Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez reflects on his rough 2020 season: 'That wasn't me'

·3 min read
Gary Sanchez dejected after striking out
Gary Sanchez dejected after striking out

Gary Sanchez notoriously struggled last season. Although the regular season was just over one-third of a normal MLB season, it was by far the worst campaign of his career.

Despite his 10 home runs being the second-most among catchers, behind only J.T. Realmuto, he hit .147 with a .253 on-base percentage, both ranking last among catchers who played in over 35 games. His 64 strikeouts were also the most by any catcher in the big leagues.

Sanchez feels that the 2020 season was an anomaly.

"It just wasn't me. That 2020 thing, that wasn't me," Sanchez told ESPN's Marly Rivera. "It was a bad year. 

"And it wasn't a year; it was 60 days. Manny Ramirez once told me that players like us make their season in two months. But I'm not going to make any excuses. It's time to move on and focus on next year."

He could very much be right - since 2016, his .824 OPS, .503 slugging percentage, and 115 home runs rank at the top of all MLB catchers. Even with a .200 batting average since 2018, the third-worst among catchers with 200-plus games played, his 62 homers are still the most by any catcher, while his .453 slugging percentage ranks fifth.

But his struggles were so bad, that the Yankees couldn't take any more risks, and put Kyle Higashioka behind the plate as the full-time catcher in the postseason. Sanchez had just nine plate appearances (with four strikeouts), while Higashioka slashed .278/.316/.444 in his 19 plate appearances.

"I didn't know why I wasn't playing," Sanchez said, whose defensive struggles continued. "In the regular season, when they sat me down, they told me they were going to give me two days or three days to get myself back together again. ... When the playoffs came around, when they benched me the first time, I understood that I was no longer catching the pitcher who was going to pitch that day (Gerrit Cole), which started during the regular season. ... After almost a week without playing... I said to myself, 'What happened here?'"

Sanchez told Rivera that he and manager Aaron Boone have since spoken about the issue, but he would have liked an explanation from the team.

"What crossed my mind was that I didn't know what was going on. ...I would have liked someone to tell me, 'This is what's happening -- this and that,' and one has to understand and accept that as a man. You focus in that you have to improve this and that. But no one explained to me why.," Sanchez said.

Given his struggles, Sanchez's name has circulated around the trade rumor mill, but he says he is focused on next season.

"You have to show who you are with action," Sanchez said. "When 2021 is here, and I am doing my job, that will speak for itself. The only thing that matters to me is winning a championship. What I have to do is improve, keep working.