Yankees: Brett Gardner, the perennial unsung hero

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The longest-tenured New York Yankees player, Brett Gardner, sometimes draws mixed reviews. Why is that? And is it fair?

Brett Gardner has been with the Yankees since June 30, 2008. Selected with the 109th overall pick in the 3rd round of the 2005 draft, Gardner received a $210,000 signing bonus and began in the depths of the minor league system.

He compiled a minor league career batting average of .291 with a .389 OBP. Most notably Gardner stole a total of 183 bases, being caught only 31 times for an 83% success rate.

Gardy collected his first major league hit on July 2, 2008, with an RBI. He’d also steal a base and score a run that day — seems like forever ago. But again, Gardner is the longest tenured player in pinstripes.

A notable memory from Brett’s early career is the fact that he scored the final run in the old Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008, as a pinch runner for Jason Giambi on a Cano sacrifice fly.

Over his 10 years as a Yankee, Gardner has slashed .264/.350/.428 with a .778 OPS. He has a 162 game average of 32 stolen bases and tied for second in MLB with 49 in 2011.

In the field, it doesn’t get much better than Gardy. The 2015 All-Star, Gold Glove winner in 2016 and nominee in 2017, has a career .992 fielding percentage with only 18 errors in 10 seasons. That’s less than two errors per season.

However, his career offensive stats are mediocre. I’ve heard fans screaming for him to be traded for years now, saying that the Yankees could do better. These folks did have a case if you discount the value of stellar defense.

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Until 2017.

Gardner had an offensive career year in 2017 with career highs in runs (96), hits (157) doubles (26), home runs (21), SLG (.428) and OPS (.778). His OBP was higher in 2012, but Brett was injured almost the entire season, so the numbers are skewed. Even still, Gardner remained PERFECT in the field with a 1.000 fielding percentage!

Who can forget his go-ahead home run against the Cubs last season? Or the epic 12 pitch at-bat resulting in a two-run single in the ALDS against the Indians that sealed a trip to the ALCS for the Yankees? Gritty. Tough. Both words that are appropriate for Brett Gardner.

Plus the intangibles. Gardner will undoubtedly be the leader of the platoon of outfielders used in 2018 by the Yanks. Brett has played every outfield position in his career so who better to guide Giancarlo Stanton as he undergoes a potential position change?

Gardner has flashed some significant leather during his long career and had his best offensive season in 2017. He’s a homegrown Yankee and a proven leader. Success breeds success and with this group, ‘Brett the Jet’ can do even better.

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I for one am looking forward to a very long Gardy Party. One that lasts all the way to the Canyon of Heroes. GO YANKEES!