Brett Gardner
Dan Hamilton | USA TODAY Sports

To the Yankees fans still holding out hope for a miraculous Brett Gardner return: It is time to accept reality.

From The Athletic:

For years, Brett Gardner held the second-best location — the back-right corner, opposite of (Aaron) Judge. His (spring training) locker was vacant last year as the Yankees kept open the possibility of resuming his 14-year career with the team. But this year, his spot has been given to Aaron Hicks.

Well that’s going to go over well. Not only have the Yankees given away Gardner’s locker, but they have given it to a guy the entire fanbase has turned on. If the clubhouse was open to the public, Hicks would get LaTroy Hawkinsed out of it.

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The calls for Gardner’s return last season were understandable. Joey Gallo and Hicks were catastrophes. And the fact he turned down overtures from other clubs to wait for a call from the Bronx undoubtedly strengthened his stance as a fan favorite. But the ship has sailed. Gardner clearly is not coming back and all that is left is for him to formally retire. And when that does happen, the Yankees need to step up and bring meaningful closure to his career after admittedly not handling his exit as well as they could have.

Gardner is not going to have his number retired and a Monument Park plaque is likely a bit out of reach for him. But his unique place in club history as the bridge between the Core Four era and the Aaron Judge era deserves some sort of recognition beyond the rousing ovations he will get at Old Timer’s Day every summer. What that looks like is unclear. But the Yankees need to figure it out. Gardner — and the fans — deserve that.

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James Kratch can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.

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.