Six minutes, 13 seconds. That was the length of Giancarlo Stanton’s introductory news conference Friday at Steinbrenner Field, an impromptu session that took place at his new Yankees locker, positioned in a far corner with Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird.
Shortly afterward, Stanton stood outside in the hallway and did the same for the TV cameras, albeit for a more abbreviated period. This was the equivalent of dipping his toe into the media pool, testing the waters, getting acclimated.
Based on the responses from Stanton, who apparently didn’t feel tethered to the same responsibilities during his eight years with the Marlins, this could require some genuine effort on his part. Life for Stanton, the reigning National League MVP, is going to be much different now. Playing for the Yankees, in the media capital of the world, alongside twin masher Aaron Judge — there’s no ducking that spotlight.
By all accounts, despite a $325-million contract, Stanton didn’t appear to be a happy camper during his final years in chaotic Miami, and his reclusive behavior in the clubhouse reflected that. When Stanton visited Citi Field last May, he bristled at questions about the new home-run Hulk across town, unwilling to get involved in comparisons to Judge.
Stanton’s frustration evidently was simmering by then, and looking back, with the Marlins for sale, it was time for a change of scenery. One of the more interesting subplots of his move north to the Bronx will be how he handles a far more hectic — and unfamiliar — landscape. He has to introduce himself to new teammates, adjust to a new manager and learn about the AL East opponents he now will face 19 times a year.
Baseball players tend to thrive on a routine. It’s like oxygen to them. The same drive to the park, the same food, the same workout clothes, the same pregame rituals, all can factor into performance on the field. Add a wrinkle or two and a player’s axis tilts, throwing off his internal compass.
It’s only human nature. We often feel the same way in our own work environments. And you could sense Friday that Stanton, who flew in from Los Angeles the previous night, was trying to manage the stimulus overload while being ushered from station to station. He admitted as much during the interview.
“Just being out of my comfort zone,” Stanton said. “This is all new to me.”
Switching from the Marlins to the Yankees also represents a dramatic paradigm shift from a library-quiet, nearly empty dome in Miami to the rejuvenated Bronx ballpark, packed with the additional fans sold on Stanton’s arrival. And on the road, particularly at Fenway, he’ll be harassed with a ferocity that is incomparable to anyone other than maybe a Cardinal at Wrigley or a Giant at Chavez Ravine.
These scenarios can’t be simulated in spring training. They can be discussed, but there’s no substitute for experience. Until Stanton steps into the batter’s box in a Yankees uniform — or plays leftfield instead of rightfield, for that matter — it will be impossible to duplicate that feeling. It will be the Yankees’ task to prepare Stanton for the uncertainty.
“I think our guys will wrap their arms around him and help him as much as they can,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I think he’s welcoming the expectations and the largeness of what he’s walking into. He understands that when he first takes the field out there in a couple of days, the attention is going to be huge, the scrutiny is going to be huge, and I think that’s something he’s prepared for as best he can.”
Stanton already had plenty on his own plate, coming off his MVP season and the career-high 59 home runs, a pace so prolific at times that it sucked him into the Barry Bonds conversation. But once you factor in the Yankees as a World Series contender, and his pairing with Judge creating buzz about a new Roger Maris-Mickey Mantle (circa ’61) combo, that’s when the pressure gauge will start red-lining.
Stanton looks sturdy enough to cope with those external forces, but the test is real and the demands will be unrelenting, as he got a brief taste of in Day 1.
“It’s going to be a lot,” Stanton said, bracing for the challenges ahead.