Monday, June 10, 2013

The Evolution of Brett Gardner

Do any of you believe in love at first sight? If you had asked me before the 2009 Yankees World Series season, I would have laughed it off and said no. I would have said that it was theoretically and emotionally impossible to fall in love at first sight. However, that all changed during the 2009 season when I noticed a 5’10 outfielder on the field, and his name was Brett Gardner. Maybe I should clarify. I fell in love with the way that Gardner played baseball. The way that he would slap the ball with his ‘Garderian Swing’. The way he would keep a pitcher off guard and have them on their toes, just waiting to swipe a bag. The way that he was able to get to almost any ball in the outfield. He was different than the other players on the Yankees. Most of the Yankees players would hit home runs, since chicks dig the long ball, but not this chick. This chick was more captivated by how fast Gardner could run the bases, how he could be almost flawless in the outfield. This chick knew that there was something special about him, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

After observing him a little while longer, I was convinced that he wasn’t just a fourth outfielder who would be forced to sit on the bench until he had his turn to start. I felt that he was a starter. I would tweet about it in 2010 and all I was told was that he would be nothing more than a fourth outfielder. I didn’t believe that. There was more to him than just slapping the ball the other way and just being the one to take over the OF if someone got hurt. I knew that he would be a star. 

In 2010 and 2011, Gardner was more of the stolen base type, stealing 47 and 49 bases respectfully, but in 2012 he never had a chance to show us what he could do with a nagging elbow injury forcing him on the sidelines until the end of the 2012 season. He started one game in the ALCS (which I felt was all-too rushed in a heap of panic) but Gardner would really show everyone what he was capable of in the 2013 season.

He came to Spring Training, swinging with authority, taking fewer pitches and working on his stroke, something that not a lot of people expected from the speedster. The Yankees were paying Gardner to swipe bases and get into scoring position. They weren’t paying him to come up with clutch hits, HR’s and succeed against pitchers that other players deemed impossible to have success off of (Felix Hernandez, Matt Harvey). But that’s what Gardner did. He took the year off mentally, preparing for the 2013 season, and it has worked wonders for him.

After the Yankees series finale vs. the Mariners on June 9, Gardner is batting .419 in June.  He has a seven game hitting streak and he has shown a lot of power, hitting 6 HR’s, 27 RBI’s and 14 doubles. We also can’t forget to mention Gardner’s amazing fielding that has been so stellar, it irked Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets during the Subway Series. In a rare occasion, for the last couple of weeks Gardner has been the one carrying the Yankees (with some assistance from Jayson Nix and Chris Stewart) while Robinson Cano has hit into a terrible slump (he’s went from batting .300 all the way down to .272.). Gardner has had the numbers of elite aces, having multi-hit games against them, showing everyone what he can do. And to top it all off, it’s the first season where Gardner has been (knock on wood) healthy. There have been no nagging injuries, his elbow is 100% healed and he’s now able to show everyone his untapped potential at the age of 29. Gardner has changed the minds of the doubters, showing everyone that he is the most likely heir to CF once Curtis Granderson’s contract ends next season. Watching tape of Gardner from 2009 and tape from this season has shown me one thing: Gardner has changed as a hitter. He’s more aggressive at the plate, taking advantages of counts and he’s no longer that easy out that almost everyone thought he was five years ago. Brett Gardner is a very important part to the Yankees, a team in which I hope he stays with for a long, long time.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)