Yankees: Does Gary Sanchez Have A Panic Button
When the Yankees report to Spring Training in a few weeks, it goes without saying that eyes, and that mainly includes the media, will be focused on Gary Sanchez.
No doubt the team will do everything they can to insulate him from the onslaught of attention he is bound to receive, but in the end, it will fall on his shoulders to adjust. The so-called Sophmore Jinx may be looming, but it could just be that Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has all the right stuff.
The Yankees are hoping that Gary Sanchez can withstand the pressure to perform in the same manner as he did last season when he single-handedly lit New York City on fire. And we know that the history books of baseball are filled with the names of players who have fallen victim to the Sophmore Jinx, a list that includes players like Dontrelle Willis, who never quite made it all the way back and was last seen begging for another chance to claw his way back to the big leagues. Ditto for Andrew Bailey except that he has rebounded and still has a job with the Anaheim Angels.
Add to the mix the fact that Sanchez plays in baseball’s biggest and most intense market (excuse me, Cub fans), and you have the makings of a season filled with drama and expectations for a young man who may or may not be able to fulfill those promises.
For Sanchez, the question is not whether or not he will continue to develop and become the Yankees catcher for the next 10-15 years. That is pretty much a given. But rather the question is if he can perform at the same level as he did last season when he put up cartoon-like numbers.
And what makes it so fascinating is that on the one hand, you don’t want to sell him short by reducing those expectations because he might just be the next real superstar to be joining the ranks of the big leagues. Conversely, no one is likely to be thinking that a .260, 20HR, 75 RBI season is acceptable either.
From where the Yankees sit, there is not much they can do either way because the “atmosphere” surrounding Gary Sanchez will primarily be drawn from fans like you and me, and of course, the vaunted media that plays so heavily in New York.
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And for that reason, the Yankees may rue the day when they let Brian McCann leave the team. Because although the Yankees have veterans remaining on the team like Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury (who by the way has enough to deal with himself), it’s not the same as having a fellow catcher in your presence who knows, and even more importantly, understands the rigors of being an everyday catcher in the big leagues.
Nevertheless, it is what it is now and everyone will have to deal with it. Mostly, that charge will be given to Joe Girardi who was a former catcher himself. And it will his responsibility to watch Sanchez closely and knowing when a kick in the butt or a pat on the back is needed. And for Sanchez, it will be incumbent on him to push the panic button if the need arises, and especially if he gets off to a rugged start by asking for a “mental health” day off.
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And he may not want to communicate something like this to his manager, and he might choose instead to select a teammate as his sounding board and eventual communicator to the higher ups (and don’t we all miss Derek Jeter?) before things get out of hand. Lest this not sound like it’s inevitable that Sanchez will have problems of this nature, it might be wise of the Yankees to be planning a contingency plan that is designed specifically to meet the needs of their All-Star catcher.