A New Perspective On Gary Sanchez (and other would-be Yankees Stars)
by Paul Semendinger
November 3, 2021
Yesterday’s article by Andy Singer got me thinking…
Imagine, if you will, that the Yankees had a player in the minor leagues who they called up and who would be, over the course of his career a positive WAR player.
Not only that, this player would basically be a 2.0 WAR player (on average) every single season he played.
Imagine further that this player was a catcher…
Of course, some years he’d be a little better, and others, a bit worse, but 11.7 WAR over 6 seasons isn’t terrible. It’s also not great but, for a Yankees catcher in recent memory, it’s not too bad.
For a Yankees catcher, a 2.0 WAR season is basically:
Brian McCann (3 years, 5.7 WAR)
Russell Martin (2 years, 4.2 WAR)
Jorge Posada (in 1998-99, 4.0 WAR)
Of note, the 1996 Joe Girardi was worth 1.1 WAR.
I think you can see where this is going…
I understand why baseball teams hype their prospects. It builds excitement. It creates energy and excitement. It can probably sell tickets. It might even add to a player’s trade value should it come to that.
But, what hyping a player also does is set a tremendously high bar for a young player – a bar that most young players never achieve.
I think some of the frustration Yankees fans have towards Gary Sanchez isn’t just that his performance has been erratic or inconsistent (at best), it’s that he hasn’t come close to being the player the Yankees promoted him s being. We were told that he might be the best pure hitter on the team. We were sold on his tremendous power. Gary Sanchez was supposed to be the next great Yankee.
Gary Sanchez was the guy who came before Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez was the beginning of the next generation of hope. Gary Sanchez was to be a core piece, maybe THE core piece.
This was the player the Yankees told the fans they were getting.
Gary Sanchez hasn’t been that player.
By a long shot.
Compared to what he was supposed to be, we are left with frustration and disappointment.
But, did it have to be this way?
If the fans expected a 2.0 WAR player, from the start, would they be more forgiving of Gary Sanchez’s performance these last many years?
What the Yankees have in Gary Sanchez, even still, even after his worst years, is a passable, Major League catcher. I don’t think there are any better options the Yankees can turn to for 2022. Sanchez will be their catcher.
And if he puts up a 2.0 WAR season in 2022, which isn’t out of the question, he’ll be more than passable. If he does that, he’d probably be one of the ten most valuable catchers in the Major Leagues.
But, still, to the fans, he’d be a disappointment.
But what if…
What if the Yankees hadn’t built up Gary Sanchez up to be a superman – the next great super talent – the core of the next great core of players?
What if the Yankees had said, “We’ve got a solid player coming up, a good piece, that we feel can hold his own at catcher for the next many years”?
What if the expectation for Gary Sanchez had been that he’d have as much value as Russell Martin or Brian McCann? Russell Martin and Brian McCann were two solid catchers. They served the Yankees well.
I have to wonder what the reaction to Gary Sanchez would be if the expectations for him weren’t through the roof.
The expectations for Gary Sanchez were so high, so so so high, right from the start, that it was almost impossible for him to meet them. It was almost as if he could never be good enough to be the player the Yankees (and the media, to be fair) built him up to be.
Yes, Sanchez’s last few seasons have been very disappointing. Very disappointing. He tends to lose focus. He goes through long periods where he doesn’t hit a thing. At times he seems to lack hustle or drive.
But, I have to wonder how much the negativity towards him has negatively impacted his performance.
Have you ever been told you’re not good enough?
Have you ever fallen well short of someone’s expectations for you?
For some people, this can be debilitating. To many, Gary Sanchez isn’t just a disappointing baseball player, he’s a failure. I think, sometimes (often times) we forget that baseball players are human.
Negative thoughts can build and linger and negatively impact performance.
As he fails, people talk about what a failure he is, and then maybe, just maybe, Gary Sanchez falls a little lower as he consciously, or not, sinks to the lower and lower expectations.
The Yankees set a high bar – an extremely high bar. Gary Sanchez didn’t meet it. But maybe he was never going to be that player. Maybe he shouldn’t have been heralded as that player.
Maybe the high super expectations, and the almost inevitable impossibility of attaining those projections, are contributing factors that have negatively impacted Gary Sanchez’s performance and career.
Maybe the high expectations virtually guaranteed that Gary Sanchez would be a huge disappointment.
How many players live up to that kind of hype?
Then we take that theory and we extrapolate further…
The Yankees have done this time and again. They put these “can’t miss” labels on so many of their young players. And so many of the players fall short which brings a higher and greater level of disappointment from the fans.
“Gleyber Torres is going to be a superstar…”
“Jasson Dominguez is Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Pujols, and Trout all rolled up into one player…”
on and on and on…
I’m sure I could fill a week’s worth of blog posts just listing the over-hyped Yankees minor leaguers who haven’t panned out. Some of these players became good Major Leaguers, but that still wasn’t good enough.
There’s the old saying, “Reach for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Maybe there is a corollary, “When teams push players to be stars before they’re ready, they most often tend to flame out.”
Maybe it’s time for the Yankees’ hype machine to be put into cold storage. Maybe it’s time to let the young kids come up and play the best they can.
Maybe, just maybe, that’s a better way, and a smarter way, to introduce the next generation of new Yankees to the fans.
“Hey, we’ve got a good catcher here, he might be great, but if not, he’ll be a solid and important part of the team going forward.”
Is that too much to ask?