NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees reacts after striking out against Charlie Morton #50 the Houston Astros during the first inning in Game Three of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 16, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City.
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Brett Gardner’s presence — or lack thereof — has hovered over the Yankees all season long. So why wouldn’t the issue be raised again with the Bombers facing elimination?

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

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.