It’s time for Sonny Gray to grow up. A big part of that process will be learning to focus on his future rather than his Yankees past.
No cogent argument can be made that claims Sonny Gray’s tenure with the Yankees was anything other than a disaster for all parties. His career took a sharp nose dive after achieving success in Oakland and he certainly didn’t help New York achieve any meaningful success. The former Vanderbilt star should be embracing his new opportunities with the Reds with every fiber of his being.
Instead, he seems fixated on making excuses for his failures in the Bronx. Gray went on a mini-rant to The Athletic about the Yankees’ insistence that he use his slider more. By the pitcher’s own admission, he “can’t command his slider that well.” By Gray’s logic, the urging of Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild for Gray to use his slider too often got him into negative counts which significantly hampered his ability to get hitters out on a regular basis.
The numbers regarding Gray’s slider usage and performance with the slider with the Yankees don’t really back up his claims. He did throw the pitch more often after coming over from Oakland, but the usage percentage only increased from 14.02 to 16.26%. If Rothschild was urging him to use the pitch more often he wasn’t all that successful.
Even more damning for Gray’s argument is the success he enjoyed in pinstripes when throwing the slider. Batters hit for a paltry average of .116 with a weak slugging percentage of just .285 during his time with the Yankees. It’s fair to wonder if the pitch got him into some negative counts, but it’s not as if his sliders were pounded when he did coax hitters into offering at them.
The usage of his slider also does nothing to explain the pronounced home/road splits that Gray put up last season. He was a quality starter away from Yankee Stadium, but he was atrocious in his home ball park. That would seem to indicate a mental issue instead of a technical matter of pitch selection.
If Gray really wants to get his career back on track, he needs to do his best to forget about his time in New York altogether. Things didn’t work out there, and there’s nothing he can do to change that now. What he can do, is spend his time and energy focusing on what he can do to help the Reds win ball games in 2019.
No one in Cincinnati cares about why things didn’t work out in New York unless it sheds light on how he can pitch better this season. Nothing about that requires Gray to take shots at the Yankees in the media. That’s only going to acquire more media scrutiny for a player who doesn’t seem to handle that sort of pressure very well.
The Yankees have moved on from Gray, and it’s time for him to do the same. It’s his only chance to reclaim the form that made him such a valuable player in Oakland. Every second he spends thinking or talking about the Yankees, is wasted motion for a guy who needs to be 100% focused on saving his career with the Reds.