A little over a month ago, the thought of Gary Sanchez being mentioned as a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year would have been an outrageous suggestion.
In fact, it appeared the much-maligned Yankees catcher would find himself more likely to be a candidate to be designated for assignment.
For the first month and change of 2021, Gary Sanchez looked like the same player we saw in 2020.
That was not a good thing.
Sanchez’s performance at the plate was so problematic, the Yankees relegated him to the backup role behind journeyman catcher Kyle Higashioka.
Gary Sanchez was one step away from becoming a former Yankee and was basically left for dead by the entire fan base.
Rightfully so. Sanchez was a promising catching phenom in 2016 and 2017. He was a two-time All-Star, but always faced tons of scrutiny because of his lackluster defense behind the plate.
The problem Sanchez ran into in 2020 and for the first month-and-a-half of 2021 is that his offense was nowhere close to what it used to be.
I don’t know if it was the benching or the reality of his contractual situation, but in late May something changed in Gary Sanchez.
He eliminated the dopey leg kick that lengthened his swing. He also shortened up and focused on doing a far better job of making contact.
Slowly but surely, the Yankees started to see the results of a player who turned a corner.
Now in the middle of June, we can say that Sanchez has experienced a career renaissance.
Instead of being the guy you dreaded seeing at the plate in a big situation, he has become the guy you’re dying to see up with the game on the line.
Over the last month, Sanchez has hit .310 with six home runs, knocking in 14 runs in the process.
His performance over the last six weeks has shockingly put him in a position to be an All-Star in 2021.
I’ve always defended the Yankees sticking by Gary Sanchez over the last few seasons. I may have been one of the last apologists, but the talent was always undeniable.
The Yankees have doubled and tripled down on Sanchez over the last few seasons, and over the last month he has made them look smart for doing so.
I hope that these newfound adjustments continue the career turnaround for one of the most polarizing Yankees over the last 20-plus years.