Gary Sanchez: It All Comes Back To A Lack Of Baseball Instinct

Gary Sanchez - The Look Of Despair (Photo:

It’s almost as if  Gary Sanchez plays baseball with one arm tied behind his back. His struggles are ongoing and they point to a lack of baseball instinct…

By all accounts, Gary Sanchez is not the “loafer” many have tagged him with being. He works hard at his craft, both offensively and defensively. But more and more, it is becoming apparent that Gary Sanchez lacks a baseball intellect and an instinct for the game and how it needs to be played at the major league level.

Gary Sanchez - A Look Of Depair (Photo: Pinstripe Alley)
Gary Sanchez – A Look Of Despair (Photo: Pinstripe Alley)

You may recall a play in Saturday’s loss to the Orioles when the Birds attempted a double steal with runners on first and second base.

Mental error number one on Gary Sanchez in that situation was not anticipating the play from the lowly Orioles who have nothing to lose, and therefore should be expected to play the game loosely and, at times wildly.

On the play, mental error number two by Sanchez occurred when he chose to throw to second base instead of third to record an out. He then added a physical error when his throw to second sailed wide of the base and off Gleyber Torres‘s glove, allowing the runner from third to score.

Gary Sanchez – Thinking On His Feet?

These are split-second decisions major league ballplayers make every day. The “right” decision(s) can’t be taught. They are inherent in a player’s being. Or not.

Derek Jeter played for two decades with talent as a shortstop ranked only as “average”. However, he made up for that with his intellect for baseball by “cheating” on where he played certain hitters in the field and being aware of the pitch coming to the hitter and where it might be hit.

In the same way, it is instinctive for a catcher to anticipate a splitter or slider, thrown with two strikes on a batter, to be a bouncer wide of the plate. Yankees fans can recall then Manager, Joe Girardi, getting all over Gary Sanchez’s case about not blocking those balls, inferring that Sanchez was lazy.

But that may not have been what the problem was/is at all. Instead, Gary Sanchez does not “read the game” in real time as it’s being played.

Sanchez appears to have the same issue offensively as well. Many fans and most of the Yankees brass recall those 53 games late in the 2016 season when Gary Sanchez lit up major league baseball with 20 home runs and finishing 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting. That’s only a memory now.

Gary Sanchez – Where Are The Adjustments (A La Aaron Judge)?

Whenever a rookie comes into the league, opposing pitchers first look to see if he can handle the fastball, up, down, in, and out. Gary Sanchez passed that test with flying colors. Trouble has come, however, when these same pitchers are feeding him a steady diet of breaking balls, using the fastball only to set up those pitches.

Painfully obvious, Gary Sanchez has not made an adjustment to meet their adjustment. Again, this should be part of a major league ballplayer’s instinctual and intellectual agenda.

No one, for instance, had to tell Aaron Judge that his approach at the plate with two strikes was “off” and he should do something about it. No, he took it upon himself to make the adjustment by eliminating the leg kick that he used as a timing device. And over the course of his career, Judge will do the same thing to make other adjustments – as needed.

Gary Sanchez - Wondering Why With No Answer (Photo: New York Post)
Gary Sanchez – Wondering Why With No Answer (Photo: New York Post)

The trouble with Gary Sanchez, and the main difference between him and players like Judge and Mike Trout, is that all the practice in the world (and he does work hard) will not replace what should be accomplished instinctually.

In sum, with practice and patience, the best Gary Sanchez can be is the rat in the maze who finally figures out how to get the cheese. Presented with a new maze though, Sanchez will only get through this one via trial and error, over time.

The trouble with that, of course, leads to the question of how much patience the Yankees have. So far, they’ve shown an extraordinary amount of patience, bending over backward with high praise about his future with the team – but there are limits with everything. Gary Sanchez is testing those limits every day he is on the field.

Gary Sanchez – No Matter How You Spin It – This Ain’t Working

This is not to imply that Gary Sanchez is stupid. It’s not that. What it is though is the same thing a detective does when he has a “gut feeling” about a case he is working on, or when he senses in an interrogation a suspect is lying. These are innate skills. But Gary Sanchez doesn’t throw to third base to nab the lead runner, he chooses second base and a critical run scores.

No one can learn everything there is to know in order to be an accomplished ballplayer at the major league level. A player must bring something to the table in addition to natural talent.

So far, Gary Sanchez has brought nothing beyond that natural (physical) talent. And I’m afraid the Yankees, with all their good intentions, are finally beginning to realize they can’t teach Sanchez everything.

And therefore, if the patient is not responding (because he can’t respond) – the experiment must be declared inconclusive – but over!

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.

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