Yankees Organization Deeply Impacted by Gary Sanchez’ Success

Aug 16, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) hits a solo home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 16, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) hits a solo home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Employees of the New York Yankees from Brian Cashman to Luis Torrens are impacted by Gary Sanchez‘s hot start, an impact that is likely to last for years.

You might have noticed that the Yankees Gary Sanchez is doing well. In fact, he seems to be able to do, well, whatever he wants. But this is not another article putting the 23-year old catcher in the Hall of Fame. I can no more tell what kind of career he is going to have than I can predict which minor leaguers might one day play in the Bronx. I would never even try.

All we can say is that Sanchez is off to a good start. That is not what I yelled at my TV Monday night as he hit the second of two souvenirs, but it is what I am writing now. The effects, however, can be felt through the Yankees corridors of power and down to the depths of the minor league system. And players years away will still deal with an intriguing new standard, whether or not Mr. Sanchez continues to amaze.

The Yankees Incredible Shrinking Catcher

Brian McCann has obviously felt the impact most. To his eternal credit, he has said and done all the right things. He has also established that 12 seconds is the new standard in time it takes to resist killing a reporter. McCann has displayed all the dignity and character we have come to expect of him. And he is no fool. He said in spring training that there was nothing Gary Sanchez cannot do on a baseball field.

Jul 13, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann prior to the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

But still it must have come as a shock that the kid came in and simply ripped his job away. Sanchez is bigger, younger, stronger and faster. I am not sure it is worth it to parse out the different speeds of catchers but it is true nonetheless. Since then, McCann has shrunk before our eyes. Not as a man. No, his character has taken care of that. But as a player. He looks smaller now. His bat does not seem as threatening. His impact on Yankees games seems to have largely evaporated as his hits are few and he no longer squats regularly behind the plate.

The New Yankees Normal

I want to make something clear to younger Yankees fans: this is not supposed to happen. Jorge served a three-year apprenticeship before he became the full-time backstop. Elston Howard had to serve time under Yogi. 

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Do you think that an unfair comparison? Fair enough. But, remember, Mr. McCann has offensive numbers commensurate with the upper echelon of catchers. He can see the Hall of Fame from where he stands. I did not say he is in the Hall yet but his feet are firmly on the path.

And Gary Sanchez put him on the bench. That is much more significant and unusual than a Wally Pipp-ing.

McCann will probably not wear the pinstripes after 2016. He is one of those guys you wish could have been here for a Yankees championship run. I’m looking at you, Carlos Beltran. He deserves a better fate. I will be glad for him if he gets traded and goes back to being an everyday catcher. At least his millions will go further back in Atlanta.

The Media and the Minors

One of the best aspects of the minors is that we get to dream and speculate. Boy, do we speculate. Everyone from the fans to the media knows the Yankees are rich with catchers. But which catcher is the best? It was a great topic up until about three weeks ago.

Is it Sanchez with the great bat but reportedly bad attitude? He had been in the minors for a while. Higashioka is right behind him and is a defensive specialist. Isn’t that what wins championships?

Catching prospect Luis Torrens. Mandatory Credit: baseballamerica.com
Mandatory Credit: baseballamerica.com /

Maybe it’s Luis Torrens, the oft-injured one rumored to be the best all-around catcher of the three. Donny Sands, anyone? What a fun debate!

Fun’s over. No more stories debating the Yankees catchers. As a fan, I am thrilled at the outcome. As a sportswriter, not so much. I guess I will have to debate about which catcher is most likely to be the backup. The group less happy about all of this? The other catchers in the system. They have seen the highlights and understand the deal. Unless Sanchez falls off a huge cliff, they will have to make their marks with other teams.

Yankees Front Office

Brian Cashman does an amazing job. Yeah, I said it. I know what some of you Yankees fans think. I hear you all the time. You cannot wait to call Michael Kay on the radio today and let him know. And what you think is that Brian Cashman is really bad at his job.

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Many outside the organization think so, too, because of the Yankees payroll. You have all been wrong for a long time now and Gary Sanchez is helping to drive that point home.

To be sure, he is just one reason people have been forced to see the light about Cash. We know about the trades this year. Those castigating him for trading Justin Wilson now throw roses at his feet…for the same deal. He elevated the Yankees farm system to the top with three trades. Yes, he is having a great year.

The Best Trades are the Ones He Did Make

Oct 18, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman before game four of the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports /

But this is not just about this year. The Yankees have spent the last decade trading away their young talent. And I have spent the last decade bemoaning the Yankees trading away their young talent. What ever happened to those guys, the guys we Yankees fans were so angry that Cash so foolishly traded away?

Jesus Montero no longer lives in Seattle. Cash got an inconsistent but still starting pitcher for him.

Does anyone even know where Austin Jackson is these days? Okay, it’s with the under performing White Sox but the point is still the same. Cash got Curtis Granderson for that guy and all Curtis did was help the Yankees win the World Series. Remember, Jackson was not good enough to play in the bigs in ’09 and could not have helped.

And while it was hard to see Cervelli go, Cash traded from a position of strength, not because he undervalued the player. Mark Melancon is doing well but he was traded after unsuccessful tryouts. Plus, he was traded for Justin Wilson and that trade just keeps on giving. It is hard to think of any players whom Cash traded away who have had the start of Gary Sanchez. Guys like Bone were a long time ago and a different GM.

Clearly, Cash was always going to keep the best players for the Yankees and now we can see that.

Poise Counts

And look at the players who have come up. They are fully-developed. They are ready to get their shots. I am not saying they are all good players who will stick in the majors. No, the point is that they do not look over-matched. They seem as prepared to play as they can be and now it is up to them.

And they seem to have that all-important quality: character. Remember that Sanchez was kept down in the minors due to his lack of judgment. And this was after Jorge left and Cash knew Sanchez’ bat was big league ready. Instead, Sanchez was kept at Double A longer than his on-field skills dictated.

I want to root for good guys like the boys on those ’90s teams, so I applauded the decision then. The results deserve a standing ovation. Most of that applause is for Sanchez but there is still relfected glory there for Cashman.

We once rooted not just for great players but for good men. Men like Jeter, Williams, O’Neil and Rivera. It looks like whichever players do make it, we will be proud they are Yankees.

Cash has fulfilled the mission of overseeing the drafting and development of young Yankees players.

All of these factors combined have changed minds. Let me echo the thoughts from, and for, a far greater man and a far more important situation. Yes, there were times in our struggles when I questioned him. There were times I was impatient. To be sure, he was wounded in the house of his friends. But now, as we have been (partially) brought through the struggles, only now can we evaluate the man.

The play of Gary Sanchez, along with these other important pieces of evidence, has changed how people think about Cash.

No Crying In Yankees Baseball

The final impact, though, has set a new and difficult bar. I am not talking about the start Sanchez is having. While it is magnifying the normal struggles of players who come up—Judge and Austin—those struggles will soon be forgotten. If the other two do well, we will all forget their early days. Pop quiz: what was Jorge’s BA in his first three weeks? Yeah, I don’t know either. That’s the point. The same is true if they both wash out. Pop quiz: what was Homer Bush’s OBP?

Next: Which Yanks Farm Team Has the Most Talent?

No, the new standard is making Hal Steinbrenner get emotional. He admitted that he got choked up the first time he watched the new guys play. That is no small feat. He looks like a man who, instead of crying when he was slapped on the behind by the doctor, calculated the cost of that slap and if the hospital would have been better off bringing in a less-expensive relief slapper.

This, then, is my final message to future Yankees’ players now in the minors. Don’t upack your bags If you cannot make Hal cry the first time you play. And no cheating. You cannot mention the 2004 Red Sox just to accomplish the goal. Great, now I want to cry.

Gary Sanchez did not accomplish all of this by himself. But his early Yankees success is bringing it all into high relief. I will wait until my next article to put him in the Hall of Fame.