Time is running out, but Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez still has a chance to make a miserable overall season disappear.
Fans remember big hits and exhilarating plays. Those moments are especially engrained in our memory banks when they occur down the stretch and more so in the postseason. If Sanchez can abruptly change his overall production over the final three-plus weeks of the regular season and be a major contributor to an extended Yankees' run in the postseason, the glory he gained in 2016 and parts of 2017 may return.
It might seem like a long shot to suggest that any positive finish to Sanchez's season can mask the problems he's encountered behind the plate in 2018. Moreover, it could be considered an egregious thought that Sanchez would turn things around defensively after Wednesday night's two passed balls and two wild pitches in a singular inning.
Sanchez's flaws behind the plate are clearly exacerbated by the fact that they seem to come in bunches. Further, passed balls and wild pitches that scoot by Sanchez almost always result in a run being scored either on the immediate play, or as a consequence of runners moving up.
The 25-year-old's defensive liabilities were cast aside by some who believed that the positive he delivered with the bat more than made up for any defensive deficiencies. Sanchez's talent at the plate was once never a question, but a .186 average with a .283 on-base percentage in 300 plate appearances this season have brought to light potential long-term questions.
Despite, the significant downturn, Sanchez has maintained his power stroke hitting 14 doubles and 15 home runs, which account for 59 percent of his hits this year.
The question is whether Sanchez can get back to the spot where his offense is once again so good that his defense is accepted. Better, will Sanchez be able to limit the number of passed balls (even those that he is not crossed up on) and stop more wild pitches while finding his stroke at the plate?
A two-month stretch is not going to quell talk of Sanchez's capability behind the plate. He would have to show extreme improvement over the course of a full season (maybe longer) before anyone would suggest he has completely turned the corner defensively. That said, the chances that he can get into a rhythm as a backstop - he's been back on the field for all of five games since returning from the disabled list - and merely sustain average catching skills are reasonable. Doing as such would provide Sanchez a chance to shift the narrative if his offensive prowess returns.
Sanchez hit the ball hard early in Wednesday night's game, and it finally resulted in a home run in the seventh inning. He had launched a few home runs in his Triple-A rehab appearance, so there is a very good possibility that he is seeing the ball well and that batted balls will drop in more often than they have at this point in the season (Sanchez owns a .191 batting average on balls in play, versus a mark over .300 in his first two big league seasons).
It may be true that Sanchez's future is not as a catcher. However, he presents the Yankees' best chance to win ballgames when he is in the lineup, and in order for that to occur, he has to be catching. At 25, Sanchez has time to continue to develop as a backstop, but for the next several weeks, he doesn't have to be Yadier Molina behind the dish.
Instead, Sanchez has to turn in his best catching effort, while simultaneously generating the offense that helped him burst onto the scene a couple of seasons ago. If that happens and the Yankees win a championship, no one is going to remember the night of September 5, 2018. However, we would vividly recall a dominant Sanchez run that concluded with him raising the Yankees' 28th World Series trophy over his head.
All would be forgiven.