Stanton vaguely alluded to these issues in Boston last Tuesday, when he was asked if he had been trying to do too much at the plate during the Yankees’ homestand.
“No,” he said. “I just felt there was a lot going on. Focusing on maybe too many things. But not trying too hard, I don’t think.”
Asked to elaborate, Stanton smiled and said, “Not to worry about.”
Stanton later declined to comment when he was asked if setting up his place had been a distraction.
“I’m not going to make excuses,” he said.
Since the start of the Yankees’ series in Boston last week, Stanton has begun to more closely resemble the hitter who belted 59 home runs last year and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award. He is 6 for 17 with a double, triple, three runs batted in and five strikeouts in four games.
Stanton and Manager Aaron Boone had the same answer when asked to describe how Stanton was swinging the bat this weekend compared to a week ago: “Much better.”
“My balance points are better,” Stanton added. “I’m picking the ball up better. So, I’ve just got to continue.”
That rounding into form comes at a propitious time: the Yankees, who were rained out in Detroit on Saturday and Sunday, return home Monday for a two-game series against Stanton’s former team, the Miami Marlins.
Stanton is looking forward to seeing his old manager, Don Mattingly, and some of his friends who were not traded away in the Marlins’ winter sell-off. One person he will not see is the Marlins chief executive, Derek Jeter, who will travel with the team but not attend the games, saying it would be awkward for him to return to Yankee Stadium.
Stanton said he holds no enmity toward Jeter, who tried to strong-arm him into accepting a trade to St. Louis or San Francisco, threatening to hold onto him through a lengthy rebuild of the Marlins. Stanton, with the leverage of a no-trade clause, pushed back, and eventually a trade with the Yankees was worked out.
“I don’t think there’s any crazy bad blood beside what you guys stirred up,” Stanton said, referring to the news media. “We were very honest with each other in our meetings and that’s the business side of it, but there’s no bad blood on this side.”
Among the many new factors facing Stanton in New York is the weather, which has certainly done little to warm his blood, or that of any of the Yankees. Since their series under a dome in Toronto, the opening-pitch temperature for nine of the Yankees’ 10 games has been under 54 degrees. They have had three games postponed by rain or snow, all of which has limited their time outdoors for batting and fielding practice.
If that deprived Stanton of getting used to his new surroundings at Yankee Stadium, his acclimation to New York has also taken place on the fly.
When the Yankees left spring training in Tampa, they flew to Atlanta for an exhibition the next night, March 28, and went directly to Toronto for the season opener. It was only after that series when Stanton arrived to New York.
“It was a load, getting oriented to New York and trying to get his condo set up,” Stanton’s father, Mike, said in a telephone interview. “I think it’s your natural instinct when you move in somewhere to try to get it set up as quickly possible. But in retrospect, he didn’t have a lot of down time.”
Boone said the logistics of setting down roots in a new city are part of a ballplayer’s life, even if it is something that Stanton is doing for the first time since his rookie season in Miami. Soon, he said, Stanton would be settled into a new routine and there will be comfort in that.
“It’s part of the gig, part of the way we’ve lived our whole life,” said Boone, who switched teams five times in his final nine seasons in the majors. “Look, I want to get into the flow of the season as I know the players do — the routine of it — as much we can. A lot of times getting moved in, especially with a new club, learning people in the organization, playing in crappy conditions — it’s all part of it.”
The Yankees, after returning to New York on Sunday night, will be anchored there for nearly two weeks, giving Stanton another chance — and not just at Yankee Stadium — to feel at home.
The Yankees games that were rained out over the weekend will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on June 4 in Detroit.