Cover photo courtesy of The Runner
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If you're a Yankee fan like me, you know the pain.
For the majority of my teen-hood, Gary Sanchez was THE touted prospect for the New York Yankees. Who doesn't find value in a power-hitting catcher with a hose for an arm? General managers & scouts who can perennially dig up these types of players tend to have nice, long careers in the MLB.
But over the years, it's all added up. Despite "El Gary's" long home runs and occasional flash of the cannon on a failed stolen base attempt, Yankee fans are beginning to realize that the bad has outweighed the good.
I thought this was a funny tweet that really captured how Yankee fans feel about El Gary this year.
We all know that Gary's defense has been criticized by fans and media over the past few years. Rightfully so - he "led" the American league in passed balls for 2 consecutive years. This year, his defensive struggles have been ever-so-present; with 4 passed balls already under his belt in 2020, he's on his way to be a contender for the lamentable accolade once more.
While experts cannot come to a consensus on the origin of El Gary's struggles behind the dish, ESPN analysts Alex Rodriguez and Eduardo Perez both noticed on Sunday night that Sanchez has been taking an unorthodox approach to his catching position.
Take a look at the video below from Sunday's series finale against the Sox. Also, please disregard the tweeter's description as I vehemently disagree with him...with love :)
Gary starts with his left knee on the ground, which allegedly gives him more longevity in moving left-to-right. It's much less tiresome for catchers to keep a knee on the ground than to be squatting the whole time, but isn't that why they get paid millions of dollars to play? I digress.
EDIT: This is in the context of passed balls. I know Yanks Twitter was not happy about this because it allegedly allows him to frame better, which is very good. But we can't give him a free pass on the defensive effort. We just can't.
Regardless, his lack of defensive prowess translates directly into what many others are saying is a fatal flaw of El Gary's play over the years - the lack of hustle.
God only knows how many times Yankees fans have swore at their television after Gary is caught on camera not hustling.
Who can forget this one from 2018? Yanks down by a run, bases loaded, and Gary can't even attempt to put a little pep in his step. I almost threw my laptop out the window. This has to top the all-time list of Sanchez's blunders.
This year, the struggles have woven their way into the batter's box. Gary Sanchez has always been known as a player that rides on streaks - both aggressively hot, and drearily cold. But it seems as though even the most searing of streaks will not be able to reverse Gary's dismal start to the year - he entered Sunday's game with a .133 batting average, and 4 home runs - 3 of which came in the 3 games prior. The strikeouts have added up, but more importantly, they come in key situations for the six-year veteran to reverse his course. Nearly all in recent memory come up empty.
Take Sunday night, for example. Although the Yankees took a 3-run lead into the 8th inning, El Gary missed out on a massive opportunity to add at least one insurance run with the bases loaded and two out.
Perfect time to reverse course, right?
Nope. He strikes out looking. On brand.
So now, the question that Yankee fans have delayed asking for years resurfaces. Should Gary Sanchez be a Yankee in future seasons?
While we don't have all the answers, here are my two cents...let's make a "Pros and Cons" list, courtesy of The Office playing in the background on my TV right now.
(Hope you reacted like Michael did when Jim did this as the co-manager of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch.)
GARY STAYS, PROS:
Power-hitting catchers are rare, and are a feather-in-the-cap when they're homegrown prospects. If Gary can get his shit together and continue to be a routine 25-homer-caliber player while striking out a bit less and delivering in clutch situations? That's dangerous.
GARY STAYS, CONS:
Can we take the streakiness, blatant lack of hustle, and perceived apathy towards his own performance?
No, seriously, can we?
GARY LEAVES, PROS:
Not gonna lie, this plan has to assume that a LOT will go right for the Bombers. The top catcher hitting the market in 2020 will be J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies, who has a legitimate case for the best catcher in baseball at the moment. Alternatively they can try to shoot for the final years of Cardinals legend Yadier Molina's career, or test their luck with a tandem of current backup Kyle Higashioka (assuming he's ready to play in a close-to-everyday role in 2021) and a free agent catcher like Mike Zunino/Alex Avila/Austin Romine (round 2). Again, this assumes that any one of those options would work flawlessly. In a world where Mookie Betts is a forever-Dodger and the Baltimore Orioles are 11-8, don't count it out.
GARY LEAVES, CONS:
"Yay! We got rid of him!" Say the Yankee fans that now have no legit option at catcher after Gary Sanchez puts on a Mariners uniform.
At 29-years-old and currently under a very team-friendly contract, J.T. Realmuto will want to get paid bigtime this offseason. As much as I'd love for Realmuto to be a Yankee, the last thing this team needs is another 6-7-year deal to go awry. And the odds of a guy like Yadier Molina coming even CLOSE to the offensive production Gary Sanchez had? Lower than the tide of Second Beach after a month-long drought.
And, for the love of God, let me tell you - I am so sick of Yankees Twitter trying to make the case to trade Andujar and Frazier for an elite starter or reliever (enter the Josh Hader simps). There is close to zero trade value for either of them. Adding in Gary Sanchez makes a trade a bit more attractive, but even so...we should not expect a team to cough up a top-5 catcher and a 2-to-4-hole starting pitcher for the three of them. Also, there really is no guarantee the Yanks would be able to find top-tier catching talent on the market without growing it themselves, which would require a 2-3-year waiting period on prospects Austin Wells or Anthony Ziegler. I lived through the early 2010's as we stumbled past the Jorge Posada era with Francisco Cervelli and Christ Stewart, and I am NOT doing that again. No way.
So, where does this leave us? After taking an in-depth look at this, I really don't think there's a better option for the next couple of years...he's our guy. As much as we bitch and moan about El Gary's streakiness, his laziness on the base paths, and sometimes, apathy behind the dish, the Yankees might be able to hold out a bit. Provided the rest of the Yankees' titan offense does its job, it may not be the worst problem in the world to have a middle-of-the-road offensive catcher that will hit a 3-run dinger every now and then. Don't give up on him now.