Gary Sanchez has not had a great season for the Yankees, some are even calling him lazy. But does it really matter if that’s the case?
Both the New York and national media have been heavily critical of New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez this week after his poor showing in Tampa on Monday night. He single-handedly let a player score from second base when a ball awkwardly bounced off him. He did not run hard out of the box in any of his at-bats, including his final one with runners in scoring position during a one-run ball game.
The guy had a bad game. As I scrolled through my Twitter feed Tuesday morning, suddenly the entire Yankee fan base wanted to trade him.
It turns out that Sanchez was hurt in Monday night’s game. Per Buster Olney, the Yankee catcher had an MRI on Tuesday that confirmed a right groin strain injury.
Gary Sanchez would get benched on a Little League team 🐌 pic.twitter.com/f9VGh7NyC7
— Tailgate Sports (@_TailgateSports) July 24, 2018
The conspiracy theories started flying in left and right about the injury, given the timing of the announcement after his poor effort the previous night. New York’s WFAN sports radio was flooded with calls most of the next the day citing Sanchez’s lack of hustle as disrespectful to the organization. Many callers thought the Yankees should consider moving him. Tuesday’s New York Post proclaimed him “Gary Maniloaf,” with a subheadline also declaring him lazy.
The verdict appears to be in on Gary Sanchez. He’s lazy.
My question is, “So what?”
There have been several players that fans have called lazy over the past decade that just so happen to be some of the best players in Major League Baseball. Two of them just so happen to be my least favorite players ever in that time span. That doesn’t mean they weren’t incredible baseball players.
One was a Yankee killer, Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez was constantly criticized by Boston media for being one of the laziest players in baseball. He routinely misplayed balls in the outfield. He jogged running down the first base line. His odd behaviors on the field that might have been seen as lazy even got him his own phrase: “Manny being Manny.” That doesn’t mean he wasn’t one of the best players of his generation. He was a 12-time All-Star who won two World Series titles and a World Series MVP.
The second is one of my least favorite Yankees ever: Robinson Cano.
Cano was like Ramirez, without the nickname. People who watched Cano every night know what kind of player he was. He wouldn’t run out routine ground balls. He was lackadaisical in the infield. When he hit a high pop up, he would watch it in the air. When he made an out in a big spot, he would walk back to the dugout and blow a bubble. Once again, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a phenomenal player. Cano is still active in the majors with a .304 lifetime average, putting him in the top ten among active hitters. He’s won five Silver Slugger awards and was part of the championship team in 2009.
The point is, it doesn’t matter if Gary Sanchez is lazy. Baseball is one of the few sports in the world in which a player can be lazy and still be a major part of a championship level team.
But people say the problem comes when the lazy player is batting .188. Ramirez could have a “Manny moment” when he hit .300. Cano could blow a bubble when he was the best hitter in baseball. My counter would be that Sanchez is one of the best catchers in baseball, so he can act that way.
Sanchez isn’t hitting a normal .188. When you think of that batting average you think about the way that Neil Walker is hitting .195. You think about Walker in a sense that it’s a bad .195, with three home runs and 21 RBI’s in 200 at bats. That’s BAD.
Sanchez’s batting average doesn’t equate the same way. He is tied for second among major league catchers in home runs with far fewer at-bats this season. He is top 10 in RBI and doubles. His stat line is more than just his batting average. The 14 home runs and 42 RBI he has contributed make him a valuable member of the team and one that they need for them to succeed. Sanchez batted sixth in a stacked lineup in his last game. Neil Walker was at the bottom of the order and is on the verge of being off the team.
Batting average doesn’t tell the entire story.
The Yankees are 42-21 in games when Sanchez starts. He is a crucial part the of the team.
Many Yankee fans criticizing Sanchez this week also pointed out that there is a possibility that he could just be a flash in the pan. This cannot be further from the truth. This is a guy who was the best catcher in baseball last season. He hit 33 home runs and drove in 90 RBI, which was the best in the majors for a catcher. This isn’t someone who was good for a few weeks or few months; he was the best at his position.
The Kraken, as he’s called, is also one of the best players at his position in the game, which is one that is hard to get offense from. The MLB had only six catchers who hit 20 home runs last season. Only three players behind the plate drove in more than 75 runs in 2017. Gary Sanchez did both.
What happened to Sanchez on Monday night was bad, no doubt about it. His play looked about as lazy as it possibly could at the major-league level without getting benched (yet). However, at the end of the day, does it really matter?
Gary Sanchez is a super talented player and at 25-years-old, he isn’t someone you should even slightly consider trading. I’ll trade the jogs down to first base for the best hitting catcher in baseball.
Hopefully, this latest DL stint brings him closer to full health, a point in which he can continue to be both that and a huge part of the New York Yankees lineup.