The Yankees have released ‘the Kraken’ and Gary Sanchez has ascended once again as a star in the Yankees night sky. That star was glimmering brightly until a Thursday afternoon game in Detroit which I will get to later in this column.
Maybe it was the lunch date/meeting with Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez that got Sanchez going. The encounter has been described as a big brother-little brother type of discussion in which they discussed baseball and the work ethic required of a professional baseball player.
Sanchez was slumping at the time and Rodriguez felt he could help the young player, which is exactly what happened given Sanchez's big August.
But it has been well documented that the only thing that is getting in the way of Gary Sanchez being consistently great is Gary Sanchez.
It certainly was not a good look for Sanchez last Thursday in Detroit when he came off the bench during a bench-clearing brawl and sucker punched Miguel Cabrera during the altercation. I understand what he said after the game about defending his teammate, Austin Romine, and his ‘family’, but there is the right way to do things and the wrong way.
That was not the way you should conduct yourself as he punched somebody that was on the ground and defenseless:
He received a 4 game suspension from Major League Baseball, deservedly so, and actually caught a break that the suspension was not longer.
He has already said that he will appeal the suspension.
The punishment is unfortunate because of his importance in the Yankees lineup but he has nobody to blame but himself. It’s Gary Sanchez getting in the way of Gary Sanchez and what you hope is he learns from these mistakes.
Sanchez has all the natural ability and skill you could want in a young catcher. He has power to all fields and an absolute cannon for an arm. It is just a matter of how much he wants it because the sky is the limit when it comes to ability and that has been the case ever since he came into the Yankees organization as a teenager.
That is why the conversation that the Yankees needed to move Sanchez from catcher to DH because of his defensive lapses made little to no sense. What makes Sanchez valuable as a young player and a hitter is the offense that he can obviously provide at a position that is historically more defensive.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman can find a DH that will hit 35-plus homers a season. To find that kind of offense from a catcher is the rare commodity. That is what Sanchez represents, a rare commodity.
Yes, he needs to improve his defense and needs to be more focused and has been called out by Yankees manager Joe Girardi on more than one occasion. Girardi has been very pro-player as a manager unless your name was Jorge Posada. With Sanchez, you certainly have sensed his frustration level and he has voiced his displeasure because he knows that Sanchez is physically gifted enough to be a lot better as a receiver than what he has consistently shown this season.
He has been much better as of late and maybe the meeting with Rodriguez and Lopez has played a role. Maybe it woke Sanchez up from his slumber. For that, Yankees management should thank Rodriguez.
For the majority of this season, Sanchez has been overshadowed by Aaron Judge in the Yankees lineup. Much of the talk and the conversation has surrounded his defense or lack thereof.
Maybe it is when Sanchez hits the month of August, during the dog days of the baseball season, when his bat really starts to heat up. Last August, Sanchez stamped himself a star by hitting .389 with 11 home runs and 21 RBI in the month. This August, Sanchez has picked up his play and his performance by hitting .308 with 11 home runs and 24 RBI.
In 96 games this season, Sanchez has hit .277 with 27 home runs and 75 RBI and has been the driving force in the middle of the Yankees lineup when they needed it most during the second half.
It should be noted that his game and offense picks up when most baseball players are starting to get worn down from a long baseball season. Granted, Sanchez missed time with a bicep injury earlier in the season. But he has played a physically taxing position the majority of the year and has gotten stronger as the season drags on.
The Yankees are in the playoff chase as they trail the Red Sox in the American League East and lead the Wild Card race. They will need a more focused Sanchez down the stretch in order to cement their spot in the postseason and he will be needed for a long October run. He has that kind of skill and ability and the only thing that gets in the way sometimes is the man that stares back at him in the mirror.
Last Thursday in Detroit was just the latest example of that.