Brett Gardner is in his twelfth season as a New York Yankee. You can bet it won’t be his last. At 35, he’s still the straw that stirs the drink…
Brett Gardner plays baseball with an intensity that defies human nature. It’s nothing new. It’s the only way he knows to play the game. He’s the player who instigated Aaron Boone‘s now-infamous tirade against a rookie umpire calling balls and strikes a few weeks ago.
Yes, it was Brett Gardner, seen in the dugout smashing water coolers and pounding on the roof of the dugout with his bat. Which in turn inspired his manager to save his player from a suspension and to remind everyone the Yankees are F____ing Savages.
Forget what Reggie Jackson said about himself, Brett Gardner is the straw who stirs the Yankee’s drink. He’s the catalyst who appears to be in the middle of everything his team does well. Built like a ton of bricks, but small in stature at 5″11 and 195 lbs, Gardner doesn’t carry the Yankees like an Aaron Judge. Instead, he ejects the team.
With CC Sabathia‘s impending retirement at the end of this season, Brett Gardner will be the lone holdout from the last Yankee World Championship in 2009.
Brett Gardner: Pesky And Tenacious
Pesky, I suppose, is the best adjective to describe the way Brett Gardner plays baseball. Unsung in the field, Gardner has 75 assists from his position(s) in the outfield while making only 22 errors throughout his career.
A bulldog, he has played in all but sixteen games this season. That includes a two-month stint when he played in every game during the absences of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks. To his credit, Aaron Boone took advantage of Gardner’s recent knee injury by forcing Gardner to the sidelines even after doctors had cleared him for play.
Tenacity is another word that comes to mind when describing Brett Gardner’s talents on the field. Yankee fans will recall Gardner’s clutch at-bat in Game 5 of the 2017 ALCS when he battled Indians closer Cody Allen in a 12-pitch at-bat delivering a clutch two-run single in the 9th inning that Propelled the Yankees to victory. Here’s the extended video of Gardner at his best:
Once a stolen base machine, Brett Gardner led the league with 49 in 2011. At 35, Gardner does not pretend he’s the same player today. Oddly though, his power numbers are up this year. Already, Gardner has 17 home runs and is a cinch to surpass his season hight total of 21 in 2017.
What the Yankees want and need from Brett Gardner though are the intangibles he brings with him every day he walks into the clubhouse.
Granted the corner locker following Jeter’s retirement in 2014, Gardner is a magnet for the so-called Replacement Yankees like Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman, and Thairo Estrada. Giving them comfort and ease as they join the storied franchise.
Signed only for this season for $7.5 million, a bargain of epic proportion, the Yankees will owe Gardner another $2 million if they choose not to offer him a contract. (Source: Baseball Reference)
One more time. One more time. That would be the chant, just as it was the last offseason from Yankees fans when Brian Cashman jokingly said he’d be afraid to walk the streets of New York if he didn’t invite Gardner back.
It’s Good Business To Bring Gardner Back
But as we know, the business side of baseball trumps everything. Conceivably, with Tauchman emerging as a superior defender and a reliable contributor offensively, together with the hope and a prayer that Hicks and Stanton can keep their brittle bodies on the field, the Yankees could decide to pass on Gardner.
They could but they won’t, precisely because Stanton and Hicks cannot be counted on for a full season. Highly touted, but still not ready, Estevan Florial is another reason to re-sign Brett Gardner. Those are all negative reason, though…
The biggest positive remains the fact that Brett Gardner personifies the New York Yankees – the warriors of George Steinbrenner’s days like Paul O’Neill, Thurman Munson, and Don Mattingly. At 36 next season, Gardner may no longer be plus-plus on the field.
But in that clubhouse, Gardner is and will remain plus-plus-plus as the heartbeat of the Yankees. And that’s something you can’t buy these days in baseball…