Manager Aaron Boone was candid when asked about the veteran outfielder — who did not play in 2022 but has not yet retired — before Sunday’s win in Cleveland to send the ALDS to a deciding Game 5 on Monday in the Bronx. He admitted he has not spoken with Gardner since last season — something he regrets.
“I owe that to him,” Boone told reporters. “I guess he was always in play. The offseason was weird obviously because of the lockout and I couldn’t talk to people. And then all of a sudden, it broke and free agency and everything happened so quick.”
The cliff notes: Gardner opted out of his deal last winter, electing to become a free agent again. But unlike previous seasons, he and the Yankees were unable to strike a deal before or after the lockout. And then the Yankees passed on bringing him back all season long, preferring to run out guys like Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks on a regular basis instead. Gardner reportedly had offers elsewhere, but he declined them. It was apparently all or nothing for him — a 15th season with the Yankees or no season.
Gardner, 39, played 14 years with the Yankees. The fan favorite won the World Series in 2009, was an All-Star in 2015 and received a Gold Glove in 2016. And Gardner was a clubhouse leader that bridged the transition from the end of the Core Four and A-Rod era to the current Aaron Judge-led era.
Anyway, Boone was too busy to give Gardner a call. And it would be interesting to know if anyone in the Yankees’ hierarchy ever closed things out with Gardner. He is not necessarily a “legacy” player in the franchise’s history, but he certainly was an important one. And it does seem — from the outside looking in — he deserved better at the end.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]