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.