It goes without saying that squaring up on a 98 MHP fastball is the most laborious individual feat in professional sports. Gary Sanchez is blessed with the physical talent to do that, but apparently, he is not blessed with the complement talent of mental concentration that shows not only offensively, but defensively as well.
It is said Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived, was blessed with 20/10 vision that enabled him to decipher pitches almost as the ball was being delivered from the pitcher’s hand. And for that reason, hitting a baseball came naturally to Williams. The same can be said for the Yankees beleaguered catcher, Gary Sanchez.
But that is where the comparison between the two ends because Williams was also a student of hitting throughout his entire Hall of Fame career. He could talk hitting all day, and sometimes he did just that.
Gary Sanchez, when it comes to being a student of the game, looks more like the kid in my tenth-grade English class staring out the window watching the buses roll in to take us home. The lapse in concentration is hurting Sanchez at both ends of his game, and despite his God-given abilities, he’s rapidly becoming a big pain in the butt for Aaron Boone and the Yankees.
A measure of how lost Sanchez is at the moment came in an at-bat this afternoon against the Blue Jays pitcher, Jaime Garcia, who regularly tops out at 86-87 on the gun. Sanchez had run the count to 3-2 showing discipline on a tantalizing swooping 74 mph curveball. On the next pitch, though, Sanchez froze taking strike three on what can only graciously be called a fastball.
Was he fooled, looking for another breaking ball? Did he run back into the clubhouse with Yankees hitting coach dragged behind him to immediately view the video of his at-bat? Did the body language of Gary Sanchez on the walk back to the dugout suggest anything other than this being just another ho-hum at-bat in the major leagues?
It’s a tricky thing when we’re talking about getting into someone’s head; I get that. But there is no reason why Gary Sanchez is batting .182 (before Sunday’s game) with fewer hits (12) than all Yankees regulars except Tyler Wade, who can be given a mulligan as a rookie still learning his way in the big leagues.
A shot across the bow was fired by the Yankees former hitting coach, Alan Cockrell, who generously only spoke about the defensive woes of Sanchez:
Not a high energy guy. Imagine that, the catcher for the New York Yankees has no desire or fire burning in his heart to excel, choosing instead to rely on his God-given talent to hold a place in the Yankees lineup. Or, so it seems.
The trouble goes well beyond this season, though, and the facts are the Yankees have lived with Sanchez for some time now and he with them. The marriage was in jeopardy even during the minor league career of Sanchez, coming to light as early as 2014 when Sanchez was suspended after a closed-door meeting with Double-A manager, Tony Franklin:
The problem for the Yankees at the moment (besides the Red Sox) is there is no bullpen for the team to exile Sanchez to as the Mets have done with their problem child, Matt Harvey. Aaron Boone, as he has done for two consecutive games now, can eliminate half the problem by starting Austin Romine as his catcher. But beyond that, he can’t have Sanchez sitting on the Yankees bench for pinch-hitting duties for any length of time.
Former Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, tried the tough love approach with Gary Sanchez, calling him out in full view of the YES TV audience for was clearly a lack of hustle in getting out there to block pitches in the dirt. Sanchez was given a couple of stars for “effort” in reforming himself, but seemingly the luster is lost once again.
The failure of Sanchez to show up this season has been highlighted by the struggles of Giancarlo Stanton, making the only productive member of the so-called Yankees Murderer’s Row, Aaron Judge. To date, the Yankees have scored eight or more runs in their wins, but three runs or less in their losses. This suggests the inability to put a few hits together when they are needed most in a close game.
In some ways, a baseball season is shorter than the 162-game six month season. Things can get away from a team quickly early as well as late in a season. The Yankees have shown some life of late with Miguel Andujar (4 for 4 today, .308) hitting his stride, Gleyber Torres, who will finally be seeing Yankee Stadium, and both Brandon Drury and Greg Bird well on their way to a return sometime in May.
But catching is a vital position, and one the Yankees or any team can’t afford to fool around with. Regrettably, I don’t see a gateway for the Yankees to make it any better until Gary Sanchez decides it’s time to grow up, take responsibility for the job he has, and do what it takes – himself – to make the contribution the team sorely needs from him.