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Didi Gregorius' last few days are a lesson in tempering expectations

After his wonderful second half in 2015 expectations for the Yankees' shortstop skyrocketed, but it's worth noting he's still a work in progress.

Throwing the ball without the ball is genius. They won't see it coming!
Throwing the ball without the ball is genius. They won't see it coming!
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

There's no denying that Didi Gregorius is a very talented baseball player. He's been known for his slick defense and in the second half of 2015 he showed he could hold his own with the bat as well. After that strong season though, expectations for the young shortstop were extremely high for his second year in pinstripes. However, it's easy to forget that he's a young player who is still mastering his craft.

On Wednesday, late in a game against the Athletics, Gregorius committed a "base running blunder" which ultimately cost the Yankees a chance to score some runs and possibly come out with a win. Trailing 3-1 in the seventh inning with runners on second (Gregorius) and third (Chase Headley) and one out, Aaron Hicks came up to bat. He hit a weak ground ball between second and third base and the A's third baseman Chris Coughlan was there to make the play. Now there were two ways this could have played out.

1. Headley takes off for home from third base and Coughlan fires home and the Yankees have runners on first and second with two outs. Still down 3-1.

2. Headley takes off for home from third base and Coughlan fires to first to get the easy out, and now the Yankees have a runner on second with two outs, except it's now 3-2.

Simple enough, right? Still a chance to score and take the lead? Well secret option 3 had presented itself:

Unfortunately for the Yankees, this was the second time in two nights Gregorius was thrown out running the bases when he probably shouldn't have been moving from them at all.

Granted the one from Tuesday wasn't as bad as Wednesday, but it is not a good situation to get thrown out on a base running gaffe when your offense has been struggling and your second best hitter is at the plate. It's a harder pill to swallow when it happens two nights in a row. Unfortunately those two nights weren't a first for Gregorius either. In his first game in pinstripes, Didi was also thrown out trying to steal third base.

Fortunately, this doesn't seem to be a trend of his going back to his days in a Diamondbacks' uniform, but that doesn't change that it happened. And while there have been a few forgettable moments on the base paths for the exciting shortstop, Gregorius seems to realize that he's made mistakes and knows he has to get better. After that game against the Blue Jays, Gregorius had this to say:

"It was a bad mistake by me," said Gregorius, who went 0-for-2 and was hit by pitch in the 6-1 Opening Day loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. "I’ll admit it. I’ll admit that it was my mistake and it won’t happen again."

That was pretty mature of him, but I couldn't shake that familiar feeling when I saw what he said after Wednesday's game.

It speaks to the type of person he is that he owns these mistakes, but it also speaks to the type of player he is that these mistakes still happen. And I don't mean that as a knock on him at all. As I said earlier, he has definitely shown he's extremely talented, but he's also just shown he is still growing and has some stuff to learn.

Even defensively in Wednesday's game, Didi had an error while trying to make a double play (see: main picture) where he missed the throw from Headley and couldn't even get one out, let alone two. Once again he owned up to his mistake and talked about trying to do it "too quick."

Fans had high hopes for Gregorius coming into 2016, and that shouldn't change. Last year he showed that he can turn things around and be an extremely productive player, but everyone needs to temper their expectations for him. He's still learning, and with that fans have to endure some growing pains. What won't help is when the media focuses all the attention on him for a loss that was ugly all around.

Stuff like this leads to unnecessary speculation:

Even if that's not what he meant exactly, there's no denying the subtle speculation that Gregorius was "benched" because of his base running mistakes. It's not like Joe Girardi is Tom Coughlin over here. The only way Gregorius is going to learn is by playing more and Girardi knows that. Sitting out of last night's game was simply about getting him some rest against a left-handed pitcher.

What it comes down to is Gregorius seems to get in his own head, and he'll have to learn not to let situations get to him. When he gets out of his head, he's capable of some pretty great things as well.

Slick. Even his double play against the Mariners last weekend (and one earlier in the series against the A's) shows why he was a Gold Glove finalist in 2015 and could once again be in contention in 2016. There's no reason to think Gregorius won't turn things around, it's just a matter of letting him. Until then, hopefully he keeps learning on the job and helping the Yankees get more victories so we can get more Didi Victory Tweets.