Gary Sanchez still cherishes Yankees days even after two years, changing five teams

Ex-Yankees and current Brewers' player Gary Sanchez

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The tenure of Gary Sanchez with the New York Yankees has been a roller coaster ride, marked by flashes of brilliance and stretches of inconsistency. The catcher is still in awe of those days and his love for pinstripes remains an emotive subject even after changing five teams in two years since he had it last.

At 31, Gary Sanchez’s baseball odyssey since leaving the Bronx has taken him across numerous organizations, including the Twins, Giants’ Triple-A squad, Mets, Padres, and now the Brewers. Yet, despite the nomadic journey, the catcher fondly reminisces about his eventful Yankees stint. From bursting onto the scene as a top prospect in 2016 and making two All-Star teams to enduring struggles, falling out of favor, and ultimately being dealt to Minnesota in 2022, Gary Sanchez looks back on his roller-coaster Yankee tenure with warm sentiments.

“There’s always good memories with the Yankees,” he told on Saturday at American Family Field. “The playoffs are ones you certainly always remember, but with the Yankees, it felt like you played 162 playoff games there. Every game, you’re out there to win and you feel it. You feel everyone’s out there trying to accomplish the same mission. It really does feel like 162 playoff games there.”

Despite a limited role as William Contreras’ backup, Gary Sanchez has found opportunities in Milwaukee’s lineup, making six starts as the designated hitter through the team’s first 25 contests. One such occasion was Friday night’s clash against his former club, where he kicked off the sixth inning with a double off Luis Gil. That two-bagger proved pivotal, as Sanchez came around to score the tying run, setting the stage for the Brewers’ dramatic 7-6 extra-inning victory over the Yankees

The pinstriped story of Gary Sanchez

Former player of the New York Yankees Gary Sanchez has been reported on the radar by Red Sox
ohn Munson / NJ Advance Media

Gary Sanchez emerged as a highly regarded Yankees prospect in the early 2010s. While his minor league career was marred by suspensions due to off-field incidents, his raw talent remained undeniable. The ex-Yankees’ exceptional power hitting and strong throwing arm fueled the excitement surrounding him, keeping scouts and the team management optimistic about his future.

In 2015, Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman affectionately dubbed Gary Sanchez “The Kraken,” a moniker that captured the player’s immense potential. He made his much-anticipated major league debut on October 3rd of that year, coinciding with the “Baby Bomber” era – a time when young players like Aaron Judge were making their mark on the Yankees’ organization.

Gary Sanchez proved his mettle right away. In 2016, amidst an unexpected playoff run by the Yankees, he emerged as a key contributor. Despite the team trading away some established veterans, his extraordinary hitting, highlighted by 20 home runs in just 53 games, played a crucial role in keeping the Yankees’ postseason hopes alive.

The following year, Gary Sanchez’s success continued to blossom. He earned the first of his two All-Star selections, solidifying his position as a cornerstone player for the Yankees. His impressive statistics – a .278 batting average, 33 home runs, and 90 RBIs – cemented his status as a formidable force. Gary Sanchez etched his name even deeper in Yankees lore with a memorable two-run double in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Astros. This clutch hit sparked a dramatic comeback, momentarily reigniting memories of the Yankees’ championship glory days.

The puzzling decline

Gary Sanchez at Triple-A Syracuse Mets.
Harry Scull Jr

Gary Sanchez’s 2017 season presented a fascinating dichotomy. While leading the league in passed balls with 16 (a defensive blemish often overshadowed by his offensive prowess), he continued to impress with his hitting. This season exemplified the contrasting narratives surrounding him – a potential superstar with undeniable power but concerning defensive limitations.

Despite missing significant time due to injuries in 2018, Gary Sanchez bounced back strongly in 2019, once again earning an All-Star selection. Although his batting average dipped to .232, he continued to showcase his power with 34 home runs and a respectable .841 OPS.

However, the remainder of the 2019 season hinted at a potential turning point. Injuries resurfaced, and Gary Sanchez’s performance took a sharp decline. In his final 44 games, his batting average plummeted to a concerning .190, with only 11 home runs and a .727 OPS. This drop-off in offensive production, coupled with his ongoing defensive struggles, became a significant source of concern for the Yankees’ organization.

While Gary Sanchez’s defensive prowess was never considered a core strength, his strong throwing arm and game-calling abilities were valued by teammates and pitchers like CC Sabathia and Luis Severino. Some criticized his perceived lack of hustle behind the plate, but teammates and coaches often defended his work ethic, highlighting his dedication during practices and preparation.

As Gary Sanchez’s struggles persisted, the offensive decline became particularly concerning. The reasons behind this downturn remain a mystery, with the Yankees organization grappling to understand the root cause. This lack of clarity adds another layer to the enigma surrounding Gary Sanchez – a player with immense offensive potential who has yet to fully reconcile his defensive shortcomings.

gary-sanchez-new-york-yankees
AP

Gary Sanchez’s journey with the New York Yankees reached its conclusion in March 2022 when he and Gio Urshela were traded to the Minnesota Twins in a package deal for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson, and Ben Rortvedt. Despite stints with the Mets and Padres in 2023, Sanchez, now a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, holds his time in pinstripes close to his heart.

In a pre-game interview at American Family Field before facing his former team on Saturday night, the 31-year-old catcher acknowledged the Yankees’ instrumental role in his career, providing him with the platform to sign at 16 and ultimately make his major league debut with them. Gary Sanchez also fondly reminisced about the strong friendships and connections he built within the Yankees’ clubhouse, highlighting the lasting impact of those relationships.

Even though his days as a Bronx favorite might be over, Gary Sanchez remains appreciative of the Yankees fanbase. He expressed his heartfelt gratitude for their unwavering support throughout his tenure, hoping that some fans continue to follow and cheer him on. There’s no doubt that Yankees fans will remember the electrifying power Gary Sanchez brought to the plate during his time in New York.

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