Skidding Yanks star Stanton gets whiff of fan frustration
NEW YORK (AP) Exasperated, caller Joe from Fair Lawn seemed to speak for every New York Yankees fan on the No. 1 topic in town.
”He is awful!” Joe hollered on WFAN radio.
Not that Giancarlo Stanton needed to listen to the powerhouse sports talk station Monday to figure out how the masses felt.
The slumping slugger heard the boos a day earlier at Yankee Stadium when he went 0 for 7, struck out five times and stranded nine runners in an 8-7, 12-inning loss to Baltimore.
”They’re not going to cheer for that, so what do you expect?” Stanton said, adding, ”got to settle down a little bit.”
The reigning NL MVP had never fanned five times in a pro game until doing it twice in a week. Those whiffs put him halfway to the career record for 5K games, held by Sammy Sosa.
They also left him hitting .167 with 20 strikeouts in 42 at-bats in his first year with New York. His first week at home: 3 for 28, fanning 16 times.
As some Yankees amateur historians have already pointed out – the great Joe DiMaggio struck out 13 times all season in 1941, when he had a record 56-game hitting streak.
”Just got to look at it as a bad week. Season is much longer than a week,” Stanton said.
”I’ll figure it out. Get to the video. Figure it out,” he said.
Playing for a team where pressure is as much a part of the uniform as the pinstripes, Stanton won’t get much of a mental break.
Following a day off, the Yankees open a three-game series at Fenway Park on Tuesday. The rival Red Sox have won eight in a row and have the best record in baseball. Set to pitch for Boston: Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello.
Acquired from Miami in December after hitting a major league-leading 59 home runs, and in the midst of a $325 million, 13-year contract, Stanton lived up to the lofty expectations on opening day. He launched two long homers and doubled at Toronto, and the smashing start left Yankees fans giddy, wondering how many homers might Stanton and teammate Aaron Judge combine to hit.
So far, Stanton has three and Judge two.
They’re certainly attracting fan interest. Sunday’s loss was the team’s highest-rated weekend telecast on YES in six years, averaging 405,000 viewers.
”Stanton’s a great hitter,” Judge said. ”It’s still early in the season. We’re going to look back on this in August and laugh about it.”
”Everybody goes through it,” he said.
In 2016, Judge homered in his first at-bat with the Yankees, but wound up striking out 42 times in 84 at-bats. Judge was the AL Rookie of the Year last season and hit 52 homers, but went through a long stretch in the summer where he was a strikeout machine.
Plenty of top-talent names have come to New York and gotten off to rough starts.
Alex Rodriguez was a seven-time All-Star when he arrived in 2004 in a trade with Texas. Three weeks into the season, he was batting .160 with one homer in 50 at-bats. He wound up hitting 36 homers with 106 RBIs that year.
Reggie Jackson homered just once in his first 13 games for the Yankees in 1977. That fall, he earned the nickname ”Mr. October” by hitting three homers in the clinching World Series victory.
Fellow future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield hit only one home run in his first 26 games after moving from San Diego to the Yankees in 1981.
The 28-year-old Stanton has needed to make a lot of adjustments since being traded.
A right fielder his entire eight-year career with the Marlins, he’s learning to play left and also settling into the routine of a designated hitter. He’s also getting accustomed to AL pitching – in his seven at-bats Sunday, he faced seven different pitchers.
”Just got to do more homework. A lot of these guys are the first time seeing them. You get more information from your teammates and watch more video. That’s all you can do,” Stanton said.
Rookie manager Aaron Boone understands it.
Dealt from Cincinnati to the Yankees at the trading deadline during the 2003 season, Boone hit .125 (6 for 48) with no home runs in his first 13 games for New York.
None of that mattered a few months later when he hit the bottom-of-the-11th homer to beat Boston in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.
”You’re coming into a new situation,” Boone said. ”If you don’t get off right away, that’s just something you have to deal with as a big leaguer and I feel quite certain that he will and before long it will be an old story.”
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