The official end of Joey Gallo’s Yankee tenure appears to be on the horizon. The MLB trade deadline is next week, and the organization has already found a new left-handed outfielder in Andrew Benintendi.
While Gallo may be wearing a different uniform in the near future, he knows he’ll be thinking about his time in New York for the rest of his life.
“Every time I see a Yankees hat, every time I see a Yankees jersey, it’s something I have to understand,” Gallo said Thursday at Yankee Stadium. “I didn’t play as well as a Yankee. I wish I had.
Gallo is hitting .159/.282/.339 with 12 home runs this season and has gone from an outfielder to a bench player with a ticket out of the Bronx, though the timing and next destination are not yet known. In 139 games for the Yankees last calendar year, Gallo hit .159/.291/.368 for a .660 OPS, a significant dip from his .211/.833 OPS in seven years with the Rangers. .336/497 for them.
When the Yankees acquired Gallon, they had a big enough hit rate to understand that the player they received was offensively erratic, defensively stout and had a strikeout that was hard to watch even when they were pitching at star level. Half in 2021. This is who Gallo is: He has an upper swing that leads to pitchers, he finds ways to use his low-contact profile regularly, and he’s a left-handed puller every season.
Gallo is a player with many statistical idiosyncrasies. This season, his contact rate and pitch rate are no different than previous years, and when he does make contact, he is hitting the ball hard. But his barrel rate and overall exit velocity numbers are down significantly, and the results aren’t showing up in terms of the power he can generate when he hits the ball.
“When I see my numbers, I feel like I played better than that,” Gallo said. “There are two things mechanically that I think I would have been better at controlling. Baseball is a strange game. You’re doing something a little bit wrong, and you start doing it every day in baseball, and it becomes a habit you don’t recognize. I feel something here is out of rhythm, out of rhythm.
Gallo said Thursday that he doesn’t know exactly what “rock bottom” is like in a baseball sense, but that in New York “it’s probably close to my experiences in the major leagues.” With the possibility of a move out of the Bronx next week, Gallo appeared in a better headspace than he did in early June when, when asked about the underlying issues that led to his consistently poor results, he replied: “I’m just not good enough.”
The question “What happened to Joey Gallo in New York” is not adequately answered in the course of mechanical repair. It’s been a tough mental year for Gallo, and that seems to show in numbers more than any little mechanical quirk.
“I think it’s a little combination,” manager Aaron Boone said earlier this week. “I think he tried to mechanically do some things that didn’t quite click for him. And also, I think he bore the brunt of the fight here. I think he carried that burden.
“It’s a tough place not to play well,” Gallo said of New York. “It’s tough to deal with, and at the end of the day you want to make the fans happy and proud. So when you consistently get vague feedback from them, it’s tough. It doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. But it’s something I have to learn, and I see it as part of growing as a person and as a player.
Gallo came from Texas to New York to be a star on an underachieving team, playing in front of a star that no one else had, and with local talent, they gave him the grace and finally they saw a few productive seasons on his end. During his last year with the Yankees, Gallo said he felt pressure to be “that guy” to Rangers fans, and rewarded his efforts with patience and admiration.
Gallo knows himself as a player. He understands that his contact skills are far below league-standard, and he finds it necessary to add some value to things like baserunning and defense to help make up for his consistently low batting average. He knows his regular season hitting stats are often skewed by two scorched-earth hot streaks, the likes of which he hasn’t let go once since coming to New York.
But with Gallo’s understanding of his own game and his relationship with the fans in Texas, who he feels he can understand, the move to New York seems naive about how his shortcomings will be perceived in this market, and in this case .
Yankees fans mostly didn’t follow Gallo closely during his time with the Rangers. He was a hot name on the trade market last year, and recently made a trip to the All-Star Game when he was traded to the Yankees. There’s a difference between understanding that Gallo is a swing-and-miss type of player—Yankees fans might look like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton—and realizing the high level of violence that Gallo brings and putting up with a lot of hopeless at-bats to hit a homering hot streak.
The amount of negative feedback Gallo received as a Yankee was evident at times by rolling his eyes and straining. “I wish he would play better, but I’m still going to try to see him play hard,” said Gallo, who was asked to step into the shoes of the fans who pay to see him take four at-bats a night.
He added: “I understand the feedback I received. This was not what was expected when I sold here.
Gallo is now trying to grow as a player wrestling in New York.
But while he hopes to use his experiences in New York to deflect criticism in the future, the reality is that the feedback correlates with his poor results.
“I feel really bad,” Gallo said. It’s something I really have to live with for the rest of my life. It will be hard. I didn’t play well, I didn’t live up to my expectations. And that’s a tough pill to swallow.
(Top photo: Dustin Satloff / Getty Images)