Brett Gardner is one of those players who rise above the usual stats. Always underrated; he has been a backbone of the Yankees all season.
Brett Gardner is having the poorest offensive year of his fourteen seasons with the Yankees. With only 45 runs scored, nine home runs, and 36 RBI, his numbers are dismal and reflective of an outfielder whose legs are running on fumes at age 37.
But there are players, and Gardner is one of them, whose contributions to the team cannot be measured solely by offensive numbers.
The fact (alone) that Aaron Boone has called on him 128 times (3rd on the team), and that Brett Gardner has played 101 games in the Yankees outfield, including 80 games played out of position in center field, is a tribute to a man who had answered the call when the team needed him.
Add to that the fact that Gardner has been charged a single error in 230 chances in the field while carrying a near-perfect .996 fielding percentage.
But the key to Brett Gardner’s season has been his ability to be productive when it counts the most in August and September while others have failed.
Late and Close in a game as defined by Baseball-Reference, Brett Gardner is a .273 batter, with an OBP of .373 and a .737 OPS this year.
But it is the corner locker in the Yankee’s clubhouse that Gardner inherited following the retirement of CC Sabathia that means the most for the team.
It is there that every Yankee entering the clubhouse for each game gets a cool but firm “Let’s get ’em today” from Gardner, and he’s always on stand-by to relay a sensitive message to Aaron Boone or one of the coaches.
In sum, Brett Gardner comes as a package. He does not excel at anything, but he is good at everything.
In 14 seasons, he has led the league only once in each of three categories (Triples – 10 – 2013) (Stolen Bases – 49 -2016) and (Sacrifice Hits -13 – 2011). He’s been voted to the All-Star team only once (2015).
But if you ask Aaron Boone or his previous manager, Joe Girardi, who they are most likely to put in their lineup in a pressure game, the answer will be Brett Gardner.
Tomorrow Never Knows
Brian Cashman and the Yankees have toyed with letting Gardner explore the free-agent market for the past three seasons.
But on each occasion, the Yankees have opted to award Gardner a one-year deal. Pressure from fans has been a factor, but when push came to shove another player off the roster, the team has always come down to realizing the multiple ways that Brett Gardner contributes.
With this year’s disappointments, the Yankees will probably feel the need to go in a different direction, and Gardner himself may decide to call it quits.
In any event, there should be a handshake agreement between the team and Gardner that allows for him to assume a coaching job at the major league level or a manager’s position in the Yankee’s farm system – whatever he chooses and whenever he decides to return to baseball.
They don’t make ’em like Brett Gardner anymore…
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