Brett Gardner: MLB Hiatus Likely To Spell The End For Yankees Icon

Brett Gardner: The Yankees Engine (New York Times)

Brett Gardner should be playing his thirteenth season with the Yankees this year. Soon to be 37, it’s only guessing if we’ll see him in pinstripes again.

Brett Gardner is one of 178 major leaguers who have the distinction of playing their entire career for one team. Even more impressive, Gardner is one of only 25 New York Yankees to hold the honor.

Over this past winter, the Yankees once again answered the call from a swelling number of fans to bring Brett Gardner back just “one more time.”

The signed deal called for one year at $10 million, plus a team option for 2021 at the same salary or a team buyout for $2.5 million.

Although Gardner has around $82 million in career earning, more than enough to comfortably support his family of two sons and his spouse Jessica, it’s hard to imagine it’s ever been about the money for Brett Gardner.

Brett Gardner – A Yankees Mainstay

The Brett Gardner we have come to know is more about the players many of us knew as kids. All-out all the time, never a let-up in the drive to win.

Brett Gardner takes out Max Muncy (Photo: Kevin Kuo AP)
Brett Gardner takes out Max Muncy (Photo: Kevin Kuo AP)

The consummate teammate, loyal, trustworthy – for a dozen seasons – this proved to be the makeup of Number 11 for the New York Yankees.

But with a design of its own, a National Health Crisis has shut down all professional sports, and no one can say or predict if there will be even one baseball game played at Yankee Stadium in 2020.

As we know, baseball is a game of numbers. No one likes to talk about one of those numbers, but as athletes age, their production is diminished proportionately. It’s the way of our universe.

Brett Gardner is a specimen of a healthy human being. He’s taken care of himself, and it shows just by looking at him roam the outfield at Yankee Stadium.

Brett Gardner Is Not Willie Mays

But at some point, even the best of them reach the point where it’s clear to everyone they just can’t do it anymore.

Willie Mays - One More Time 1965 (New York Times)
Willie Mays – One More Time 1965 (New York Times)

With sincere regret, it’s hard to recall, for instance, images of Willie Mays hobbling around in centerfield for the New York Mets in 1973 at the age of 42. One year, one game too long.

Ditto Yogi Berra, who was convinced by Casey Stengel to give it up for the “Ole Perfessor” and the hapless Mets in 1965. Berra last four games.

But sadly, for Brett Gardner, the decision may not be his to make. The Yankees hold the option for 2021, and the tradeoff between a $2.5 million buyout versus $10 million against their payroll is self-evident.

From The Yankees View

More than money, though, is that this season’s hiatus is a gift to the Yankees in another sense. Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and Aaron Judge – the Yankees outfield left to right – are all expected to be fully healed to begin the 2021 season.

Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman loom as credible fourth and even a fifth outfielder if the Yankees choose to go that way with the roster expanded to 26.

Brian Cashman, Yankees GM (Photo: Charles Wenzelberg)
Brian Cashman, Yankees GM (Photo: Charles Wenzelberg)

To be sure, the same pressure from Yankees fans (including this one) will be exerted on Brian Cashman to bring Gardner back. What’s the difference between 36 and 37 we will argue?

And besides, what about the all-important intangibles Brett Gardner brings to the team just by his presence in the clubhouse?

Is he not, after all, the de facto team captain and the lone remaining symbol of the last World Championship (2009)? What dollar value is that worth?

The Intangibles Count!

Full disclosure, I fell in love with Brett Gardner the first time I saw him play when he was a step away from the Yankees at Triple-A Scranton in 2007.

Brett Gardner - All Out All The Time (
Brett Gardner – All Out All The Time (

The sculptured body hid the acceleration he produced running the bases, and even to an untrained eye, he eschewed the presence of a major league ballplayer – and – a New York Yankee.

Baseball is a business, and Brett Gardner has cashed every one of the checks made out to him by the New York Yankees.

But some things can’t be measured in dollars and cents. The Yankees know that, and that’s why they’ve signed him to new contracts even as the years have advanced.

Brett Gardner – Yankees make sure it’s one more time in 2021.

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.