Major league ballplayers are also human, complete with frailties we all live with. We have likes and dislikes and tend to thrive when we like a situation we are in. So too is the nature of the relationship between a pitcher and catcher. Aaron Boone is slowly coming to realize that, and it’s all good.
For reasons only newly appointed Yankees manager, Aaron Boone can explain, he issued an edict early in Spring Training explaining that he would not be engaging in providing a personal catcher for anyone on his starting staff. He amplified the thought to Newsday with this:
All fine and dandy except that Gary Sanchez is leaking passed balls again and leaving himself open to charges of lethargy on the field, not something new when it comes to the man who is charged with leading a pitching staff in addition to blasting balls into the deepest of the night as a natural baseball hitting talent.
Here’s the upside – you decide.
There’s a creak in the shield set up by Boone, though, and it is apparent tonight as he announced Austin Romine would handle the catching duties for a struggling Sonny Gray against the Minnesota Twins.
If it’s real and it goes beyond the Sonny Gray start, the Yankees and Boone will have vaulted forward grudgingly acknowledging Sanchez never will be a major league catcher.
No one on a baseball diamond works harder than a catcher. The simple idea of squatting down to receive pitches in any number of contorted positions 100-125 times a game falls beyond the scope of what any other player endures on the field during a game.
You have to want to do it, and beyond that, you need to take pride in the fact you can do it in much the same way as a good umpire goes unnoticed during a game. It’s your job, and it requires work and dedication. Gary Sanchez seems to undervalue his worth to the Yankees in the split between offense and defense.
We’ve discussed this before, and nothing has changed. Aaron Boone takes the stance he has only because Sanchez is a vital part of the Yankees offense, and he can’t afford not to insert him in the lineup – somewhere, anywhere, as long as his two-home-run bat (Tuesday night) is in there.
But long range, this is a losing proposition for the Yankees. Who, in the Yankees rotation gets stuck with Sanchez behind the plate when their number comes up? CC Sabathia, at this stage of his career, could pitch to me and get a win, and the same might be right for Masahiro Tanaka, who has his idea of the game he wants to pitch.
But what of Luis Severino who, despite his overwhelming march to a Cy Young this season, is still a “pitcher” in the making? Ditto Jordan Montgomery, who doesn’t need to put up with those strolls to the mound by Sanchez to “catch up,” and the eventual arrival of novices from Triple-A like Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams.
The Yankees need a real catcher. Jorge Posada was never sent to the All-Star Game as a defensive catcher, but he earned the respect of the pitchers he caught with a determination and drive we see lacking in Sanchez, who unless things change is destined to be a one-dimension player for the duration of his career.
Whether it comes now or later, Aaron Boone is trapped, and the dancing around what is inevitable he is doing now is only that – a sidestep kicking the can down the road. Because his innermost thoughts are bound to have reached the same conclusion most of us see from the outside looking in that personal catchers can help the Yankees in 2018.
Even if Boone doesn’t announce it (hardly necessary), just do it, and take one for the team.