TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton on Wednesday called out Houston Astros owner Jim Crane for saying his club's illegal sign-stealing system may or may not have had an impact on the competition on the field in 2017.
Stanton, acquired by the Yankees before the start of the 2018 season, led the majors with 59 home runs in 2017 as a member of the Miami Marlins. That total was the most by a major league player since 2001.
"If I knew what [pitch] was coming in '17, I probably would have hit 80-plus home runs," Stanton said Wednesday.
Stanton later clarified his comment, saying it "wasn't to make it about me."
"The point I was trying to make is that if I was part of that team and got the home run record doing that, there's no way that would be upheld and not have asterisks or taken away," he said. "So neither should their accolades, is what I was getting at with that."
When told of Crane's ambivalence, Stanton quipped, "He knew. He knew."
"It would have been better if there was an apology or explanation on their side," Stanton added. "We know that [the Astros] don't really care to give an apology or explain their side, and it showed by their response. As players, we know that. You know the repercussions of doing something like that, and you're only really sorry because you got caught."
Stanton agreed with teammate Aaron Judge, who said that not only should Astros players have been directly punished by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, but they should also vacate their 2017 World Series championship.
"They did their investigation, and it was clean-cut that they cheated that year, which means it should be taken away. I mean, if you cheat in another way during the season, you can't even be in the playoffs, so therefore [you] would be eliminated. So it's pretty much the same -- same difference," Stanton said. "I don't think the penalties were harsh enough player-wise. I think that, at the end of the day, it gives more incentive to do that, if you're not going to punish the players that took part in it."
Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole said Wednesday that he was not offended by his new teammates' reactions to the sign-stealing scandal and their belief that Houston continued to steal signs into the 2019 season. Cole was a member of the Astros the past two seasons.
"Everybody's entitled to their opinion," Cole said. "It's their own opinion, and people handle this the way that they want to handle it. We're all grown guys around here, and I certainly am not going to tell somebody how to think. I don't see it as an issue. I'm not personally offended by it."
Stanton has a long history with former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, the whistleblower who spurred the MLB investigation that confirmed Houston used a camera-based sign-stealing system in 2017.
In September 2014, a Fiers fastball hit Stanton in the face, causing lacerations, fractures and dental damage. Since that incident, there has been no love lost between the two.
Asked whether he had gained respect for Fiers for speaking out, Stanton said it didn't change anything.
"No, not really," Stanton said Wednesday. "This isn't about me and him. This information would have come to light eventually; maybe not as soon, but it has nothing to do with me and him."
Stanton, who struggled with biceps, shoulder, calf and knee injuries throughout the season, said 2019 was the most frustrating year of his career. After playing in only 18 regular-season games, and being limited during the 2019 postseason due to a quadriceps strain, Stanton said he has fully rehabbed his injuries.
"I didn't have much time off. I got my rest, but I had to rehab the moment the season was over, and then by the time I was done rehabbing, I had my normal offseason training. Just getting my knee and quad to full strength," he said. "I did everything I needed to do. [This spring] I have no limitations; just have to be smart with the workload, getting back into it. But no limitations."
Manager Aaron Boone said Stanton's role, whether he will start primarily in left field or as designated hitter, remains "fluid."
"Whatever works best for the team. That's kind of like we did my first season here. It's just like, here's a plan for the next three days. What do you think? How can we make it better?" Stanton said when addressing whether there was an ideal balance between playing the field and being the designated hitter. "Just go with the flow. Whatever works."