Following up last week’s Brett Gardner has become over-hated post, here’s another on perhaps the Yankees’ most polarizing player, Gary Sanchez. Just as I said with Gardy, I’m not gonna pretend I wasn’t down on Gary at times last season.
Cut me some slack here. Judging a man’s Yankees takes in the immediate aftermath of a loss is like determining how healthy someone’s diet is based off what they ate on Thanksgiving.
Regardless, Gary was horrific in 2020. There’s no way to spin a .147 average, 69 OPS+, 36% SO percentage. At the same time, a 49-game sample size isn’t enough for me to move on from the guy. Has Gary had some lows over the course of his Yankee career? Sure, but nothing nearly as bad as last year. Plenty of players across MLB had career-worst seasons in 2020.
I’m not saying you can’t be frustrated by Gary, but I do think a lot of the hate he gets is misguided. Here’s why.
He set an impossible bar for himself
Gary Sanchez was a world beater in 2016-17. He looked like he was about to become the best-hitting catcher in baseball history. After mashing 20 homers in just 53 games in 2016, Sanchez stayed hot in 2017. His 33 HR, 90 RBI, .876 OPS season was one of the main reasons that Yankees team ended up competing for a pennant in what was supposed to be a “rebuilding” year. Everybody loved Gary at that point – how could you not?
He battled injuries in 2018, playing in only 89 games. This affected him at the plate, as Gary hit just .186 with an OPS+ of 89, below league average. He did, however, manage to have a two-homer game at Fenway in the playoffs, including this moonshot.
Gary was good in 2019 – really good. He was the AL’s starting catcher in the All-Star game for crying out loud. 34 HR, 77 RBI, an .841 OPS. Yet some people refer to 2019 as a “down” year for Gary, even though in reality it was anything but. Why? Two reasons.
He had a bad playoffs (mostly due to the fact that he was injured and came back with just a handful of games left in the regular season)
It wasn’t 2016/17 level dominant
Gary was unreal the first two years of his career. Could he replicate that once again? Sure. But we don’t even need 2017 Gary. 2019 Gary provides PLENTY of offense from the catcher position. In his last full season of 2019, Sanchez ranked 1st in homers, 4th in wOBA, and 5th in wRC+ amongst all catchers in baseball.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t
One of the things that frustrates me the most about people who hate on certain players is how they change their tune just to fit a narrative. Gary strikes out on three pitches in his first Spring Training AB? “THE GUY’S STILL A BUM, JUST DFA HIM ALREADY!” But when Gary hit this piss missile on Monday?
“WHO CARES, IT’S ONLY SPRING TRAINING! MEANS NOTHING!’
People did the same thing with his winter ball highlights. It’s just exhausting. Realistically, there’s no reason to overreact to spring AB’s. The homer was nice to see for sure. I just hate the fact that there’s almost this desire to see Gary fail. I’m not asking you to jump up and down and scream “HE’S BACK!” over an exhibition home run, but at the same time, don’t rip on him for a meaningless spring strikeout either. At least save the overreactions until the regular season.
The “fat and lazy” narrative
If you want to be critical of Gary’s performance, I get it. You saw how fed up with him I was last season from my tweet in the intro. Call him a .147 hitter, strikes out too much, whatever tickles your fancy. But for the life of me, I can’t understand the narrative that Gary is “fat and lazy.” That’s never made any sense to me.
If this guy is supposed to be fat, then I don’t even wanna know what half of Yankees Twitter is. And lazy?
Gary Sanchez didn't waste time. Not long after the playoffs ended, Sanchez went to the Yankees' complex and spent "hours and hours" in the cage w/ hitting coaches Thames and Pilittere, adjusting his mechanics. "He's got something to prove." https://t.co/eYrsVeJeoz
Sanchez clearly has the desire to get better. This is a two-time All-Star who’s been in the bigs for five years now. He could’ve done nothing in the offseason and been the Yankees’ starting catcher coming into spring. Instead, he went and played winter ball because he was just as dissatisfied with his 2020 as Yankee fans were.
If you wanna criticize Gary, go for it. But “fat and lazy” has never made sense to me.
So now what?
As I said before, I don’t think Gary will return to his 2017 form. That’s such a high bar for any catcher. If he replicates 2020 again over a full season, he’ll have to be replaced. However, while I may not be as high on Gary as my guy Gary Sanchez Resurgence Bandwagon, I’m confident that Gary bounces back in 2021. I think he gives us something similar to his 2019 level of production.
Where are you at on Gary? Are you willing to let him prove himself in 2021? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me @ncostanzo24