Brett Gardner
Dan Hamilton | USA TODAY Sports

Brett Gardner should be a serious candidate for the New York Yankees’ first-base coach vacancy.

Let’s have a chat about Brett Gardner, shall we?

He’s small, scrappy, has a signature shaved head, and is a fan among New York Yankees fans despite his not being a true star. In a sense, he’s the epitome of a real hard-working ballplayer.

Which, in turn, made me remember something I mentioned about him to some friends a few years ago. Granted, it was at a Christmas party and I was maybe four rum-and-nogs deep, but hear me out.

“You know what’d be great?” I queried some fellow sports nuts, “If Brett Gardner retired and then became the Yankees’ first base coach. Think about it. It totally makes sense.”

The next morning, as I deepened my friendship with black coffee and a lumberjack breakfast, a friend who was at the party shot me a text message.

“Gotta say, JB,” it read. “You might be onto something with the Gardner/first base coach bit.”

Well, it took a few years, but now we have to talk about the possibility. Reggie Willits stepped down from the role after four years to take a coaching job at Oklahoma, his alma mater. The New York Yankees have a coaching vacancy at first base.

Why not ease Brett Gardner into retirement by hiring him to fill it?


Brett Gardner knows the New York Yankees

First, hiring Gardner saves the Yankees the trouble of having to scour a whole list of first base coach candidates. He’s been a staple in the Bronx since debuting in 2008 and eats, sleeps, lives, and breathes pinstripes. Gardner is also 38 and his hitting has also been on the decline for a few years, so he could arguably carry more value in a coach’s role.

It also helps that Brett Gardner has long been a key leader in the Yankees clubhouse. His teammates know he has their back whether he’s being restrained from tackling an umpire or playing one of his signature pranks.

Look at it this way. AFC Richmond benefitted tremendously when Roy Kent returned to the locker room as an assistant coach. Who’s to say Gardner can’t do a similar Jake Taylor impression in becoming the first base caoch for the New York Yankees?


A seamless transition…

Furthermore, Reggie Willits also served as the Yankees’ outfield instructor on top of his first base coaching duties. Brett Gardner, despite his drop in hitting, is still a pretty reliable defensive outfielder. With all of the Yankees’ defensive issues in recent years, his smooth touch with the glove could be invaluable from a coaching standpoint.


…but is Brett Gardner ready to retire?

Yet, all of this depends on if Gardner wants to return for another season. Not to mention, after a disappointing 2021, do the New York Yankees want him back in that capacity? Serious roster changes are all but certain, so is there even room for an aging outfielder with diminishing skills?

Regardless, one thing is certain. Brett Gardner loves playing baseball for the New York Yankees. Even after his team fell to the Boston Red Sox in the AL Wild Card Game, he did his postgame interview in full uniform even though others got dressed first.

“Just not ready to take it off yet,” Gardner said. “I hope that I’m back next season, but that’s really not on my radar right now.”

This sounds like a man at a crossroads. On one hand, he wants to return to the team next season. On the other, his keeping his uniform on could imply that we’ve come, as Boyz II Men put it, to the end of the road.

The New York Yankees are absolutely in a position to keep Brett Gardner around, and giving him the first base coach’s job is the best means. He was a strong outfielder and stronger baserunner in his prime. He knows the game.

Make the man the new first base coach, and watch the Yankees come back storming in 2022.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.