Judge has become the accommodating, smiling face of the Yankees, blessed with an intriguing back story and a headline-friendly surname. Sanchez is a slightly gruffer presence in the background. Yet in the long run, if he remains healthy, history may well credit Sanchez as the heart and backbone of this exhilarating Yankee Baby Bomber revival.
Judge’s early-season credentials are undeniably of the Ruthian variety. He is leading in all triple crown categories in the American League — with 21 homers, 47 runs batted in and a .344 batting average — and those mammoth arcs off his bat are viscerally thrilling. Still, there is every reason to believe that Sanchez will match Judge’s power numbers over a full career.
Judge has hit 25 homers in a total of 85 major league games, averaging one in every 3.4 contests. Sanchez has 30 home runs in 90 games, a tad better, one in three games. Their minor league numbers were very similar, as well. Sanchez amassed 100 homers in 639 games (one in 6.39 contests) with various farm teams, while Judge struck 56 in 348 games (6.21).
Their parallel power paths may eventually diverge, of course, but there are other factors to consider when comparing the contributions of the two players. Sanchez, 24, mans the most important day-to-day position on the diamond. At catcher, he controls the game and he happens to own a shotgun for an arm. Judge, 25, has shown himself to be an outstanding right fielder with surprising range — but that is simply not the same thing.
We all know it was Thurman Munson, not Reggie Jackson, who stirred the drink back in the 1970s for the Yankees. Fortunately, there is no Reggie-Thurman friction between Judge and Sanchez, who came up through the ranks together and share a genuine affection.
There are two different personalities at play here, however. Judge appears outwardly an innocent young man, eager to please at this point in his career. He is Joe Hardy in “Damn Yankees,” a wide-eyed, gifted stranger in a strange land. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But there is an intangible grit to Sanchez, harking back to Munson and Jorge Posada.
When Sanchez was demoted last week by Joe Girardi from the No. 2 to the No. 6 spot in the lineup, he went on the record saying he deserved the embarrassment. Sanchez had struggled to recover his rhythm after sitting out nearly a month with a strained biceps. “I wasn’t doing my job hitting second,” he said.
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