomb to surrender or something?

Hopefully for Yankees fans, this bet turns out as poorly as Papelbon's last wager: Betting that America would side with him over Bryce Harper when he decided to choke his teammate. Whoops!

Whether Stanton is a new man or the same old, same old, Yankee fans are still undoubtedly stuck with him this season -- as long as he's able to stay on the field. Love him or hate him, it'd behoove the crowd to root for his success. Every dinger helps the squad, while also making it more likely the team can miraculously find a buyer for the three remaining years of his contract after the season wraps. Maybe showing Stanton a Papelbon tweet or two will remind him how much he hates the AL East and convince him to waive his no-trade clause.