The Guaranteed Rate Field sod is perhaps the finest in the Majors, thanks to the brilliance of "The Sodfather" Roger Bossard. I'd also contend that it is the most refreshed sod in the Majors as well. And that's due to the handiwork of one Yolmer Sanchez.
What effect does frequent Gatorade showers have on infield grass? I have yet to investigate that, but you can't help but wonder. The 2018 Chicago White Sox season featured four walk-off wins, and each moment was commemorated with gallons of liquid refreshment cascading from an orange cooler hoisted by Sánchez.
The first, and perhaps most iconic shower happened on May 3 after Trayce Thompson deposited an Addison Reed offering into the left field stands. Right as Thompson was about to cross home plate, Sánchez stepped right in his path, stopped, looked at him, then proceeded to dump the contents of the cooler over his own head. Due to the color of the beverage, I'd like to report that it was either glacier cherry or white lightning Gatorade… but most likely it was water.
Originally signed May 6, 2009 (at age 16), the 2018 season was the 10th in the White Sox organization for Yolmer Sánchez. How long ago was that? Well, the White Sox lineup the next day (they were off the day Sánchez was signed) looked like this:
2B Chris Getz
3B Josh Fields
LF Carlos Quentin
DH Jim Thome
RF Jermaine Dye
1B Paul Konerko
C A.J. Pierzynski
SS Jayson Nix
CF Scott Podsednik
P Mark Buehrle
So that's a little perspective on how long he has been here. Entering the 2013 season, Sánchez was the #3 prospect in the White Sox system, behind Courtney Hawkins and Trayce Thompson, coming off a season where he hit .323/.378/.403 across three levels. There was still a long way to go before he'd be the player we all know today.
This past August 10, the White Sox were locked up in a scoreless tie with the Indians entering the bottom of the 9th inning. Daniel Palka led off the inning, having gone 0 for 3 with 3 strikeouts to that point. Our Chuck Garfien made reference to it in the game broadcast, then Palka made Chuck look like a genius by hitting a laser into the left field stands to give the White Sox a 1-0 win. It was the second time in White Sox history they broke a scoreless tie with a walkoff home run. Palka rounded third and headed for home, and as third base coach Nick Capra congratulated him, Yolmer Sánchez appeared with his trusty orange cooler. Perhaps Yolmer didn't want to make the burly Palka angry, because he unleashed a deluge of what appeared to be lemon-lime flavored refreshment on Capra instead. By now, whenever there was a big moment, it was imperative to keep an eye out for Sánchez if you had any hope to remain dry.
When spring training 2017 rolled around, Carlos Sánchez became Yolmer Sánchez. It was simply a matter of going by his given first name – which in its entirety is Yolmer Carlos Javier Sánchez Yanez. At the time, he was working just to make the Major League roster, and it wasn't a given. He wanted a new start, and we had no idea what exactly was in a name. But looking back at it, maybe there was something to it all along.
MLB career – by name
Carlos Sánchez 201 games .224/.261/.330 9 HR 0.4 WAR
Yolmer Sánchez 296 games .253/.312/.390 20 HR 6.1 WAR
We were introduced to Yolmer in 2017, and he had a breakout year. He hit an uncharacteristic 12 home runs, including a leadoff blast in Tampa Bay that seemed like an optical illusion. Did it even leave the park? Did it hit off the catwalk at Tropicana Field? Who cares. It was ruled a home run and that was that.
Yolmer struck again for the third time in 2018 on September 3. Nicky Delmonico hit a leadoff home run and the White Sox led most of the game 1-0, but a pair of late solo home runs put the Tigers ahead 2-1 entering the bottom of the 9th. Daniel Palka homered to tie the game, then after a Welington Castillo single, Matt Davidson hit a 2-run blast to win it 4-2.
While there was a crowd at home plate celebrating the game-winner, Sánchez darted out of the dugout and on the run doused himself with what looked like it might be fruit punch flavor or at least something red. Yolmer really started coming into his own as far as variety was concerned. Different flavors each time. Different recipients of the Gatorade (or water) baths, which he was able to administer standing still or on the run. It was truly becoming an art form.
Speaking of an art form, have you even seen Yolmer Sánchez hit a triple? He has 20 of them in his MLB career… but 18 of those have come in the past two seasons. Very impressive, as the triple has become more and more of a rarity in Major League Baseball. How about this: in each of the last two seasons, Yolmer has out-tripled a MLB team!
2017 Yolmer Sánchez hit 8 triples The Toronto Blue Jays hit 5
2018 Yolmer Sánchez hit 10 triples The St. Louis Cardinals hit 9
Combined, Sánchez has 18 triples over the last two seasons… most in the American League over that span. Three more than the next highest total (Nick Castellanos – 15).
In the penultimate home game of 2018, on September 25, the stage was set for one last chance to dispense mass quantities of thirst quenching liquids upon one or more persons. This time it wasn't a home run, but a Daniel Palka walkoff single. And scoring the winning run? Yolmer himself.
Sánchez didn't get an opportunity to douse anyone right away. The suspense built. Then while Steve Stone & Jason Benetti finished wrapping up the broadcast, the camera cut down to the field for the postgame interview where Our Chuck Garfien was promptly drenched in… water (definitely water. Chuck told me so). Steve Stone quipped that Chuck was "a drowned rat." It was a fine moment.
I wish I had statistics on how many millileters, liters, or gallons of liquids Yolmer dumped over the course of the season, but I don't. So I'll say this: Yolmer's value goes beyond the ability to saturate soil with a variety of refreshments. He's also a pretty good baseball player. Consider that in 2017, Sánchez compiled 3.5 wins above replacement (WAR) according to Baseball-Reference.com, compared to 3.4 by Manny Machado. And if you combine 2017-18, he stacks up with some very notable players:
Baseball-Reference WAR (2017-18)
Yolmer Sánchez 6.1
Xander Bogaerts 6.0
Bryce Harper 6.0
Khris Davis 5.5
Of course, WAR is one of many tools to use to measure player performance, but Yolmer stacks up well here. Most of his value stems from his defense, and he has been very good at two positions – second and third base. Even if he never becomes a huge offensive star, Sánchez is a valuable player for the White Sox.
And a master of irrigation.