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Great Moments in Trashing Star Players: Gary Sanchez Edition

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There’s a long and rich history, particularly in major markets like New York and Boston, of scribes trashing star players. Maybe not truly, unequivocally great players, but most superior talents with a flaw are eventually given the drive-by treatment by a columnist at some point or another.

Over the weekend it was Gary Sanchez‘s turn. He’s the subject of a Randy Miller column at NJ.com in which his big flaw — his pitch blocking — is used as the jumping off point for an anonymous scout to say some truly silly things:

“Sanchez has got a ways to go defensively, and I knew it all along,” a Major League scout for an opposing club told NJ Advance Media. “He gets very lazy. He wants to reach instead of shifting his feet. He tries to get away with stuff because of his strong arm.”

How big a problem is this?

“I’ll tell you what,” the scout said. “I’ll go on the record right now and say it: For the playoffs, you watch, Austin Romine will catch more than Sanchez. Romine doesn’t have much of an arm, but he’s the better catcher.”

At the outset, can we agree how hilarious it is that a guy who demanded anonymity for his fiery quotes says “I’ll go on the record right now . . .”? Because it’s pretty hilarious.

Beyond that, yes, I think anyone who has watched Gary Sanchez catch realizes that he’s not a good plate blocker. The scout chalks it up to laziness, which is oddly judgmental and presumably not based on anything other than a gut character judgment. I’m more inclined to say it’s a matter of technique that could likely be improved with work in spring training, but fine, I’ll stipulate that he’s not good at blocking and often reaches when he should be blocking.

Beyond that, however, this is ridiculous. While he’s not Yadier Molina behind the dish, Sanchez’s arm is obviously great. He’s no worse than an average pitch framer. And you know what? I’m guessing that if you polled every pitcher on the Yankees staff, they’d say they’d rather have that extra run support that comes from Sanchez’s homers than whatever is lost from the occasional passed ball. He’s hitting .280/.349/.541 with 30 homers despite missing a lot of time this year. He’s got 50 homers in his first 161 games as a major leaguer. You don’t find that in a catcher very often and when you do, you put him behind the plate unless and until he develops an actual phobia of catching pitches or bows his knees out, whichever comes first.

All of which is to say that, no, I do not believe that Austin Romine is going to catch more in the playoffs than Sanchez is. No matter what this off-the-record/on-the-record scout says. Or no matter what the columnist who sought him out, likely specifically to find an anti-Sanchez take, says.

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.