With Anthony Swarzak closing for the Mets and Greg Bird at first on a walk in the ninth inning, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez had a chance to provide more misery for the Mets and their fans Sunday night. He could have tied the game with one swing of the bat.
Instead, he lined into a double play that ended the game and the Mets avoided a winless homestand by salvaging the final game of the homestand in their 2-0 victory over the Yankees at Citi Field. That summed up his 2-for-29 road trip right there. So much for snapping out of his funk.
Sanchez has gone 4-for-53 (.075) with one extra-base hit and two RBI since May 22 while striking out 18 times. He hasn’t homered since May 19 when he hit two home runs at Kansas City. It’s no wonder why manager Aaron Boone decided to give him a day off in Tuesday night’s Yankees’ 3-0 victory over the Washington Nationals at Yankee Stadium after the team’s off day Monday. It was a chance for him to get a breather instead of thinking too much at the plate.
He shouldn’t expect to play Wednesday night, either since Sonny Gray is starting against the Nationals. He never catches his games as Austin Romine is Gray’s personal catcher. So it will be three days and counting that he hasn’t played. By Thursday, he should be relaxed and ready to go when he plays against the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s Boone’s thought process.
Yankees fans have lately started noticing that Sanchez has been awful. They did not make much of his struggles early on since they were enjoying Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres hitting home runs to compensate for his awful production. The lineup is so deep that it’s hard to notice if any of their hitters are struggling, but this is hard to ignore.
Already, they are wondering if he is a bust. Some wonder if he should be sent down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising Yankees fans are already turning on their catcher. They are frontrunners altogether. When the going gets tough, the Yankees fans like to play the game of finger of blame. It also shows how spoiled they are after watching so many of the Yankees young players flourishing quickly than anyone expected. They ought to know about the game of baseball when it comes to player development.
The Yankees don’t think like their fans. That should be a good thing because if they actually did, they would be running an amateur operation like the Mets. They know what makes players tick. They know what they are doing when it comes to young players based on the results the last two years. They are not going to give up on Sanchez. They know he will work out of it since he is too good to be this bad.
Now, there’s a chance he could have an awful season, but that’s okay. It happens to young players. That’s the way baseball goes.
But it’s too early to start thinking that way. On June 13, it would be ludicrous to wonder if Sanchez will ever get going. Every baseball player goes through ups and downs. Just ask Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt. He struggled to hit the ball the last three weeks, but he has picked it up this past week. Great hitters will find their groove during the season, which is why no one should worry about Sanchez’s struggles.
Sanchez has to play through it. That’s the only solution for him. A three-day off for him is temporarily a good thing just so he can stop thinking about his slump. If he is still struggling for another month, it’s fair to wonder if he’s hurt. He has been playing with an achy right calf, but then again players go through nicks and bruises during the course of the season, especially in the position he is playing.
The beauty of playing for the Yankees is that there are too many good players where they can take the focus of his struggles, not to mention the team is winning. If they were as inept as the Mets, his struggles would be topic No. 1 on social media, sports radio and newspapers. In a case like this, playing for the Yankees is a blessing.
Sanchez has to get out of this eventually. Putrid performances like this gets a player’s playing time cut unless he is on the Mets where they have no options to replace him. Romine won’t remind anyone of Jorge Posada, but he is serviceable and for the deep Yankees lineup, that is good enough to get playing time.
The Yankees manager knows he needs his catcher for the long-term. Shattering his confidence is a way to lose him altogether.
Sanchez offered no excuses for his struggles. He knows he has to start performing.
There’s a reason baseball is a 162-game season. It gives opportunities for redemption almost every at-bat.
Sanchez had a chance to have everyone not talk about his slump and not get benched by getting a big hit on Sunday. It didn’t happen, but he is several hits away to make his slump an afterthought.
He has 99 games to do just that starting Thursday.