Yankees Talk: Three Former All-Stars Praise Gary Sanchez

Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

While it’s unlikely Gary Sanchez wins the AL Rookie of the Year Award because he only played 53 games, he’s still the talk of the MLB town.

Now that the two Wild Card teams from their respective leagues have been determined (the Blue Jays in the AL and Giants in the NL), the field is set for the final eight teams to compete for a World Series title.

Yet for almost a full two minutes on Wednesday night, TBS analysts Pedro Martinez, Jimmy Rollins, and Gary Sheffield diverted from playoff talk to answer a teleconference question about a rookie catcher that set the baseball world on fire during the months of August and September.

The three former All-Stars (20 Mid-Summer Classics in total) spoke about Sanchez as if he were the second coming of Roy Hobbs. Understandably so–it’s not every day a 23-year-old hits 20 home runs in only 53 games. Actually, it’s never happened before.

“I was really impressed, but not surprised,” said Martinez, the 2015 Hall of Fame inductee. “I thought this kid from the Dominican [would be special] when he was signed as a free agent, and he got a lot of money from the Yankees. Everybody wanted this kid, but you know the powerful franchises are the ones who flex those muscles and drop the money.”

If you remember correctly, the Yankees doled out $3MM to a 16-year-old with questionable defensive skills.

Martinez continued, “I think the Yankees did a great job at waiting for this kid to finally mature as a catcher and also as a hitter and develop his body. His body is huge. He seems to be poised and can handle the pitching staff as well. And his bat really, really surprised me even more. The display of power–he’s always had it.

“As a young kid, he was able to pull the ball and hit it out of the stadium. He played in a big stadium in the Dominican and he used to hit balls out. That’s why the Yankees gave him all the money.

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“And you saw the kind of arm he had. So this is probably a dream come true for the Yankees to be able to build their team around–starting from the catching position. He’s the one who can handle the pitching staff, especially the young pitchers that they’re bringing up.”

Jimmy Rollins, who hasn’t even been out of baseball a full season yet, compared Sanchez’s terrific two-month campaign to what Ryan Howard did for the Phillies when Howard was called up half-way through the 2005 campaign.

“Ryan came up as a big-body guy, a big strong man and he knew how to use it, and that’s what we saw with Sanchez,” said Rollins. “You need that. You need a guy to build around.

“We had a small nucleus, but Ryan was the guy in the middle, and if [Sanchez] can be the guy in the middle and let those youngsters come up–all of a sudden you have a nucleus that can bring you championships.”

As for Sheffield, who knows exactly what it’s like to play in the ravenous New York media market, having spent four years in total in the city that never sleeps (three with the Yankees and one with the Mets) gave a lot of credit to Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman for being unafraid to put his blue chip prospects out on the table in a less than ideal situation.

“They set the stage early on when [Derek] Jeter retired when Mariano [Rivera] retired, Posada [retired],” Sheffield said. “You see those guys just gradually go away. Now can you handle change? The Yankees did the right thing by saying, ‘OK, we’re going to go out here and bring in these young guys and give them a chance. They let A-Rod go. ‘Now let me give some of these [young] guys at-bats and see what they can do.’

“But this [Sanchez] kid came out and said, ‘We’re not out of it. We’re going to win ballgames. And he tried to keep them in it by himself, and he hit a gazillion home runs and now you see the future. They’re coming along just fine.”

Next: Ranking the Best AL East Catchers

My favorite part of the quick yet informative analysis on the Yankees’ record setter was when Martinez, who retired with 219 wins, said that Sanchez reminded him of a young Albert Pujols. That’s one hell of a compliment if you ask me.