Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Brett Gardner WILL Get a Plaque in Monument Park (Opinion)

When I made the above tweet, I had no idea how much discussion and general uproar that it would start among Yankees Twitter. On a lazy Monday night in mid-November when there was no Yankees-related news to really be found, I found myself defending the fact that the New York Yankees will likely give Brett Gardner a plaque inside Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park before it is all said and done. Do I believe that he deserves one? That is up for debate, and something I will try to determine over the course of this post, but whether I believe he deserves one is irrelevant. If history is any indicator of the future, Gardner’s bald head, goofy smile, and #11 uniform number will all be on a plaque inside Yankee Stadium during my lifetime.

Now before the outrage starts and before we start unfollowing me on Twitter, @GreedyStripes for the shameless plug, let me explain my thought process behind this. At one point and time, Monument Park and the subsequent retired numbers that generally came with being a legendary New York Yankee was an exclusive club. Names like Miller Huggins (the first ever inducted into Monument Park, trivia time), Lou Gehrig, Jacob Ruppert, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Thurman Munson, Elston Howard, Roger Maris, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Bill Dickey, and Yogi Berra, to name a few, were scattered throughout the center field area of Yankee Stadium, rivaling the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

And then George Steinbrenner and crew came along and kind of watered it down a bit.

When the Boss took over as the owner of the New York Yankees the dilution of the retired uniform numbers, the plaques or monuments inside Monument Park, and the Yankees captaincy, among other things, slowly began to mean less and less. At least in my opinion. Monument Park went from being a shrine to not only the greatest Yankees to ever play or touch the game, but some of the best in the sport to ever leave their mark on the game that we all love. Sure, under George’s tenure the Yankees added plaques or monuments for the likes of Ron Guidry, Allie Reynolds, Bob Sheppard, Red Ruffing, Jackie Robinson, and others… but there were also a few questionable decisions in there as well along the way.

Reggie Jackson played a whopping five years for the New York Yankees, 1977 – 1981. Sure, Reggie won a couple World Series championships with the New York Yankees, and yes, I am well aware that he hit three home runs in three at-bats while doing so, but still. There is no way that Reggie deserves a plaque in Monument Park, let alone his number retired by the club. Not after the “Bronx is Burning” years of feuds with then manager Billy Martin, and not after he dipped town after just one contract with the Yankees. Sure, Reggie had five great seasons in the Bronx averaging a .281/.371/.526/.897 quad slash while averaging around 30 home runs and over 100 RBI per season with a cumulative 17.2 WAR, but is that deserving of having his number retired and having a plaque inside Monument Park? Well, that’s debatable. In my opinion, the answer is no, but I respect if anyone else wants to say yes. I am well aware of the Yankees World Series drought before Reggie arrived on the scene, and if that weighs into the decision more than it should, fine… but what about Phil Rizzuto?

Now while the comparison may not be exactly fair, Rizzuto lost the 1943, 1944, and 1945 seasons to World War II and his service with the US Navy, this may be the closest comparison that we can come up with. Gardner has played in 12 seasons with the Yankees while Rizzuto played in 13 and the stats are pretty similar. Again, not comparing the players... but I am comparing the stats. Gardner never won an MVP like Rizzuto did in 1950, and Gardner never finished second like Scooter did in 1949. I am comparing THE STATS while keeping in mind, again in my opinion, that the requirements for Monument Park have been watered down a bit over the years. 

Gardner career: .260/.342/.401/.743 with 124 HR, 524 RBI, 41.6 WAR, 12.5 dWAR.
Rizzuto career: .273/.351/.355/.706 with 38 HR, 563 RBI, 40.8 WAR, 22.9 dWAR. 

I am in no way saying Gardner is Phil Rizzuto, or even better than the Yankees he is likely to pass in 2020 assuming he comes back and has a productive season (a 1.6 WAR in 2020 would put him past Don Mattingly and Jorge Posada, and within striking distance of Thurman Munson… all who have plaques inside Monument Park), but what I am saying is that I can see the Yankees giving Gardner his spot inside Monument Park before it is all said and done. If you can make a case for Rizzuto being in there, and Reggie Jackson being there, Jorge Posada being there (check the stats… Gardner is right there with Jorgie statistically and in five less seasons), etc., then you can at least make the argument that Gardner will be there as well.

And while we are on the subject, where is Roy White Day and his plaque inside Monument Park? Talk about a travesty.