Brett Gardner may not grab the attention of millennial fans of the game but that’s because the New York Yankees outfielder is an old-school player in an updated game.
With major league baseball glorifying the power displays of various players and the gigantic size of these upcoming players, guys like Gardner just don’t fit in. The 34-year-old isn’t performing poorly; he just isn’t in this new wave of baseball players.
A 10-year veteran of the Yankees, Brett Gardner came up to the team with a specific, impressive skill set. He brought youthful speed back to the Bronx. Perhaps, more importantly, he brought back the good, old-fashioned game of baseball.
Gardner exemplifies the old, gritty baseball player that played well before his time. We see it even today with his dives into first base and his perchance for using small ball to get on base. Couple that with his ability and willingness to test his limits on the base paths, you’ve got the type of player you’d see on the regular a long time ago.
While that type of play was once revered, it has gone by the wayside with the emergence of stars such as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who can knock a ball 500-plus feet with ease. Simply put, Gardner is still good but he would be a superstar in another era that suited his style of play.
He doesn’t ooze personality. He doesn’t spend the majority of his time off the field buried in social media sites. He doesn’t build a brand through the media. He does none of that. What he does do, however, is put his head down and play the game with the grit and toughness reminiscent of old-school players.
Much like the world around us, the game of baseball is forever evolving. While Gardner once was everything the game needed, everything has shifted so that Gardner is now a reminder of what the game used to be.
He tried to change his M.O. last season (slugging a career-high 21 home runs) and, for a while, he became relevant to the media again. The thing is, he may not be the most popular player in baseball because his power isn’t as prominent, but he still is a vital part of the team with his old-school ways.
One of the most prominent examples of Gardner’s gritty style of play is his at-bat in Game 5 of the 2017 ALDS. Gardner took to the batter’s box with his team holding a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning against the phenomenal Cody Allen. In this new game of baseball, a home run would be what fans would expect from the left fielder.
Instead, Gardner waited it out, put together a lengthy masterpiece of an at-bat and took the 12th pitch to right field for a two-run single.
These days, many players will take what they’re given and make something happen. Many players would probably swing for the fences, expecting to be showered in chants and cheers when that home run clears the fence.
Instead, Gardner exercised patience and did what he had to with the pitch, resulting in a cushion for the Yankees and, ultimately, helping them win the game.
Gardner has done this over and over again, it just isn’t always recognized when the home runs and loud stats drown out the little guys. Yet, Gardner will keep doing it because that is how he plays the game. We don’t have to necessarily like it in this era but we sure as hell have to respect it.
Brett Gardner plays with a grit and tenacity that is not common in today’s game so he likely will get lost in the shuffle (if he hasn’t already). However, he’d fit in just fine with the old-school play of the game.
Whether it’s new school or old school, Brett Gardner has proven just how valuable he is in today’s game. That’s just what you get from Gardner and that’s what fans will remember far after he’s played his final game in the majors. The little guy brings back some fine memories of how baseball was meant to be played.