Bothered by left hamstring tightness in the second half, Stanton admitted on Monday that he was not fully healthy until late in the year, though he insisted on playing every day.
“That wasn’t the best for me, my hamstring,” he said, adding later, “If I could go out and produce or help the slightest bit, I was going to be out there.”
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone commended Stanton’s professionalism and reliability during a season of change. From May 29 to Sept. 1, Stanton started 85 straight games, often as a designated hitter, and he played 158 games total — the most of any Yankee.
“That’s one of those things that we kind of loved about him: his ability to post when he wasn’t perfect,” Boone said. As for Stanton’s familiarity with the league, Boone said the Yankees had examined Stanton’s performances and found that he hit better against pitchers he had seen before.
Beyond adjusting to pitchers, Stanton said his biggest challenge last season was learning to play in games that mattered “past May 7” — a dig at his previous team, the Miami Marlins, who did not have a winning season during Stanton’s eight years there. (Coincidentally, Stanton performed above his season averages after May 7 last year: .276 with a .875 O.P.S. and 31 home runs.)
“Everything is more comfortable in that aspect, in terms of facing some of these guys and teams again and more often,” he said.
At some point, the protracted dance between Machado, Harper and the interested teams will end — perhaps with one of the players agreeing to a deal that will top Stanton’s record-breaking contract, which he signed before the 2015 season. Whatever happens, in a free-agent market increasingly dictated by teams looking to manage expenses despite increasing revenues, it will most likely not quiet the growing concerns about relations between players and management.