Monday, August 18, 2014

The Baseball Story of...Freddy Sanchez

This is a new series I'm going to try to run with for a little while. I'm not sure how it's going to play out, but it seemed like an interesting idea, so I figured I'd give it a shot. If it goes well, I'll do more. If not, this'll probably be the last one you see.

The rules of "The Baseball Story of..." will be as follows:
  1. The player can't be a Hall of Famer. They can be players who were good for a stretch, but if a player looks like he has any chance at making the Hall of Fame, he's ineligible for this series.
  2. The player has to have won something. Whether it's a Cy Young, a home run title, or a World Series MVP, the guy has to have been noteworthy at some point. I'll bold the mention of it in the article, so you can see it at a glance.

A friend and I were reminiscing about old trades in our fantasy baseball league, and he reminded me of a trade that centered around Freddy Sanchez for Hanley Ramirez. While Hanley's career has been up and down, he's still very relevant in fantasy circles. But Freddy Sanchez, I had completely forgotten about. So, I did a little research, and with that completed, here and now, I give you:

The Baseball Story of Freddy Sanchez.

Boston Red Sox

Sanchez began his career in the Red Sox organization. He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 30th round out of high school, but elected not to sign. After a college career at three different schools (culminating at Oklahoma State), he was again drafted in the 11th round by the BoSox.

If there's one thing you can say for sure about Freddy Sanchez, it's that he was too good for minor league baseball. He hit .288 in low A ball in 2000, and then never dipped below .300 again before making the majors. Sanchez didn't have it quite so easy in the big leagues though. In two brief stints with the Red Sox, he hit just .220 with only a pair of doubles and zero homers in 52 plate appearances. Luckily that wasn't the end of his story, because the Steel City saw something they liked.

Pittsburgh Pirates

In the summer of 2003, the Red Sox were chasing the Yankees, and they wanted to beef up their rotation. They acquired Jeff Suppan from the Pirates, who was having the best season of his career to-date. He boasted averages of 3.73/1.26, going 10-7 for another bad Pirates team. They sent Sanchez along with Mike Gonzalez to Pittsburgh for Suppan, Brandon Lyon, and Anastacio Martinez. Lyon and Martinez had marginal careers, Martinez's being far more marginal. Suppan was pretty bad for the Red Sox, his ERA jumping nearly two runs after the move to the junior circuit, and he went unused during the 2003 postseason.

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Sanchez spent most of 2003 and 2004 on the disabled list due to an ankle injury. The following season, however, was a coming out party of sorts. Sanchez got into 132 games, playing second, third, and short. He finished third on the team in hits, doubles, and triples, and second on the team in batting average.

Sanchez became a national story in 2006. He won the NL batting title at .344, and tied with Grady Sizemore to lead the majors with 53 doubles. He managed to make the All-Star team that year as a reserve. He also received 5 vote points in the NL MVP race, putting him just 383 points behind winner Ryan Howard (come on, you had to expect me to troll a little).

Sanchez continued a similar level of production for the next few years. He made two more All-Star teams with Pittsburgh, in 2007 and 2009. Later in 2009, the Giants were hurting at second base. They'd tried Emmanuel Burriss, Matt Downs, and Kevin Frandsen, but they batted a combined .210 that season. They just needed someone who wasn't a drag on their offense. So...

San Francisco Giants

...they traded minor leaguer Tim Alderson to the Pirates for Sanchez. Some Giants fans hated this trade apparently, though the content of that blog post makes me think it was irrational (a guy who has trouble striking out batters in the minors doesn't project to be a particularly good major leaguer). Alderson was a first round pick in 2007, but he'd yet to blow people away in the minors, and as I mentioned above, the Giants were a dead zone at second base.

Sanchez hit .284 the rest of the way with San Francisco, though he failed to display much pop; he had only two extra-base hits in his 25 games with the Giants in 2009. The next year was more of the same for Sanchez, though he was able to crank a few more doubles, more along his career pace. He was by no means vital, but he was an everyday player for a team that would eventually go on to win the World Series, putting a bow on a solid career so far.

Unfortunately for Sanchez, that title did somewhat put a bow on his career. He suffered a serious shoulder injury in 2011 diving for a ground ball. After attempting to rehab it for about 8 weeks, he eventually decided to get season-ending surgery. Sanchez was hitting .289 at the time.

Freddy started 2012 still on the disabled list, and just before the All-Star break, Sanchez underwent back surgery, which again ended his season, and eventually his career. He was granted free agency at the end of the season, and hasn't played since.

The most recent news on him was in January of this year, when he stated that he hadn't officially retired from baseball yet, and was still open to the possibility of coming back. While I wouldn't hold out much hope for that, and despite the fact that Sanchez played mostly for two teams I don't really care for, I hold no ill will towards Freddy, and wish him the best.

Final (?) Statistics
Career batting average: .297
Career runs: 434
Career hits: 1,012
Career doubles: 215
Career home runs: 48
Career earnings: $32,117,000

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