Joey Gallo’s best baseball is ahead of him… that’s right I said it!
I’m here to make a case for a Joey Gallo turnaround.
Gallo, in a season to forget, was shipped from one World Series favorite (the Yankees) — where he performed brutally and was mercilessly booed each time he struck out — to another on the opposite coast (the Dodgers).
Perhaps the Dodgers — like the Rays, Brewers, and Padres, who were reportedly interested in the outfielder at the trade deadline — thought they could fix him, or at the very least provide a change of scenery for the slugger in hopes his prodigious power returns.
After all, Gallo slashed .159/.282/.339 in the Bronx, including batting .085 in his final 29 games in pinstripes. His lefty power, which was supposed to result in him frequently depositing balls over Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right, was almost non-existent. In fact, only four of his 12 round trippers came at home.
His walk rate was down; his strikeout rate up. Maybe there’s something in the analytics to suggest that he’ll get better, despite not producing in a lineup that has been the highest-scoring team in baseball.
But here’s the real reason he’ll improve — call it the Dodger Effect.
The Dodgers are the Yankees of the West, though they have more recently appeared in three World Series over the past five years, winning one in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. They’re high profile, in a big market. Gallo couldn’t hack it under the bright lights of New York, New York. But what about laid-back La La Land where the fans’ greatest motivating factor is beating traffic?
There’s a reason for hope in other struggling players blossoming once they put on Dodger blue, also known as Pantone 294. Look no further than Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, and Max Muncy.
Do you remember Turner’s Mets tenure? Or how Taylor wasted away in Seattle before a trade sent him to SoCal? What about Max Muncy’s time with the penny-pinching A’s?
How would you describe their pre-Dodger careers? Ugly. Disappointing. Lackluster.
What about after? They’ve become All-Stars and earned rings.
Taylor went from slashing .240/.296/.296 in three years with the hapless Mariners to .261/.339/.453 in his seven since. He hit a total of zero dingers with Seattle. ZERO. He’s slugged 85 since.
Turner, a key cog during L.A.’s playoff runs, was a .265 hitter with eight homers during his four years in Flushing. And that was in 814 at-bats. Now he’s a career .295 hitter with the Dodgers, having clubbed 151 long balls, hitting a career-high of 27 three times. In the playoffs, Turner has hit 13 round trippers, knocked in 42, and scored 43 runs in 82 games.
The Dodgers altered Turner’s swing by adding a leg kick. With Taylor, it was a complete overhaul that included moving the barrel and a leg kick. With Muncy, a little fine-tuning with a bend and a leg kick. Whatever the case, the Dodgers knew how to fix them.
Muncy went from a total of five HRs in two years in Oakland to smashing 35 in each of his first two seasons in L.A. He’s up to 128 for his career.
Gallo is a bit of a different story. Before his trade to N.Y., Pico De Gallo was a two-time All-Star, who had hit 145 home runs across 568 games with the Rangers. His season high was 41 in 2017, and he followed that up with 40 a year later.
But his Yankee tenure was his lowest of lows. Though he grew up a Yankee fan, he was among a group that just can’t seem to handle the Bronx — a hitter’s version of Ed Whitson, Hideki Irabu, Sonny Gray, A.J. Burnett, etc.
“I think it’s a product of the culture we have around here, the environment. The way everyone is treated,” Turner told Bleacher Report after Muncy’s rise to stardom.
Maybe with less of a microscope on him, Gallo could get his groove back.
Getting Gallo is far from the splash that the Padres made by acquiring Juan Soto (and Josh Bell), but he could be one of the most important players come playoff time.
We’ve seen it happen before in L.A. We could certainly see it again. Who doesn’t love a good Hollywood ending?