New York Yankees: Old Man “Gardy” to set new heights during 2020

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

When New York Yankees CC Sabathia retired last year, Brett Gardner, affectionately called “Gardy” became the longest-tenured Yankee.  The two men played together for 15 years.  Gardner was drafted by the Yankees in 2005.

From 2005 to 2006 he played for the New York Penn League and the Florida State League. In 2007 he played for the Trenton Thunder, he broke a bone in his hand but still managed to hit five triples, and batted .300 with a .392 OBP, before being promoted to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Yankees. On June 30, 2008, Gardner was called up and made his major league debut, batting leadoff and going 0-for-3 with a stolen base. On September 21, 2008, Gardner scored the final run of Major League Baseball in old Yankee Stadium history as a pinch-runner for Jason Giambi, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Robinson Canó in the seventh inning of an eventual 7–3 win for the Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles.

It’s no secret that Gardner and CC have a great relationship.  Ever chance CC gets he heaps praise on Gardner for leaving his guts on the field in every game.  He also has said he may not seem it, but he is the funniest player he has ever played with.

“CC said Gardner once took the car key battery out of an unnamed teammates keychain. When the teammate took the car to the dealer, a picture of Gardner was where the battery was supposed to be.’

Brett over the years has been one of the most consistent and reliable players on the team.  Seldom injured, last year when the team suffered an unprecedented number of injuries (38), Gardner was not injured and played in 142 games.  Gardner is one of only four players in the majors to play in at least 140 games in each of the last seven seasons Gardner has spent the majority of his career with the New York Yankees in centerfield and in the leadoff position in the lineup.  Last year he relinquished his leadoff role to newly acquired DJ LeMahieu.

In 2019 Gardy didn’t miss a beat playing everywhere in the lineup.  In fact, he had one of his best years as a player.  He hit a career-high 28 home runs.  He also had the most RBIs and the highest OPS of his career.  Many don’t realize it but Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner are the only Yankees in franchise history with more than 100 homers and 250 stolen bases as a Yankee.  He is one of the most beloved Yankee players, and at the same time is one of the most unsung players as well.  Not reaching superstar status he remains the heart and soul of the team.

In this shortened MLB season Gardner will achieve several milestones.  After he plays in eleven games Gardner would pass Alex Rodriguez for 17th overall in games played as a Yankee and he’s 37 away from moving past Graig Nettles. He will be one of just five players drafted by the Yankees with at least 1,000 hits with the team, joining Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada. He is one of only four players in the majors to play in at least 140 games in each of the last seven seasons, along with Brandon Crawford, Anthony Rizzo, and Carlos Santana. Gardner and Mike Trout are the only two players with at least 80 runs scored in each season since 2013.  He will also be the oldest player in MLB to make at least 100 outfield starts.

It is no secret that Brett Gardner wants to retire from baseball as a New York Yankee.  This year the Yankees brought him back during the postseason on a one year $12,500,000 contract with the New York Yankees, including a $2,000,000 signing bonus with a $10MM Yankee option for 2021.  Gardner recently on his tenure with the Yankees said:

“It’s crazy, man, it really is,’’ he said this spring of his position as the Yankees’ elder statesman. “It’s hard to believe I’ve been here as long as I have. It’s not something I take lightly. It means a lot to me to still be here, and I’m very happy to have an opportunity to come back here and try and finish some unfinished business.’’

Gardner will be the opening day starter in centerfield with Aaron Hicks still recovering from Tommy John surgery.  The Yankees have a glut outfielders all much younger than Gardner but they all get injured while Gardner always remains healthy and reliable.  The last time Gardner was out with a significant injury was when he missed most of 2012 with an elbow injury.  An American League scout recently said of Gardner:

“His ability to stay on the field, especially at that position, is very valuable, especially with all the other injuries they’ve dealt with in the outfield the last couple of years. I think a lot of us have been waiting for him to break down or slow down in his production, but it’s easy to see why they want him around. [Gardner] has found a way to thrive — and not just offensively. He’s still above-average in center.’’

Gardner during the MLB imposed shutdown has been staying in shape at his  Summerville, South Carolina farm with his wife Jessica.  The pair have two boys, Abraham born in 2008 and Peter born in 2010.  Recently when Brett was asked about his terrific 2019 season and what he expected going forward, Brett responded:

“At this point, I’m just kind of taking things one year at a time,’’ Gardner said this spring. “I’ve really always looked not too far into the future, obviously. The contract that I signed, the Yankees have a team option on me for next year. In a perfect world for me, I stay healthy and have a good season and they pick that option up and I come back and do it all over again.’’’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Find me on Twitter @ParleeWilliam