Gary Sanchez has taken some hits in this column and elsewhere, deservedly so for his ineptitude as a major league catcher and moreover, for his seeming lack of desire to get better. But a look at the Yankees past reveals the team has won 27 World Championships with the same skillset at the position.
In a column the other day, I called out Gary Sanchez for the “low energy” he exhibits when he is catching. Few disagreed, but perhaps that is not the point because we are reminded the Yankees have never placed a premium on defensive minded catchers throughout their long history.
From Bill Dickey (17 seasons, lifetime .313 hitter with 202 home runs), to Yogi Berra (19 seasons, .285 average with 358 home runs), to the career cut short of Thurman Munson (11 seasons, .292 and 113 home runs. Or, finally, to Jorge Posada (17 seasons, .273 BA, and 275 home runs), I cannot recall or find anywhere anything that points to their strengths as a receiver.
None of what follows will excuse Sanchez for what appears to be a lack of desire unless pushed as he was last season Joe Girardi, to work harder to be better. But at the same time, maybe his critics (myself included) need to realize the stance of the Yankees are taking with Sanchez is nothing more than the one they have followed for two centuries.
And maybe, the value of Gary Sanchez will always be when he steps to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Yankees trailing and….boom…game over…Yankees win. Like here.
Is that worth a couple of passed balls here and there, along with puzzling trips to the mound that seem to suggest to the pitcher, “I’m lost, what do you want to throw here?”
Maybe so. And would the Yankees have instead had Austin Romine coming up in that situation, instead of Sanchez?
But you have to take the good with the bad with Gary Sanchez. Case in point, how do his words to Brian Hoch leave you when Sanchez talks about passed balls?
So there you have it. The man says he is not perfect, and reading between the lines he has no desire ever to be perfect. How would Derek Jeter or Don Mattingly react if one of their teammates said that?
But therein lies the reality of the New York Yankees for at least the next ten years. But herein lies a problem for the Yankees moving forward this season. Aaron Judge has played 21 of his 23 games in the field, DH’ing only twice. Giancarlo Stanton has fared better with 10 of his 23 starts as the DH, but the question will arise later in the season when these heavy hitters need more rest, and the DH spot gets clogged up by Sanchez.
Aaron Boone has been adamant with his refusal to have personal catchers for his starters. Ideally, though, Gary Sanchez will catch twice and DH three times during a typical week. CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, both veterans who can call their own game get Sanchez as their catcher. Still developing Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery keep the comfort of Romine catching on days they pitch.
If Aaron Boone goes this way, he will be falling in line with the Yankees tradition of having defensive minded catchers backing up their offensive explosive starting catcher. Elston Howard backed up Berra for several years before he became a full-time catcher himself when Berra moved to the outfield.
But hey, if the Yankees are not concerned, I guess that’s good enough. Especially when it’s the bottom of the ninth and the Yankees are trailing with Gary Sanchez coming to the plate.