The baseball world never fails to craft its share of stupid narratives. The Great Gary Sanchez Panic of 2017 ranks among the stupidest.
Yes, Sanchez has allowed 30 wild pitches and a league-leading 12 passed balls this season. That’s not good. Sanchez a young catcher in his second major league season, and his pitch-blocking certainly needs work.
That this weakness in Sanchez’s game blew up in the tabloids and led to a high-profile benching, however, defies all logic. Manager Joe Girardi moaned publicly that Sanchez needs to improve. GM Brian Cashman regaled the media with a theory about Sanchez’s defensive shortcomings, positing that Sanchez gaining muscle over the winter might’ve hurt his flexibility and made it more difficult for him to jump in front of errant pitches. Answering reporters’ questions with a quiet, ‘we wanted to give him a day off to regroup' apparently wasn’t an option. Neither, it seems, was leaving a catcher who now has 39 home runs in 138 career games played in the lineup, when the alternative (Austin Romine) is a backup who’s hit like Bubba Crosby, if Bubba Crosby were still playing today.
Sanchez has tons of room for improvement, and both he and the Yankees would like to see him develop into a great all-around catcher. But obsessing over a player’s weaknesses rather than acknowledging his strengths and working quietly to help him improve is a trading that remains alive and well in baseball. With the Yankees in the thick of a pennant race, perhaps the public flogging could be saved for the offseason. Or, you know, maybe don’t flog the guy at all.