Watch CBS News

Palladino: Sanchez's Decision To Skip WBC Shows He's All In

By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

No matter how Gary Sanchez performs this year, give him credit for staying focused and keeping his eye on the task before him.

Earlier this week, the Dominican catcher backed out of the World Baseball Classic, a silly little exercise in globalization that runs this year from March 6-22. He originally had committed to play for his home country but, whether by conscience or some heavy whispering from members of the Yankees' hierarchy, he decided working with his teammates in spring training proved the better option.

However it came about, good move. In backing out, he indicated to the people who sign his paycheck that he's all in for 2017. That alone should bring smiles to the faces of Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi.

And it's not like he won't have plenty to keep him occupied starting Tuesday, when pitchers and catchers report to Tampa.

LISTEN: Brian Cashman Says Young Yankees Can Be Contenders This Season

Full disclosure here: This typist doesn't particularly like the WBC. Actually, he wishes it would just go away, or at least change the dates of the once-every-four-year competition. If the world can't live without an international tournament, at least wait until after the World Series to play it.

Having it smack in the middle of spring training not only takes highly paid players away from their primary purpose -- melding with their teammates to produce a successful season -- but puts them at needless risk for injury.

This is exactly what Sanchez has wisely chosen to avoid. Everyone saw what the kid is capable of in his 20-homer, 42-RBI performance over the final 53 games last year. That was good enough to place him second in the Rookie of the Year voting.

But this year is a brand new ballgame for him. He's in charge now, as the Yanks have handed him the starting job. That's a lot of responsibility for someone of limited major league experience. And it's not just the hitting end of it that he needs to get down.

Sanchez will be handling a pitching staff daily, and he'll have to do it without the advice and guidance of a wily veteran like Brian McCann, who was traded to the Astros in November. Sanchez is obviously a smart guy who drew strong reviews for his defense and handling of the staff last year. But that doesn't mean he can afford to chase any glittery objects like the WBC.

Better he should spend his time working with Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Aroldis Chapman and the rest of the staff so everyone is on the same page come Opening Day.

Tanaka, in fact, made a similar decision in declining to pitch for Japan, though his motivation is slightly different. He's headed into an opt-out year of a seven-year contract. An injury to that fragile right arm would certainly harm his chances for a lucrative extension or a big free agent contract.

Still, the effect is the same. Sanchez and Tanaka will spend spring training together. The two major arms who are going to the WBC, Dellin Betances and Luis Severino, might have benefited from similar decisions. Severino especially could use the extra attention as he tries to regain credibility as a starter after a disastrous 2016. And Betances, the setup to Chapman, could certainly afford to get to know Sanchez better, and vice-versa.

As for the hitting end, Sanchez will benefit from the daily grind. Current expectations of him duplicating last year's performance are unrealistic, especially since Sanchez admits he's a slow starter. But at least he'll give himself a chance now as he works with his own hitting coach.

It may be fine for a veteran like Didi Gregarious (Netherlands) to take time out for a competitive nod to his ancestry. But given the responsibilities the Yanks have bestowed upon their young catcher, it's better he sticks close to home.
Besides, if Sanchez fulfills his potential and becomes a Yankees mainstay, he can play in the next Classic in 2021.

For now, at least he gets it.

Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.