Thursday, August 25, 2016

Is Gary Sanchez toying with a Yankee curse?

For most of an inning yesterday, John and Suzyn painted a CertaPerfect portrait of next year's incredible Yankee lineup, when the mighty Greg Bird hits behind "Mr. Superlative," Gary Sanchez. Two immortal sluggers, back to back. It'll be Ruth-Gehrig... Mantle-Maris... Jackson-Munson... Giambino-Rodriguez... Sanchez-Bird... Yogi vu, all over again.

They didn't mention Kevin Maas. Nor did Shane Spencer's name pop up. Jesus Montero? Nope. And nobody discussed Bird's long road back. They rejoiced over two Ruthian small sample sizes. and I don't blame them. I'll drink that Kool-Aid, if it gets me through September.

But once again, we've seen this movie: Team meets boy, team falls in love, boy stops hitting, silhouettes hauntingly dance across hillside to the existential calling of Death. (It's a Bergman reference, deal with it, motherfucker.)

Let's go to the Internet. First, Kevin Maas, bro of Jason. In 1990 (at age 25) Maas hit 21 HRs in 79 games, becoming an immediate Yankee heart throb, a Rob Lowe lookalike. The next year, he hit 23, but batted just .220. (Today, those are Tex and McCann numbers on the Indian Point Power Report.) Three years later, Maas was gone. Over his career, he hit 65 HRs and batted .230. He's also remembered as the namesake for a great Yankee fan site, which ran between 2005 and 2014.

In 1998, Shane Spencer arrived (at age 26). He hit 10 HRs in 27 games - .373 average - then hit 2 more against Texas in the playoffs. Joe Buck gushingly compared him to Roy Hobbs in The Natural. Then came the market correction. In the following years, Shane hit 8, then 9, then 10. He kept getting hurt, and he partied too much. Over seven years, he hit 59 HRs, batted .262. He never got a website, but he'll always be remembered for one September.

In 2011 (at age 21), Jesus Montero ascendeth unto NYC, following four years of nonstop hype. Jesus hit 4 HRs in 61 at bats, batting .328. They called him the savior, then traded him for Michael "Pine Tar" Pineda. In his first year in Seattle, Jesus hit 15 HRs and batted .260 - not terrible numbers, just not up to expectations. Next spring, Jesus showed up looking like a gerbil ball, 30 pounds overweight. He was demoted. During a minor league game, a Mariner scout - in an oft-told show of disrespect - sent him an ice cream sandwich. He's now in Toronto's system - still only 26 - with 11 HRs and a .321 average. He's not the next A-Rod, but he could be the next Steve Pearce.

Finally, we have Bird - the latest drug-replacement fantasy of John and Suzyn. Last year (age 22), he hit 11 HRs in 46 games. Then he went under the knife. To make up for lost time, they expect him to play in the Arizona Fall League, which he tore apart two years ago. He's certainly young enough to recover. But we should take nothing for granted.

And now, of course, Sanchez. He is 23. He is crushing the ball and throwing out runners. He has matured as a player, and he could finish the season among the Yankee HR leaders. (The current is still Beltran, with 22.) Damn, this guy sure looks like the real deal.

If something happens to him, if Sanchez turns into another disappointment, I'm calling out the juju gods. I'll be a curse, and we'll have to get on it. As Bojack Horseman once said, "Fool me twice, shame on me. Teach a man to fool me, and he'll fool me for the rest of my life." I'm not sure it applies, but I'm going with it. We need to protect Mr. Superlative.

3 comments:

John M said...

Poor Shane. That guy just couldn't catch a break. He was better than the numbers, but had a way of getting injured just when he got an opportunity to play every day. Too many injuries, too many reasons to party, I guess. I pray to the gods, including Anubis (to go with the Bergman reference), Loki the Trickster and Tlaloc, He Who Makes Things Sprout, that Sanchez is not another Maas or Montero. He doesn't seem to be, but who the hell knows? Maas and Montero didn't seem to be, either.

Perhaps a sacrifice of my 1967 Mickey Mantle three-fingered glove (with the special slot in the back for your index finger) would appease the mighty Odin and ensure a glorious career for the new Boy Wonder...

KD said...

Where have you gone, Shane Spencer?



Shane Spencer Hired As New Hitting/Third Base Coach
Former Yankees Slugger Joins Patriots Staff




Bridgewater, NJ- The Five-Time Atlantic League Champion Somerset Patriots have announced the hiring of Shane Spencer as the team’s new hitting/third base coach.



Spencer played in 538 Major League games, most notably with the New York Yankees from 1998-2002 when the team won three World Series Championships. In September of 1998, Spencer won over Yankees fans for hitting ten home runs, including three grand slams, in just 67 at bats.



In his five seasons with the Yankees, Spencer finished with a .263 batting average, 287 hits, 54 doubles, 43 home runs, and 167 RBI.



"Shane will be a strong coach for the Somerset Patriots and fit the team’s winning tradition," said former Yankees manager Joe Torre. "As a Yankee, Shane was a part of three World Series Champions and contributed in many ways to help our team win. I see him continuing his transition into coaching with much success in Somerset. His Major League time and experience should be an asset that will help the Patriots continue to win games and championships."



Spencer also has Major League experience with the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, and New York Mets. For his Major League career, Spencer has a .262 batting average, 438 hits, 84 doubles, 59 home runs, and 242 RBI.



Following his playing days, Spencer became the hitting coach for Lake Elsinore, the Single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres.



"Shane brings a wealth of knowledge to our staff. His experiences as a player and coach will be extremely valuable in helping us produce a championship caliber team. I very much look forward to working with him towards our common goal," said Brett Jodie, manager of the Somerset Patriots.



Spencer will replace Travis Anderson, who served as the team’s hitting/third base coach since the 2010 season. Anderson will still be actively involved with the Somerset Patriots as a community ambassador for the team. He has decided to focus his attention on his position as baseball instructor at Diamond Nation in Flemington, NJ.

Anonymous said...

THE THING I REMEMBER ABOUT KEVIN MAAS WAS HE HAD A "BOTTLED UP" TYPE OF SWING.....LIKE HE WAS "TIGHT"...AND I CAN'T REMEMBER HIM HITTING THE BALL THE OTHER WAY, NOT EVEN ONCE!, ...... WHAT I SAW WITH BIRD WAS AN EASY LOOKING BUT POWERFUL SWING.....I SAW HOME RUNS OFF LEFTY PITCHERS, RIGHTY PITCHERS, I SAW A FEW HITS TO LEFT FIELD, I SAW HOMERS GO TO RIGHT CENTER, AND CENTER. HE HAD, FROM WHAT I SAW, WAS THE ABILITY TO HIT THE BALL TO ALL FIELDS, WHICH IN TODAY'S GAME WITH THE SHIFTS, IS IMPERATIVE......SAY SOME PRAYERS THAT THIS GUY COMES BACK HEALTHY, AND STAYS HEALTHY.