When the Yankees rotation for the ALCS was announced, one name was noticeably missing. True to form, there are good reasons behind the Yankees thinking.
When the Yankees acquired Sonny Gray from the Oakland A’s at the trade deadline for a handful of bonafide prospects, there were good reasons to believe the team had stolen the American League East from the Red Sox. Deemed to be the ace the Yankees needed, Gray was seen as the man who would casually step into the Pinstripes and perform with no hiccups in the Big City.
In eleven starts with the Yankees, Gray went 4-7 with a 3.64 ERA. There was cause for some alarm, but he was mostly given a pass as the team did not provide him with run support and his ERA indicated he was not too far off the mark in making the transition from a non-contender to the heat of a pennant race.
The Yankees stayed with Gray, though, giving him a start in the ALDS against Cleveland, and it was there the unraveling reached a climax. Over 3.1 innings, Gray gave up three runs while walking four batters, and the view from Joe Girardi‘s perch in the dugout seemed to suggest he was watching a pitcher on the downside of this season.
From there, it was a natural decision by Girardi to pass Gray over for the rest of the Cleveland series and into the ALCS against Houston. Because with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia firing on all cylinders, the stark reality is the Yankees don’t need Gray until Game 4. And depending on where the series stands at that point, they could not need him at all.
Gray is not being punished as much as he’s temporarily sidelined. The situation reminds of the battle Yankees reliever, Tyler Clippard, had when Joe Girardi gave him every chance to succeed in the face of continuing failure before Clippard was included in the deal with the White Sox that brought David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Todd Frazier to the Bronx.
Sonny Gray is not going anywhere, though. And he’ll be back next season installed without question into the number two or three hole in the starting rotation.
We’ve seen over the years players, who come to the Yankees with experience in only one other organization, with varying adjustment times to a new environment and ways of “doing things.” Didi Gregorius is a good example, and as we have seen, each season he has gotten progressively better since coming over from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
And when you have a player with the caliber of someone like Gregorius, who also had the added pressure of stepping into the shortstop position vacated by Yankees icon, Derek Jeter, the need for patience takes precedence over the need for immediate rewards.
Sonny Gray will have the opportunity to be with the Yankees from day one in 2018. He’ll establish a routine that suits him as well as the team. As a reason and not an excuse, he didn’t have that chance this season. Coming over to the team with all the hype and competition for his services added to the pressures facing him.
Girardi is doing the right thing now with Gray, and as with all of the decisions he makes regarding personnel, he’s protecting Gray and looking only at his upside for next season.