Before the series opener against the Miami Marlins on Monday, the Yankee Stadium scoreboard showed a brief video of Don Mattingly hitting home runs and making terrific defensive plays as a cherished member of the New York Yankees.
This is his first visit to the Bronx as the Miami manager, but even in that strange garb, Mattingly still sits at the fulcrum of so much that has gone on between the two teams over the last few months.
He managed Giancarlo Stanton for two years in Miami, then watched as the reigning National League MVP was shipped off to the Yankees in a trade that infuriated the Marlins’ dwindling fan base.
Mattingly briefly played alongside and later coached Derek Jeter, his fellow former Yankee captain who has drawn up a new vision for the Marlins as their recently installed chief executive. That vision has included stripping the team’s roster of some of its most celebrated players like Stanton, Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna.
But Mattingly is only looking ahead, saying that with Stanton now on his old team, the goal is to get him out, not lament the fact that he is no longer a Marlin. Stanton went 0 for 3 with one walk in the Yankees’ 12-1 win over the Marlins, a score befitting the large disparity in star power between the teams.
The remaining members of the Marlins, left behind in the wake of a coldhearted sell-off, managed only one hit against Yankee starter Luis Severino, who profited from the mismatch and improved to 3-1.
Stanton said afterward that it had been nice to see his former teammates, the ones who are left, anyway, and said that if they played well and reach free agency, they too could find a way out of a difficult situation, much the way he did.
“It’s still a major league team, and you can’t really feel bad for anybody that’s living their dream,” he said. “If you keep playing well, you can wind up wherever you want to be.”
Stanton wanted to be a Yankee, but he has endured a mixed start to the season with his new team. He homered twice in his first game, but has 27 strikeouts and has heard plenty of boos from the home fans.
When he fouled out with the bases loaded in the fifth inning Monday, a few random jeers rained down on him again in the Yankees’ first home game in a week.
The debate around what is causing Stanton’s struggles has touched on the chilly weather, his settling into a new apartment, and the fact that he is now playing in the biggest and most demanding market in American sports. Even Mattingly said he did not know whether Stanton would be able to handle that pressure.
“That’s the one thing you never know,” he said. “It’s the only thing you don’t know. You see a lot of guys come into New York from other organizations. It’s just a different place. It’s just not the same. You’ve got to go out and prove yourself on the field.”
Mattingly and Jeter proved it for years, but both are now trying to carve out different roles. Jeter, who took over as the hands-on chief executive for the new Marlins owner Bruce Sherman on Oct. 3, is not planning to attend this series at his old stadium, telling reporters in Miami it would be an “awkward situation.”
It was certainly plenty awkward for Mattingly, who had to sit and watch a beating that included two more home runs from Didi Gregorius, Jeter’s replacement at shortstop. But he had no choice. Before the game he said he was “thrilled” to be part of the rebuilding process in Miami, to work with and develop young players for the future. He praised Jeter for being clear and confident about what he intends to do long term, although most of the manager’s direct communication is with the team’s general manager, Mike Hill.
“Mike’s the GM and he’s in constant contact with Derek, and I’m in constant contact with Mike,” Mattingly said. “I think the communication has been really good, the chain of command has been good.”
Mattingly has certainly chosen the glass-half-full view of the Marlins’ most recent sell-off, and some of the players left behind have worked to adopt the same viewpoint, including Starlin Castro, who was sent to the Marlins in the Stanton trade.
“It was kind of tough in the beginning right when I got traded,” he said, adding, “I try to keep it in the past and not let it bother my mind. I just separate it.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.