Giancarlo Stanton is back in Miami, the scene of his climb and Derek Jeter’s rapid decline in popularity as the Marlins’ chief executive officer.
When Jeter took over last October as part of the team’s new ownership, he talked about rebuilding by cost-cutting. Stanton — whose Yankees will play Miami on Tuesday and Wednesday nights — envisioned the Marlins’ future and wanted no part of it.
Jeter’s virtually flawless face-of-baseball reputation, cultivated in a 20-year playing career with the Yankees, took a big hit from the fans in December after he traded Stanton, the National League’s reigning Most Valuable Player, to the Yankees.
Popular Marlins Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon also were moved. Jeter was sent into damage-control mode as he hosted town hall- style meetings trying to explain his strategy for fixing the club.
The fans protested by staying away in droves from Marlins Park. The average home attendance through 63 games is a major league-low 9,677. It was 20,295 in 2017, when Stanton had 59 homers and 132 RBIs.
“Ticket sales have increased for the two days, however, I don’t have exact numbers,” Marlins spokesman Marty Sewell said in an email. “And I would think that fan reaction will be mixed.”
Miami Herald beat writer Clark Spencer said, “Given that the crowd will largely be made up of Yankees fans, he should get a kind reception. He was here for eight seasons, after all, and really never did anything to anger the base.”
When Stanton was traded, Jeter was quoted as saying, “We wanted to fix the previous regime’s mistakes, and we weren’t going to be able to do that while paying one player $25 million a year for the next decade.” Stanton had signed a 13-year extension totaling $325 million in 2014.
In his introductory news conference with the Yankees, Stanton said, “I wanted us to go forward and advance with the pitching staff. I thought our lineup was legit and we needed help with our pitchers, to add and not subtract. The way they wanted to go was subtract, so I let it be known that I didn’t want to be part of another rebuild, another losing season. Yes, I didn’t want to be part of a rebuild.’’
Stanton returns to Miami on a mission. He has 299 home runs and would like to get No. 300 against the Marlins.
“It’d be cool if I did that,’’ Stanton said Sunday. He has experienced hamstring tightness that has limited him to DH duties, but with the DH not being used in a National League park, he is expected to play rightfield for at least one of the two games.
“If the first game goes according to plan, then yeah, play both,’’ he said.
Neil Walker has played some games in rightfield while Stanton was the DH, but with Didi Gregorius possibly headed to the disabled list after suffering a bruised heel Sunday, Aaron Boone would like to have Walker available as an infielder.
As for returning to Miami, Stanton said, “It’s going to be weird, for sure, walking in, going to the visitor side. But I’m looking forward to it. It’s a big part of my life, my time down there. It’ll be a cool experience.’’
Maybe not so much for Jeter. He did not accompany the Marlins in April when they visited Yankee Stadium for a two-game series. He is expected to keep a low profile with the Yankees in town, Spencer said.
Stanton had a slow start with the Yankees and was largely booed for the entire month of April, when he hit .218 with three home runs.
The booing of Stanton started at the Yankees’ home opener when he struck out five times and cleanup hitter Gregorius hit two homers and drove in eight runs. Stanton’s self-deprecating line was, “That’s what a cleanup hitter does: You clean up the garbage in front of you.’’
Stanton’s big rebound started in mid-June. In 58 games since June 16, he has a .335/.395/.626 slash line with 17 homers and 44 RBIs. Overall, he has a .285/.353/.543 slash line and leads the team with 32 homers and 80 RBIs.
Now Stanton gets Aaron Judge-like cheers when he steps to the plate.
“I knew I had a big hole to dig out of,’’ he said of his early slump. “I don’t ever doubt my craft or my work. Sometimes in this game, it takes longer than you expect or want. You can’t do anything but keep working.’’