Yankees catcher, Gary Sanchez, is the most polarizing player on the team. For reasons only they seem to understand, they remain smitten…
The Yankees, for the most part, have earned excellent grades when it comes to evaluating player personnel. Occasionally though, they seem to go off the deep end by falling in love with a player in the face of performance that should (from the outside looking in) tell them otherwise.
Part one of this series spoke to Aaron Hicks and Brian Cashman’s rush to judgment in tying the Yankees to Hicks for the next six years in the face of the player’s ever-decreasing production. In Chapter Two of this series, we turn our attention to the enigma of Gary Sanchez.
I want to begin, though, with a snapshot taken by Marc Carig of Sanchez in a penetrating story he penned for The Athletic. In his story, Carig describes a scene in which:
He will review it meticulously because he understands his role in the team’s run prevention efforts. If there’s something consistent about Sánchez, it’s that he’ll stick to the script. This is no given for a big-league catcher. But in this way, Sánchez has proven to be reliable. Data drives his decisions. This has hastened his rise as the Yankees’ most trusted game-caller, though to most, that work is invisible.”Marc Carig, The Athletic 10/17/2019
The Yankees see this side of Gary Sanchez – we don’t. All we see are the lunging and fruitless swings at sliders a foot-and-a-half off the plate, together with those majestic balls sailing far into the night when Sanchez squares up on a pitch.
In our minds, depending on how you see it, one outweighs the other, making Gary Sanchez the most polarizing player on the Yankees.
Yankee’s Protectiveness Of Sanchez Began Early
At first, it was the tough love given to Sanchez by then Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, himself a former catcher. Cornering Sanchez in the dugout and in full view of the YES TV cameras, Girardi berated Sanchez, mimicking his sissy style and lack of hustle in failing to block balls in the dirt.
Later, Sanchez would follow the script by being contrite in post-game interviews:
Later, Girardi himself would be dismissed by the Yankees with the label of being inattentive to the needs of his players. The file tape from YES was exhibit one.
Sanchez, for his part, worked doggedly to improve his skills behind the plate. The improvement came in noticeable leaps during the 2019 season, prompting Aaron Boone to reach the other way when Sanchez went 2-for-21 with ten strikeouts during the postseason.
“Let’s start with the other side of the ball, which completely gets lost in this,” Boone said. “And without sugarcoating at all, he’s been excellent behind the plate from a game-calling standpoint — from the game plan, target, receiving.”
Seemingly, the Yankees are married to Gary Sanchez. End of paragraph. End of story.
As a catcher, Sanchez is insulated somewhat when it comes to games played.
Today, a major league catcher has a good year when he appears in 130 or more games. In 2019, Sanchez played in 106 games and only 89 the year before – not because the Yankees chose not to write his name in the lineup, but because they couldn’t do so.
Muscle bound to no end, the luck of the draw, or stepping beyond the realm of what his body can deliver – whatever the reason – Gary Sanchez is not as “reliable” a player the Yankees claim him to be.
And yet, it seems likely that the elusive 28th World Championship is as much about Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks as the Yankees divergence from the Evil Empire to their insistence on remaining below the luxury tax threshold.
The Evil Empire Or The Status Quo
Teams will line up just as they did when the Marlins put J.T. Realmuto up for sale, to trade for Gary Sanchez. They believe, just as the Yankees believe.
Unlike Aaron Hicks and his seven-year $70 million contract, the Yankees are not (yet) married to Gary Sanchez.
But if you listen carefully to what the team is saying, they are dangerously close to tying the knot.
As with Hicks and Sanchez, you don’t get points in the major leagues for trying hard. Pete Rose tried and hustled as hard as anyone, but he also delivered 4,172 hits throughout his career.
While admirable, the Yankee’s penchant for loyalty and stubbornness with players like Gary Sanchez has not delivered a World Championship in the last decade, five of which Sanchez played for the Yankees.
Yes, it’s time for the Yankees and the Evil Empire to re-emerge by at least opening the window regarding the lure of Gary Sanchez in exchange for a top-flight starting pitcher.
It’s either that or the team continues to spin its wheels in the vain hope that things will change and a new flag will fly over Yankee Stadium…
Part Three of this series will take a look at Giancarlo Stanton.