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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.

Joey Votto: “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently.”

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We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”

Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).

Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.