Brett Gardner's Character Is Distracting The New York Yankees From The Problem 1
Mar 9, 2017; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner (11) runs to third on his way to the plate following a solo home run to lead off the first inning of an MLB spring training baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Homegrown New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner’s loyalty to the team is distracting fans from his worst spring yet.

If there was a Brett Gardner fan train, I would be the loyal conductor. His loyalty and tireless work ethic have always helped encourage my dedication to his career. An uncommonly speedy threat on the bases and in the outfield, Gardner has stolen bases, along with the hearts of many New York Yankees fans.

The problem is, these days Brett Gardner has become more of a behind-the-scenes player than the superstar he was slated to be early in his career. The Yankees have kept Gardner this offseason despite the outcries against keeping him on the roster.

Well, with Gardner’s spring so far, I think it’s safe to say that the Yankees are too blinded by his character to see just how poorly he has been performing for them.

Gardner’s character can’t be ignored. He has stepped up to the veteran role after Derek Jeter’s departure and has served as a humble leader for all the kids in the locker room. He can handle the New York media like a champ, under the brightest spotlight in the game.

The issue is, there are a lot of people out there (myself included) who see Gardner solely for his character instead of focusing on the stats that are telling us he is underperforming in the Bronx.

Ever since Gardner’s All-Star first half in 2015, his numbers have declined significantly. Last season, he slashed .261/.351/.362. While those numbers aren’t necessarily terrible, they are certainly not at the level that the Yankees would expect from the 10-year veteran.

In the past five years, Gardner’s stolen base numbers have diminished from his career-high 49 in 2011 to only 16 in 2016. He also has driven in fewer and fewer runs over the years, as well as slugging significantly fewer home runs in the past year. This spring, as he’s hitting .194 in 36 at-bats this spring with one home run and no stolen bases.

In short, Gardner has been underperforming for a while. The reason it hasn’t been pointed out as often is because of the leadership he brings to a young team.

By trading Gardner, the Yankees would be getting rid of the sub .270 hitter. However, they’d also be getting rid of one of the best leaders and mentors in the clubhouse.

Does one outweigh the other? Should the Yankees stick with his lackluster stats in order to keep a leader or should they risk losing their leader in favor of a better performance by a younger outfielder?

The Yankees have their loyalty to Gardner, which is perfectly fine. However, with Gardner manning the outfield, the Yankees are missing out on giving some prospects a chance to shine in the big leagues. Some of these prospects, such as Clint Frazier and Dustin Fowler, have been tearing it up this spring, ready to make the leap.

Is the loyalty of the Yankees to Brett Gardner holding them back from another championship? Maybe it is. Personality doesn’t give the Yankees more victories. Strong stats and performances do that.

Brett Gardner has the character to make a difference for the Yankees off the field. However, right now, his on-field personality isn’t helping the Yankees win and games and will only hold them back.

The Brett Gardner train is still in the station as of right now. When the time comes for it to leave the station, I’ll be right there supporting one of the classiest characters in New York sports.


  1. Gardner is a known commodity. The Yankees know approximately what they’re going to get from him over a long season. Ellsbury will probably spend parts of the year in the DL…that’s what he does.

    The rest of the young Yankee OF’s, Judge, Martinez, even Hicks, are still wild cards in terms of performance and consistency. The “kids” will rightfully begin the season in the minors where their performance there will determine whether they have earned the right to wear pinstripes later in the season.

    As the season plays out, many things are possible. Injuries, prolonged slumps, player trades all can combine to bring up the most deserving prospects. Then they have to prove they belong…and then a more critical eye can be cast at the performance of veterans like Gardner & Ellsbury. Even Ellsbury’s manhole cover contract won’t keep him in pinstripes if some of those kids prove they deserve to be playing regularly. Time will tell

  2. What a GREAT take Ms. Case! No one would ever question Gardner’s work, work ethic nor his gifts. Unfortunately, on a great team, he is a fine number nine hitter and a late inning defensive replacement and NOT a lead-off hitter. The character confusion you reference is problematic of a front office mindset which reflects perhaps the biggest problem we have; namely a corporate culture that demands evolution. We overvalue a type of player and when combined with what our front office assume fans want in a “Yankee”, this has created a roster with too many Gardner “types”. Headley, McCann, and Ellsbury all fit this antiquated “Jack Armstrong – All American” ideal and it was THIS fossilized thinking which locked us into the malaise of these past few years and pressed “pause” on our future. Certainly, we have adapted and are growing our minor leagues BUT until our culture changes, our kids are blocked from meritorious advancement to the show and we continue to have a lineup full of antiquated outs of character.