Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em – Catchers

As I sit here on Wednesday morning, I’m sipping my second cup of coffee and thinking back on what an entertaining World Series we just watched between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. Game Three’s 18 inning marathon won by LA and Saturday night’s back and forth see-saw game in Game Four, eventually won by Boston have made this series a classic — the many antics by Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado not withstanding.

While the city of Boston watched the Red Sox victory parade today, the rest of Major League Baseball teams are sorting out what went wrong in 2018 and planning ahead for 2019. The New York Yankees and their front office are doing the same thing.

In the third installment of “Yankees Take ’em or Trash ’em”, we will take a look at the team’s catchers. Let’s get started!

Gary Sanchez – (.186, 18 HR, 53 RBI) Good Lord. Sanchez went from runner up for AL Rookie of the Year (in less than half a season, no less), to All Star in 2017 to the outhouse in 2018. If you are looking for a positive, the Kraken walked six more times than he did in 2017 despite 150 less plate appearances. I guess that’s a good thing, considering his average dropped 90 points to an anemic .186 on the season. Gary just never seemed to get into a groove as he did in 2016 and ’17. His defense behind the plate went from bad in 2017 to worse in ’18. He allowed two more passed balls (league leading 18) than he did in 2017, despite playing in 28 less games. Sanchez threw out 30% of base stealers, down from 38% and 41% from 2017 and ’16, respectively. He got crossed up with his pitcher more times than I could count because he couldn’t remember what pitch he called and basically seemed disinterested back there. Sanchez missed a bunch of time on two different occasions with right groin strains, which may have played a small role in his regression.

This game-ending play from July stands out. Yankees were down a run in Tampa, and Gary loafed down the line and was easily thrown out. Although he ended up on the disabled list the next day, he admitted he needed to run harder.

I think a change of scenery would be good for both Sanchez and the Yankees both. I think he needs some kind of wake-up call. The Miami Marlins are always looking to shed payroll. With New York possibly thinking of offering the aforementioned Manny Machado a contract, it’s not optimal to have two players known for loafing in the same lineup. Perhaps Yankees GM Brian Cashman could whip together a package to land fellow catcher JT Realmuto, who wants to be traded? Sanchez has more team control at a lower price, which would suit Marlins owner Derek Jeter.

Trash him (Meaning trade him).

Austin Romine – (.244, 10 HR, 42 RBI) Romine played quite a bit in 2018, with starter Gary Sanchez sidelined two separate times with a strained groin. He did what he always does, bringing his lunch-pail and goes to work. In 265 total plate appearances (close to half a season’s worth for a full-time starter), Romine knocked ten balls over the fence and drove in 42 runs. He had four games of three hits and several other games here he had two hits. As the season wore on (hey, catchers get banged-up), his average started dropping through August and September. Romine earns his money off the field and on, being a very good defensive catcher and mentoring Gary Sanchez and most importantly, working with and having the respect of the pitching staff. Dollar for dollar, the Yankees are getting their money’s worth.

Take him.

Kyle Higashioka – (.167, 3 HR, 6 RBI) Drafted by the Yankees way back in 2008, the 28 year old Higashioka was recalled by New York on both occasions when Sanchez was injured. He got his first major league hit on July 1 at Yankee Stadium, when he hammered a no-doubter down the left-field line into the second deck off Red Sox starter David Price in the bottom of the 4th inning.

That was probably his most memorable moment of 2018, as he ended the season with more strikeouts (16) than hits (12). Historically, the “Higster” has never been a good hitter (.202 average at Triple-A Scranton in 2018), and is minor league filler. I wish for him to do well, but spots on the “40 man” are valuable and I think the Yankees are better suited to move on with younger talent.

Trash him.

In our next installment of Yankees “Take ’em or Trash ’em”, we will whip it around the horn, covering the infielders. See you then! 👋🏼

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Ronald Acuña Jr, Jose Ureña and a Beanball Memory

 

Atlanta Braves rookie sensation Ronald Acuña, Jr. was hit on the first pitch Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Ureña threw in Wednesday night’s game at SunTrust Park. Acuña had been wearing out Marlins pitching lately (and almost ALL pitching), and it appeared that Ureña wanted to make a statement. That pitch resulted in Ureña’s ejection, Acuña’s eventual removal (Xrays were negative), and collective panic on Twitter.

 

Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte hopped out of the dugout and both benches cleared, with lots of jawing. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and the game resumed, minus Ureña and Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, who were ejected after the altercation. Braves 1st baseman Freddie Freeman rightfully described Ureña’s pitch as gutless.

 

With this happening on the Marlins’ first pitch of the game in Atlanta, it brought back a very vivid memory for me of another game in Atlanta that occurred almost 34 years ago to this day. On August 12, 1984, the Braves and San Diego Padres played a game, airing on “super-channel” TBS, that would go down in infamy as one of the ugliest brawls (as in plural!) in major league history. I was only 13 years old at the time, but I remember this vividly because the game was simply insane.

Pascual Perez was Atlanta’s starting pitcher on this day. Before I continue, I would like to give you a little background on Perez. He tended to be very demonstrative on the mound and was widely known as a hot-dog. The New York Times‘ Richard Sandomir (@RichSandomir on Twitter) wrote a piece on Perez shortly after the former pitcher was killed in late 2012 in a robbery at his home in the Dominican Republic. He detailed how Perez was late for his own start in 1982, because he was lost on I-285 and couldn’t find Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. In the same piece by Sandomir, YES Network’s Jack Curry properly describes Perez as a guy who hops around the mound “as if he has a pesky mosquito in his uniform pants”.

On that day in August, 1984, Perez drilled Padres lead-off hitter Alan Wiggins square in the back on the first pitch of the game. Wiggins was erased in the next at bat when Padres Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn hit into a double-play. Pascual came to bat in the bottom of the second inning against Ed Whitson, who promptly sailed a pitch behind him, signalling his displeasure at him for nailing Wiggins the previous inning. Perez came to bat again in the bottom of the 4th and 6th innings, with both Whitson and reliever Greg Booker throwing at him, (and missing him) each resulting in skirmishes and the ejections of both pitchers.

For some insane reason that only then-Braves manager Joe Torre knows, Pascual Perez was again sent to bat in the bottom of the 8th inning. San Diego lefty Craig Lefferts finally drilled him and all hell broke loose. Players from both sides flew out of their dugouts, haymakers were thrown, bodies were flying, and reserve player Champ Summers ran toward the Braves dugout where Perez was, only to be met by Bob Horner.

Champ Summers Bob Horner

Atlanta’s 3rd baseman Horner, on the disabled list with a broken right wrist (if you look carefully, you can see a cast), wasn’t having any of it. Adding to an already insane scene, five fans ended up being arrested for getting involved, including the guy throwing his full beer on Champ Summers from atop the Braves dugout. Ed Whitson, no stranger to fighting (think Billy Martin), reappeared in his team’s dugout, shirtless and all.

Shirtless Ed Whitson

When play finally resumed, Joe Torre wisely had Brad Komminsk pinch-run for Perez, who went to the safety of the Braves clubhouse. But the fireworks weren’t quite done. In the top of the 9th, Atlanta’s Donnie Moore drilled Graig Nettles in the back. Nettles, in his first year in San Diego after a long career with the Yankees, wheeled around and charged Moore, who promptly side-stepped him and planted his glove in his face. The benches cleared once again, although it was relatively brief compared to the scene the previous half-inning. Gene Garber came in to finish the game, which the Braves won, 5-3. The detailed chronicle by Jason Foster of the Sporting News can be found here.

Yesterday’s Braves/Marlins game doesn’t compare to the game back in 1984, and today’s umpires and managers wouldn’t let a game get away the way that one did. But I don’t think the festivities between Atlanta and Miami are done yet. Players today police themselves similarly to players of yesteryear, and it’s hard to imagine what happened to Ronald Acuña, Jr. would go unanswered. This is something to stay tuned into.


 

**UPDATE** — 8/16/2018

This afternoon, MLB announced that Jose Ureña was handed a six game suspension for hitting Ronald Acuña, Jr.

 

Aaaaaand naturally Ureña is expected to appeal said suspension. Courtesy of Marlins beat writer Clark Spencer.

Stay tuned!