TAMPA, Fla. — Giancarlo Stanton delivered the answer deadpan.
The biggest difference he found last season, his first as a Yankee after eight years with the Marlins?
“Playing games that matter past May 7,” he said, drawing laughter.
That may be hyperbole, but not by much. The best Marlins team he was a part of was his first one, which went 80-82 in 2010.
That, of course, was far from the biggest difference Stanton experienced in New York.
The overall numbers for the outfielder/DH were far from terrible — he hit .266 with an .852 OPS, 38 homers and 100 RBIs in 158 games — but they were a significant step down from his NL MVP season with the Marlins in 2017, when he hit .281 with a 1.007 OPS, 59 homers and 132 RBIs.
“Got one year in the division, in the league under my belt,” Stanton said of the difficulties many players go through switching leagues. “So that makes] things more comfortable in that aspect in terms of facing some of these guys and teams again more often.”
Stanton, who struck out 211 times in 617 at-bats and often was booed, wouldn’t use the change of leagues as a reason for his struggles, but Aaron Boone said there is something to it.
“I think the one thing with Giancarlo that we noticed, as we dug into things, the more he sees a pitcher, he’s one of those guys who really benefits from that,” the manager said. “He gets a pretty significant spike across the board as he starts to see guys, more so than your normal person. Hopefully being more comfortable in the American League East should be something that benefits him.”
What Stanton did cop to somewhat was being affected by a tight left hamstring during much of the season’s second half. The Yankees had to endure a handful of injuries at the time, headlined by Aaron Judge spending July 27-Sept. 13 on the disabled list with a chip fracture of the right wrist. That meant Stanton played more than Boone would have liked.
“There would have been some more off days in there, he wasn’t coming out,” Boone said. “I think that’s one of those things we loved about him last year, his ability to post when he wasn’t perfect and his commitment to posting knowing, ‘Hey, we’re a little beat up right now and I’m good enough to go.’ ”
Said Stanton: “That wasn’t the best for me, but I wasn’t worried about that. If I could go out and help us the slightest bit, I was going to be out there. But that was quite the factor.”
As for the booing, Stanton shrugged. “You don’t worry about that stuff,” he said. “I know how hard I work and what I was trying to do out there. So that’s a non-factor.”
Stanton’s approach and preparation behind the scenes last year impressed his new teammates.
“He worked his tail off,” Boone said. “He really earned the respect of his teammates the way he commanded himself all year.”
Stanton is in the fifth year of a record 13-year, $325 million contract, the largest in professional sports and one many thought would be broken by either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper — or both — this offseason. It hasn’t happened yet, and Stanton, like many other players, expressed concern with how the market has failed to develop the past two winters.
“It’s nothing like what I’ve seen since I’ve played, offseasons like this,” he said. “I think there’s some issues there that need to be addressed. In terms of the contract, cool, I’ll be happy for them [if they surpass his deal]. Hopefully they can get signed. I don’t know what the deal is.”