Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Brett Gardner

The New York Yankees may or may not be cheap, may or may not be trying to win a World Series in 2019, may or may not have been on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado all along, but one thing you cannot say about this organization is that it is not loyal. Ask Brett Gardner. Gardner lost his starting job in 2018 and was still re-signed for the 2019 season, presumably to see the bulk of the starting time in left field. Let’s meet the longest current tenured Yankees player on the team, Mr. Brett Gardner.

Brett Gardner, 35-years old, is a left-handed outfielder that has predominantly played center field and left field for the New York Yankees. Gardner has an uppercut swing that can produce 10-20 home run power inside of Yankee Stadium along with an exceptionally patient approach at the plate. Gardner, standing at 5’11” and weighing in at 195 lbs., will work the count, see a lot of pitches, and take his walks when they are given to him making him the perfect candidate to either hit at the top of the Yankees batting order, or towards the bottom to give the Yankees two lead-off type options back-to-back.

Brett Michael Gardner was born on August 24, 1983 in Holly Hill, South Carolina where he attended Holly Hill Academy and played for the school’s baseball team. Gardner was not given a scholarship to attend college and instead walked on at the College of Charleston in 2001. Gardner won a spot on the team and became a three-year starter for the College of Charleston Cougars before the New York Yankees drafted the speedy outfielder in the third round, 109th overall, of the 2005 MLB First Year Players Draft. Gardner received a $210,000 signing bonus and immediate began his professional career in the New York-Penn League.

Gardner was a Florida State League All-Star in 2006 with the Tampa Yankees and by 2007, despite missing time with a broken hand, Gardner made it all the way to Triple-A and the Arizona Fall League. Gardner was on the cusp of the big leagues in 2008 and would finally receive that promotion call on June 30 to make his MLB debut against the Texas Rangers. The Yankees would later acquire outfielder Xavier Nady, thus pushing Gardner back down to the Minor Leagues, in 2008, although Brett was called back up later and finished the season in New York. Gardner impressed the Yankees in 2008 and continued to do so in the spring of 2009, winning the Opening Day center field job for the club. Gardner helped lead the Yankees to the 2009 World Series championship over the Philadelphia Phillies. Gardner was shifted to left field starting in 2010 and won a Fielding Bible Award there. Gardner was named the Yankees lead-off hitter starting in 2011, although he struggled in the role and was demoted to the bottom third of the order until an injury to Derek Jeter forced him back to the top of the lineup. Gardner won his second consecutive Fielding Bible Award in 2011 and also led the American League in stolen bases with 49, tying Coco Crisp.

Gardner underwent right elbow surgery on July 24, 2012 to remove a bone spur and some inflamed tissue and his season was in jeopardy. Gardner was able to return to the club after a setback in his rehab and finished the season playing just 16 games for the Yankees, posting a .323 average with two stolen bases and three RBI. Gardner returned to center field in 2013 after Curtis Granderson fractured his right forearm during a spring training game, and after the season the Yankees center fielder earned a four-year extension worth $52 million from the team beginning in 2015. Gardner rewarded the Yankees with a strong 2014 season and a career high in home runs with 17, all despite a rectus abdominis muscle injury that hampered him for much of the second half of the season and the same injury that required surgery after the year. Gardner was named an American League All-Star reserve in 2015 and won his first Gold Glove Award in 2016 as a left fielder.

Gardner was an integral part of the Yankees 2017 season and their march to the ALCS against the Houston Astros. The Yankees would get within one game of the World Series before falling to the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros. Gardner began taking a step back in 2018 as Father Time may have begun to catch up with the speedy Yankees left fielder. Gardner saw his playing time decrease after the Yankees acquired Andrew McCutchen and saw his statistics drop to an all-time low as an everyday player. Gardner’s team option was declined for the 2019 season, but the team ultimately brought him back for at least one more season, signing him to a one-year deal worth $7.5 million. Now Gardner will look to turn things around and finish his career strong, either as an everyday left fielder for the Yankees, in a platoon with a guy like Clint Frazier, or on the bench behind a guy like (dream big or don’t dream at all) Bryce Harper.

Good luck Gardy, I look forward to the Gardy Party all season long…

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