Stanton’s now a positive force, but here comes the big test


Inside a near-empty home clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field seven-plus months ago, Giancarlo Stanton heard the allegations lodged against him and defiantly pleaded guilty.

He and I, in an introductory interview, were discussing his interactions with the media during his time with the Marlins. The word was, simply, he could be difficult. He hadn’t made himself available much before or after games. In a particularly egregious example, after hitting his 50th homer of the 2017 season, he declined to conduct the standard, on-the-field, “Star of the Game” interviews — softball, celebratory exchanges, no doubt — with the rights-holders (TV and radio) immediately upon the contest’s conclusion.

“Were things that bad there?” I asked, referring to the Marlins and their constant chaos.
“Everything is built off negativity,” Stanton said with a nod. “Why go out of my way for that?”

Wow. And double-wow to what has happened since.

After using his no-trade clause to steer himself to the Yankees last December, the owner of baseball’s largest-ever contract turned in a satisfactory initial season with his new team, putting up a .266/.343/.509 slash line with 38 homers in 158 games. “Not the way I would have liked in terms of full consistency,” Stanton said Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, “but solid overall.”

Breaking down wild-card game: The only 2 edges Yankees have
Breaking down wild-card game: The only 2 edges Yankees have
More impressive, or at least more surprising? The extremely self-aware Stanton, having knowingly made life difficult for some folks around him in South Florida, simply pivoted to embrace the pinstriped positivity around him. His interactions with the bigger and badder New York media, plus the dramatically increased industry-wide scrutiny, proved to be an utter non-story.

Of course, the tale of Stanton’s maiden voyage hasn’t experienced its final chapter yet. On Wednesday night, the 28-year-old, with eight-plus years of service time in the big leagues, will make his postseason debut when the Yankees and A’s face off in the loser-goes-home, American League wild-card game in The Bronx. He has passed, if not aced, every 2018 test. Can he handle the biggest test with the same grace?

“You know, it’s been a long road so far, and we’ve got work to do,” Stanton said. “But it’s going to be fun.”

It hasn’t been all fun for Stanton, who shifted from right field to designated hitter and left field to accommodate the defensively superior Aaron Judge, this season. He experienced the predictably rough transition that befalls most high-profile Yankees imports, as he tallied a .230/.313/.425 slash line while striking out 43 times in 113 March/April at-bats. With the bulk of that ineffectiveness occurring at home, he drew a verbal beating from Yankees fans. He nevertheless appeared at his locker whenever he was an obvious story and calmly, if tersely, answered questions.

“Here’s a superstar who came into our environment from as different an environment as possible. Not just Miami to New York, but to our history and our pressures,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who strongly urges his players to be publicly accountable, told The Post’s Joel Sherman on Tuesday. “He’s been as cool as a cucumber.”