This would certainly all be a bit easier if Gary Sánchez were still injured for the first Yankees-Twins tilt of 2022, wouldn’t it? We wish him health and well-being, but … it would be an objectively simpler road tilt to swallow if Sánchez were still nursing soreness instead of finding himself at the plate in a litany of pressure situations against the club that raised him.
Instead, there was Sánchez, up as the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the first after the Yankees had sprinted out to a 3-0 lead. There he was again, with runners on first and second and two outs in the third, with New York clinging to a one-run advantage in what was beginning to feel like yet another classic Ryan Ruocco Game in Minnesota. And up stepped El Gary against Lucas Luetge with a runner on first and nobody out in a 5-4 game in the fifth.
In all three of these situations, by strikeout looking or by liner, Sánchez was retired. The Twins fell in this particular series opener because the Yankees did not allow their former catcher to get the last laugh in three important hinge at-bats, eventually blowing the doors off in the late innings yet again.
With a few clutch swings from Sánchez, though, this tone-setter could’ve been singing a different tune. New York escaped after doing battle with the 2021 version of Sánchez rather than the one fans fell in love with in 2016, or the one finding his footing in Minnesota by mixing in something he couldn’t do in New York: DH reps.
Is Sánchez performing well in 2022? It’s close; he sports an above-average 109 OPS+ and has been worth 0.5 WAR, but still isn’t playing the way he foretold he could back in 2016-17.
Should Yankee fans be rooting for him to bounce back? Of course, as long as the Bombers are also thriving. In other words, not for the next two days, please.
Yankees have to tiptoe around Gary Sánchez’s revenge vs Minnesota
Not only has Sánchez been occasionally allowed to mash without catching in 2022, but Rocco Baldelli and the first-place Twins have basically made him a part-time backstop. The ex-Yankee has started 24 games at catcher and 19 at DH, hitting 30 points higher (but with three fewer homers) when he’s allowed to sit on the bench and marinate between at-bats.
With runners in scoring position, Sánchez has basically approximated his season averages, hitting ,220, but with an impressive .846 OPS. With men on, his average climbs all the way to .256. Though the surface numbers look middling (again, especially after he set such lofty expectations with his first two seasons in the Bronx), Sánchez has become an effective player again in the AL Central.
That does not mean that such a quasi-bounce back would’ve happened in New York, where the backstop was almost certainly done as an effective everyday catcher.
The Yankees have moved on; Jose Trevino provides expert framing, a surprisingly-potent bat, and the similarly electric “clutch” factor you want out of the ninth man in your nine-man lineup.
Now, all they have to do is escape Wednesday’s and Thursday’s action without Sánchez coming through and further muddying fans’ angry waters.