It was a year ago Tuesday that Giancarlo Stanton moved his left foot closer to the plate, and those few inches were credited with transforming him into the National League MVP. So it was only natural that Stanton’s exaggerated, front-loaded stance would come under scrutiny during his first-half struggles since arriving in the Bronx, launching a media investigation as to whether or not he was toning it down some.
The YES network went to a split-screen to uncover any adjustments, and during Tuesday night’s 7-2 pounding of the Mariners, Stanton did appear to open up his stance slightly, as far as our eyes could tell from the press box. Was that the reason Stanton hammered the first pitch he saw from Marco Gonzalez onto the netting above Monument Park?
Possibly. Then again, what did it matter. The more likely explanation is that Gonzalez throws with his left hand, and that is an especially dangerous trait for an opposing pitcher when facing Stanton. He reached down to hammer that 80-mph curveball, and the homer was his ninth in 70 at-bats against lefties this season.
It also helped that Tuesday’s blast came in the Bronx, where Stanton has received a rude welcome during his first year in pinstripes, courtesy of the .212 batting average he carried into the series opener with the Mariners. As the ball sailed to centerfield, Stanton heard nothing but boisterous cheers, as if everything before had been forgiven. A clean slate — for a few more at-bats, anyway.
Stanton has shrugged off the boos, but did admit Sunday that his debut season had been a tough one so far during a snippy exchange with reporters. As soon as the Yankees went to D.C. for their game-and-a-half road trip, however, Stanton had a four-hit performance, including two RBIs, in the 4-2 nightcap victory. It was there that he denied tinkering with his stance, and Stanton was unavailable before Tuesday’s game to discuss the matter. That left his manager to surmise what was going on, and Aaron Boone smiled when asked about his view from the dugout.
“I think sometimes different camera angles, different points of time, can make it seem a little different than maybe it is,” Boone said. “I don’t think there’s much difference at all, if any. That said, going forward, guys tweak things all the time that are sometimes slightly visible to the eye, sometimes they’re not.
“But I know for Giancarlo a lot of the storyline is always going to be around his stance. I think the stance is fairly irrelevant. It’s about him getting him up there and getting comfortable.”
Part of that comfort level is tied to living up to his MVP label — or at least what he believes that to be in his own mind — and his $325-million contract, which is a huge weight for anyone to carry around between the lines. The Yankees are on the hook for $265 million, everybody knows it, and that’s why he’s been showered with boos in the Bronx on a regular basis.
Good thing for Stanton the Yankees have covered for him, and after his homer tied the score at 1 in the first inning, they didn’t need any more help. Miguel Andjuar, Aaron Hicks and Gleyber Torres also went deep, which made Stanton’s K against the righthanded Nick Rumbelow, with two runners on, a moot point in the seventh.
Apparently, Stanton already had built up enough goodwill with the home run to spare him from the jeering for a night. Aside from a few stray boobirds, most of the 45,122 fans must have felt charitable with the Yankees sitting on a 6-2 lead. Stanton probably appreciated the reprieve. Regardless of his public stoicism, it’s only human nature.
“All players need to have success,” Boone said. “I don’t care how great you are, you want to have nights where you kill it. It allows you to exhale a little bit. Those are good for the mind, for the body, for the soul, the whole thing.”
The Yankees remain confident Stanton will find that rhythm again, wherever his feet are positioned, and go on “a long stretch of beating up on some people,” as Boone phrased it.
Stanton dishing it out, rather than taking the abuse, would be a nice reversal in the Bronx.
Giancarlo Stanton is one of six Yankees with double-digit home runs and a seventh is knocking on the door. Their home run leaders:
Aaron Judge 18
Giancarlo Stanton 17
Didi Gregorius 14
Gleyber Torres 13
Gary Sanchez 13
Aaron Hicks 10
Miguel Andujar 9