The New York Yankees, dating back to July 2nd, 2009, now have a nine-year investment in Gary Sanchez. How far and how long will the team go in “accommodating” his needs and idiosyncrasies?
Gary Sanchez, unlike Jacoby Ellsbury, presents little or no financial burden to the New York Yankees. His $605,000 salary for 2018 can be absorbed swiftly in beer sales during a three-game homestand. No, it’s the hidden costs associated with having Sanchez on the team that tally up to the point where it’s fair to ask, is that cost and the player worth it?
The Yankees, when pushed against a wall about Sanchez’s delinquencies as a catcher, and now even as a hitter, always point to his “upside.” They do the same thing with Greg Bird, but in recent weeks the Yankees have corrected themselves giving Bird a standing seat on the bench in favor of newcomer Luke Voit. Ditto Sonny Gray, who the Yankees exiled to their bullpen with nary a flinch when his season went South as a starting pitcher. Gary Sanchez gets no such treatment.
Instead, he continues to get more “instruction” from the Yankees coaching staff on how to position his glove to catch pitched balls. What is so hard to learn about this aspect of major league catching?
In a story that appeared in Bleacher Report, the amount of work Sanchez puts in does not seem to be the problem. “He works a lot,” Severino said of Sanchez, per Newsday‘s Erik Boland. “I’ve been with him since I was in Double-A [in 2014] and I see the progress. He worked his [butt] off to get better.”
But there’s one thing wrong with that kind of praise. I equate it to the student in my Adult Education class who buries his head in a math book for two hours a day, plus the time we spend together in one-on-one sessions, but he still doesn’t “get” how to find a common denominator to solve fraction problems. The effort is there, but where are the results?
Nine years is a long time to master any craft. Show me a carpenter who’s been an apprentice for nine years, and I’ll show you a carpenter on the street begging for work. Gary Sanchez, not only is still employed by the Yankees, but he remains highly touted as a future star and possible Hall of Famer when his career is finished.
Remember too, Sanchez’s struggles to find his way as a professional ballplayer is not limited to the recent past and present. Twice, Gary Sanchez was suspended for behavior issues that were not disclosed by the Yankees during his tenure in the minor leagues. Hush hush whispers though centered around his work ethic and a lethargic Que sera, sera outlook.
And now, to add the proverbial insult to injury to Sanchez’s litany is the fact that, seemingly, he has forgotten how to hit a baseball on a consistent basis (a .187 batting average over 300 plate appearances). Again, the “upsiders” will point to the 16 home runs and 47 RBI as proof of the young man’s talent. Except that over the last 28 days, in the heat of a pennant race, Gary Sanchez has managed only two home runs and five runs batted in.
And there’s something else too about Sanchez. It’s a touchy one, but I’m going to raise the issue anyway. How is it that after spending nearly a decade in the United States Sanchez still needs a crutch (translator) to conduct a baseball-centered interview with a reporter? Is it because English, like catching, is “too hard” to learn? Like he can’t master enough baseball vocabulary to answer in English, “It was a slider down and away” when asked what pitch he hit for a home run? Or, on a visit to the mound, he can’t verbalize, “Okay, what do you want to throw now”?
It’s too much for a casual fan of baseball, and I assume others, to digest without wondering…what’s up with this guy?
Indeed, the Yankees have their hands full with Gary Sanchez. In many ways, he appears to be 25 going on 12 when stood next to players like Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, and the even younger Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar in a contest measuring maturity.
Things got ugly and public in the dugout in Oakland during a crucial series with the A’s, and you have to wonder if this scene has been re-enacted behind closed doors on a few other occasions (Video)…
The question remains. How much patience should/will the Yankees exercise with Sanchez before he becomes part of their past instead of their future? And if the team decides to move forward with their experiment with Sanchez, and make no mistake it is an experiment, what will it cost the Yankees?
Some will argue that the role of Gary Sanchez is destined to be as a DH. And that may be true, but not with the Yankees, a team that has Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks as regular producing elements in their lineup, with Clint Frazier breathing down their neck for a spot in the outfield in 2019.
One thing is certain. No one, least of all Sanchez, is benefitting from the hands-off approach by the Yankees to protect Sanchez. Former Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, pulled no punches when asked for his opinion of Sanchez and his “progress” as a catcher. His candidness may have been part of the reason Girardi lost his job, but the man was forthright and honest. Can we expect the same from Aaron Boone in giving out some “tough love” when it’s called for?
Look, it’s easy to pick on someone when they’re down, right? But this “down” period has a long history with Sanchez. For obvious reasons, both Greg Bird and Sonny Gray need a change of scenery. It’s not working, and the experiment has failed with both players despite their upside.
Why can’t the New York Yankees be as honest when it comes to Gary Sanchez?
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