Appreciating the longest-tenured Yankee
It’s time to give Brett Gardner the credit he’s due. In his age 35 season, the Holly Hill, South Carolina native has played in a team-high 87 games, batting .253 with 15 home runs, 41 RBI, eight stolen bases and an .809 OPS. He’s on pace to set a new career-high in home runs (current best is 21 in 2017), and his .809 OPS would also be the best of his 12-year career. In a season where seemingly every Yankee has been injured, Gardner has been one of the lone healthy players, and he has been much more productive than most could’ve imagined.
On May 17, Gardner was batting .193 with six home runs and 13 runs batted in. After his return on a one-year, $7.5 million contract in the offseason was criticized by most of the fanbase, Gardner was written off as washed-up, and a waste of a roster spot. However, in the 46 games Gardy has played in since then, the veteran outfielder is batting .307 with nine home runs, 26 RBI and a .949 OPS. Simply put, Gardner has been elite for roughly half the season, and is a big reason why the Yankees are in first place right now.
It’s easy to forget about Gardner in a lineup filled with All-Star sluggers like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, but Gardner’s consistent presence cannot be denied. While nothing about Gardner’s game screams stud, he’s a player that is solid across the board. It’s that consistent, solid nature that has allowed Gardner to post a 2.2 WAR that ranks 50th in MLB, and third on the Yanks, per Fangraphs. Gardner also has a 15.1% strikeout rate, which is top 30 in baseball, and second on the team.
Additionally, Gardner has once again been great defensively. The 2016 Gold Glove winner is ranked 21st in MLB in both defensive runs saved (6) and ultimate zone rating (3.7), per Fangraphs. For anyone that was wondering why the Yankees demoted Clint Frazier in favor of keeping Brett Gardner around, that is one of the main reasons. Gardner also still has some tread left on his tires, leading New York with eight stolen bases this season.
And while it can’t be quantified, Gardner is clearly one of the unquestioned leaders of the Bronx Bombers’ clubhouse. As a 12-year veteran with a World Series title to his name, and the longest-tenured member of the franchise, Gardner brings experience that very few players on New York’s roster have. He’s a player that wears his emotions on his sleeves and brings a fiery, competitive demeanor to the park rarely seen in professional sports today.
If the Yankees go on to win the World Series this season, players like DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit and Gio Urshela are going to rightfully be praised as pleasant surprises that saved the season when injuries struck in the early going. However, let’s not forget Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee, who has already far exceeded expectations and has quietly been an elite player through the first-half of the season.
Article by: Jake GrazianoFollow@JakeGraziano