Brett Gardner
Bruno Rouby, ESNY Graphic

The New York Yankees don’t need Brett Gardner. That’s what everyone has said this season. But he’s practically their captain.

Allison Case

Captains lead by example. They bring out the best in their teammates and keep the energy up.

Since Derek Jeter rode off into the sunset, the New York Yankees have left that position vacant and for good reason. Who would fill the giant shoes left by this future Hall of Fame inductee?

As the 2019 season speeds along, we may have our answer; and we probably had our answer all along.

Brett Gardner has always been a fan-favorite in the Bronx. He’s a scrappy player who is always willing to put the team first. This season has been his best statistically in his lengthy career but also in terms of his leadership.

While the Yankees won’t likely name a captain for a very long time, it’s become very clear who the unofficial captain for this team of rag-tag ballplayers.

Gardner is certainly not the flashiest of ballplayers. In fact, the majority of the attention on Gardner this year has been for his displays of passion on the ball field, particularly waging war against dugout roofs. But when it comes down to it, Gardner is as reliable as they come.

Gardy has played in 104 of the Yankees’ 121 games. He is third in games played, behind only Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu. That also includes spending some time on the IL recently.

Gardner is that player ready to go at a moment’s notice, the player who gives his all each time he sets foot on the field. This comes after Gardner was unsure of his role this offseason.

New York Yankees

Inked to a one-year deal, many thought of Gardner as being the fourth outfielder or potentially a primary bench player. Nobody could have predicted what would happen this season but before long, Gardy was left as the sole veteran outfielder and undisputed leader.

Even though Gardy’s stats aren’t anything like that of Gio Urshela or LeMahieu, the left fielder has put together a pretty stellar year. But that isn’t what always makes a leader. Sometimes it’s how he responds to the media.

Take his recent interview after getting ejected Friday night for virtually nothing. In that interview after the game, Gardner stood up for his teammates by addressing the unfairness in officiating. Not only that, but perhaps the best part of his interview was his defense of Aaron Judge, who had to give up his day off because of the unfair ejection.

Gardner quickly turns the interview from himself back to the team, just like he should. While he made a spectacle of himself on the field, he was able to stand up for himself and his team.

With his lifetime .260 batting average, he’s definitely not a first-ballot Hall of Fame candidate. But he’s been a Yankee for life and is the spark plug of this 2019 squad, without a doubt.

When Gardner is in the lineup, everything seems to click. He has muscled clutch home runs and hustled for extra bases all season long. Many young players have credited him with helping them get acclimated to the big leagues. He is a leader by all definitions for the Yankees.

This season has been one of unexpected twists and turns, all resulting in a highly successful year. And it’s far from over for the New York Yankees.

But perhaps one of the biggest surprises was Brett Gardner’s emergence not only as a 35-year-old outfielder but as a true leader.

Title or not, Brett Gardner is the undisputed captain of this team and his leadership is helping this team get the job done.

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