Jul 2, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner (11) hits a leadoff home run in 1st inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman-The Star-Ledger

Once A Question Mark, Gardner Now Yankees' Rock

To say the 2014 New York Yankees have done nothing but underachieve and disappoint, would be entirely accurate – almost.

In a year that was filled with promise after the Yankees once again, spent a boatload of money on high-priced free agents, the best money they spent was almost an afterthought.

That afterthought’s name is Brett Gardner.

A man whose place on this team was in question after the signing of Jacoby Ellsbury, has emerged as not just the team’s best player, but the only one who can be relied on day-in and day-out. After going 3-for-5, including a leadoff home run and a go-ahead RBI on Thursday, Gardner is now the team’s top hitter. In addition to leading the team in batting average and on-base-percentage, his eight home runs are twice that of Ellsbury, and he has scored eleven more runs (50) than the next closest player on the team.

He has out-performed every player that was brought in during the off-season. Despite starting the season hitting in bottom of the order with Ellsbury leading off, Gardner has emerged as one of the game’s top leadoff hitters. His contributions to the 2014 New York Yankees have been invaluable.

Despite the struggles of Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and everyone else on the team, the Yankees are not going to stop spending money on players they feel are the best available free agents. However, Brett Gardner should be a reminder that no matter how much money you throw at players, what matters most is what they do on the field. At 30-years-old, Gardner is proof that despite being underrated and undervalued, working hard and improving year-to-year is the formula for becoming a valuable major league player.

Brett Gardner may not be looked at as a great player, or even an All-Star, but if you really want to determine his value, think about where the New York Yankees would be without him.

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