Skip to main content

The big, bad Bronx Bombers are back and fully loaded

Stanton's home run for the ages shows the Yankees in all their swaggering glory

Giancarlo Stanton of the New York Yankees hits a two-run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning of the Jays’ 2018 home opener.

Generally speaking, baseball teams do not like to give the enemy free run of headquarters.

If you want to talk to someone on the visiting team, you talk to them in the claustrophobic (because they're all built for discomfort) visitors' clubhouse.

If there isn't enough room in there for all participants, the conversation spills out into the hall. If there's a real crush of bodies, you do it in the dugout or on the field.

Story continues below advertisement

Where you do not do it is in the home team's media room. Aside from the occasional introductory soiree, that's off limits to foreigners.

But on Thursday, after announcing himself to the American League like Caesar returning from Gaul, Giancarlo Stanton did his postgame interview from the Blue Jays' podium rather than in front of his locker.

(Some poor techie came sprinting up at the last minute to pull out the Blue Jays/Rogers backdrop and replace it with a Yankees/Toyota backdrop. That was probably a five-figure save.)

Stanton looked fairly pleased with himself up there. He should have. There's six months left to go, but he may have already ruined the Blue Jays season.

They had a nice atmosphere going in the dome on opening day. The room was full (perhaps for the last time this year). The Roy Halladay tribute had people in a homeristic frame of mind. Toronto's booing of the Yankees upon introduction was at playoff volumes.

But after seven or eight minutes of fun, Stanton came up and hit the sort of home run that, if you were there, you'll remember the rest of your life.

There was little apparent effort in the swing. Stanton leaned back to buy himself a fraction of a second longer to watch the pitch arrive, and then swatted at it from the shoulders rather than the hips.

Story continues below advertisement

But even by pro baseball standards, Stanton is larger than your average bear. He's 6-foot-6 and about as wide across at the shoulders as a flatbed truck.

Stanton's half-cut was hit so hard and true that that the ball was in the centre-field bleachers as you were hearing the sound of it being struck.

There is no duller topic than the recent vogue for reciting the exit velocity of home runs, but this was a special case. By speed, Stanton's home run was the hardest hit in the history of the Rogers Centre, and the best-struck opposite-field home run in recorded history (they've only been recording for four years, but still).

As Stanton's ball went through a fan's glove in the outfield, leaving a smoking hole, the stadium went quiet and never recovered.

For the next three hours, this wasn't a game. It was a well-attended funeral. Then Stanton put another one out, this time in the second deck to dead centre.

I'm not sure how much you paid for your scalped Jays tickets, but you can't say you didn't get your money's worth (It's a turn of phrase. You can say that because you almost certainly didn't.)

Story continues below advertisement

Afterward, you were hoping Stanton would come into the Blue Jays' room with his arms spread, Gladiator-style, and ask if we were entertained.

But Stanton is … how to put this delicately … an incredibly boring person once he steps off a baseball field. He's The Rock minus the twinkle.

Someone tried to lead him to BrainyQuote immortality, seeding the trail with references to Yankee legend. How did it feel to hit a home run in your first at-bat in pinstripes?

Stanton's answer: "That's cool, man."

Someone else took a shot. Where do these two home runs rank in your personal pantheon?

"They're up there. Good start. Keep it rolling in the series. A hundred and sixty-one to go."

By the time someone else was desperately beginning a question with, "Can you maybe just describe just a little bit more …", you knew it was a lost cause. No amount of prompting was going to get Stanton to help himself.

The New York Post did Stanton's talking for him on Friday's back page: "GIANBINO!"

If the Yankees wanted someone with a sparkling wit in the three-spot, they'd have signed Martin Short. Instead, they got the human equivalent of a wrecking ball tipped on its side.

Now they have three of them and baseball may begin to tremble.

Of the many things that have tended through history to typify a New York Yankees roster, charisma ranks high.

Good Yankees have always been good spokespeople, or, at least, good talkers – Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Goose Gossage, Yogi Berra, et al. Even Joe DiMaggio, a surly, taciturn sort, managed to supply the greatest comeback in conversational history ("Yes. I have.")

The 2018 Yankees are not good talkers. You'd find more interesting give-and-take in a Cistercian monastery.

Because he is shaped like the most ambitious Lego project ever undertaken, Aaron Judge is the usual focus of attention. Last year, as a rookie, he was all "goshdarnit" all the time. Judge talked and talked, but when his season started to go a tiny bit pear-shaped in the second half, he tired of the exercise.

This year, he's tightened his focus. Which is to say he now understands that the less he says, the less he can be implicated. Judge has become a "give it 100-per-cent" guy.

The other member of the Yankees' top trio, catcher Gary Sanchez, has wisely embarked on the 'no hablo ingles' route. This spares him the bother of having to explain himself to anyone other than the Spanish-language press, and he does that sparingly.

As noted, Stanton will never be a brand ambassador for Toastmasters.

That leaves the bulk of the PR pressure on the other high-profile new addition, manager Aaron Boone.

Boone, 45, has never managed at any level. He was a journeyman player. His bonafides are entirely based on pedigree and presentation.

The Boones are the Rockefellers of MLB. Aaron and his brother, Bret, were third-generation professionals. As a Yankee, Aaron Boone once hit a memorable playoff home run.

Boone got the job because he is likable – the sort of bubbly guy who looks more spent after a game than anyone who actually played. When he talks, he tips his cap way back on his head, like someone leaning over a fence.

Unlike so many of his peers, Boone gives off the feeling of enjoying himself all the time.

"It's was fun," Boone said after his debut, still sweating a half hour after the game had ended. He sounded like someone who'd won a manager-for-the-day contest.

Even his far more experienced Toronto counterpart has noticed.

"He's probably a little better with the media than I am," John Gibbons said archly. (Boone wishes.)

There is a point in the construction of any business enterprise where innovation becomes secondary to stability. You've got your product and your sales channels worked out. Now you just need to keep your staff and customers happy.

To extend that metaphor, Boone is Tim Cook, where his chippy predecessor, Joe Girardi, was Steve Jobs. One built Apple, while the other is watching it get monstrously rich.

According to multiple reports, Girardi was jettisoned because he was too fractious. It's an odd thing to hold against a New Yorker. But once you get a thing into equilibrium, you don't want the boss running around the office flipping over desks.

More than the investment in Stanton, or the arrival of Judge, or the imminence of Gleyber Torres, or the quieter emergence of players such as Chad Green, it's Boone who should have opponents frightened.

He's the signal that the Yankees feel they have their business model sorted for several years to come.

Boone has the luxury of being the out-front face of the organization, while everybody else is busy working.

From a Toronto perspective, there isn't a whole lot to be learned from this. The Yankees have several structural advantages over the Toronto organization in its current state, and have leveraged every one.

First, there is money. The Jays have spent much of the lead-in to the season moaning about how they'll never be able to afford to refurbish their stadium (one that was given to them nearly for free).

When the Yankees had the same problem, they built another one across the street.

When New York wanted Stanton, they ate the US$295-million remaining on his contract. At the introductory presser, no one felt the need to spend 10 minutes genuflecting to ownership for paying. The Yankees understand that nice things cost money.

Second, there is reputation. The Blue Jays had to convince people they were real before anybody would agree to come there. That hard work will have to start again at some point. The Yankees never need convince anyone of anything. They're the Yankees.

Third, there is luck. Thirty-one teams picked in the 2013 draft before the Yankees took Judge. Sanchez was a middling international prospect when the New York scooped him up as a teenager. Stanton fell into their laps because the Miami Marlins were pushing the self-destruct button.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, is expectation. The Yankees are expected to contend every year. Good teams; bad teams. It doesn't matter. The word "rebuild" does not exist in the Yankee lexicon. The team may stop for repairs at sea, but the battleship is never in dry dock.

The past eight years have been a down period for the franchise. They've still made the postseason five times.

Now, with the addition of Stanton, they are returned to full, swaggering glory. They are the team others defer to, on the field and off it.

Once he was done with Day 1 on the job, someone noted that Stanton had hit five home runs in just four games at the Rogers Centre.

What was it about the place he liked so much?

Just this once, Stanton decided to be playful: "Good dimensions."

Maybe for his team.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to