Perhaps this isn’t the New York Yankees‘ front office’s fault and it’s actually been the players all along?
A loud sect of the fanbase has been calling for the team to let Brett Gardner go, which arguably should’ve happened after a career-worst 2018 season when his four-year contract expired. But the Yankees couldn’t help themselves.
Gardner was back on a one-year contract for 2019 … and he put together a career best campaign. Then he returned for 2020, but we couldn’t possibly send the Yankees legend off without fans in the stands, right?
So back for 2021 it is! Despite badly needing outfield upgrades before the start of last year, Gardner returned on another one-year contract (with a team option for a second year) and underwhelmed yet again. He played in 140 games last season and ended up taking playoff reps from Clint Frazier in 2020. Yankees fans weren’t thrilled about it.
And it’s not that Yankees fans are upset with Gardner. It’s not his fault the team continuously includes him in their plans and his role ends up being magnified when injuries/player regressions spike.
The frustration is directed at the front office because there’s seemingly no urgency to upgrade the team’s bench (or outfield). But apparently it’s not all on them? The players want Gardner back, too, according to Brendan Kuty of NJ.com.
Expect Brett Gardner to return to the Yankees very soon
Gardner’s return as a clubhouse influence and steady veteran presence isn’t what the problem is. If that was his role, nobody would bat an eye. So many teams have that kind of personality/figure on the bench to help out in a multitude of ways.
But that’s never it. Gardner continues to find himself in the lineup far more than you’d expect for a 34-37-year-old, especially without any true game-breaking characteristics. Once upon a time, Gardy was a contact-heavy bat who could steal bags effortlessly. But since 2018, he’s hit .236 with 33 stolen bases in 470 games. That’s great bench production! Not everyday starter production.
And it all came to a head in 2021 when the Yankees employed so few lefty bats that losing Aaron Hicks proved to be beyond detrimental. It led to Gardner getting looks in the leadoff spot and three-hole. Unacceptable for a franchise of this caliber and, again, nothing against Gardner. It’s just really bad roster construction and the outcry is sometimes misinterpreted.
It’s no surprise the players want him back (well, maybe except for Gerrit Cole). Gardner’s undoubtedly helped a number of Yankees find their way and adapt to life in New York. It’s not easy, and his guidance has proven to create bonds (Frazier and Tyler Wade have mentioned how much of a prankster he is).
Fans would happily take Gardy back under the right circumstances, but if it’s another 140-game showing with a .225 average and 90 OPS+, then the outrage will live on.