It’s been a tough few hours for Gary Sanchez. After a frustrating loss to the Rays, he took the brunt of the blame due to an apparent lack of hustle on both sides of the ball, swinging a few runs in the wrong direction.
In the first inning, a signal mix-up with Luis Severino had Sanchez anticipating a fastball but losing a slider in the dirt. The ball shot down the third base line, allowing Jake Bauers to score from second as Sanchez slowly lumbered over to retrieve it. Then, with the bases loaded, two outs, and the Yankees trailing by one in the ninth, Sanchez turned a shot at redemption into a bigger blunder.
The catcher grounded a routine ball up the middle, but Aaron Hicks beat out the toss to second base. Rays’ shortstop Willy Adames was still able to get the out at first and end the game as Sanchez jogged his way down the line. If he were to beat the throw, the Yankees would have tied the game.
The response following the game and this morning was expectedly harsh. Fans and media alike were quick to skewer him as “lazy” or not being a true competitor. Some new information has come to light, however, to challenge that perception. Jon Heyman reported that the passed ball in the first inning may have re-aggravated Sanchez’s groin injury.
Word is, Gary Sanchez may have re-aggravated groin injury on first inning passed ball last night. He’s getting killed for “lazy” plays but perhaps this explains them. Was afraid to tell team initially because he dreads return to dl. Now will get treatment, try to avoid dl.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 24, 2018
While we still await confirmation, it’s worth noting that Sanchez was moving slowly on Saturday as well. Several members of the Yankees’ booth even made note of it. This could point to the fact that the groin injury that sidelined him for a month could still have been nagging him. The passed ball may simply be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
If another DL stint is imminent, that’s unfortunate for the Yankees. Despite the calls for his head after last night, Sanchez is still the best option moving forward behind the dish. Hopefully some rest would help heal the injury and return Sanchez to true Kraken form at a time when the Yankees—now sitting 6 games behind the Red Sox—need him most.
The real issue here is the attempt to cover up and play through an injury. We’ve come a long way from Mickey Mantle’s one-handed home run and the glorification of “sucking up the pain.” With reserves waiting, trying to mask a groin injury to avoid letting the team and fans down is backwards thinking. It’s easy to understand the frustration he must feel and his desire to not return to the DL, but as displayed last night, a healthy understudy is far superior to a half-paced starter.
The heightened pressure from the now precarious position the Yankees find themselves in no doubt added to the critical reception of last night’s gaffes. With significant ground to make up in the division, the most important thing for an injured Sanchez is to go on the DL, fix the issue, and come back ready to contribute down the stretch. The only way to make up for a poor first-half performance and a game like last night’s is to come back healthy and help push the Yankees to a division title.