Brett Michael Gardner
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 10", Weight 180 lb.
- School College of Charleston
- High School Holly Hill-Roberts High School
- Debut June 30, 2008
Brett Gardner was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 3rd round of the 2005 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Steve Swail and made his pro debut that summer. In the minor leagues, he showed an ability to hit for a good average while drawing walks and stealing bases, although he had little power. His best all-around season was 2006, when he hit .298, drew 70 walks, scored 87 runs and stole 58 bases between the Class A Tampa Yankees and AA Trenton Thunder. He then split 2007 between Trenton and the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, hitting .281 in 99 games. He was back at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2008, where he hit .296 in 94 games and stole 37 bases. He got his first opportunity to play in the big leagues in late June that season
In 2008, in 42 games, and 227 at bats, Gardner posted 29 hits, including 2 triples, and 5 doubles for a .229 batting average for the New York Yankees. He also scored 18 runs, and was successful in 13 out of 14 stolen base attempts. He also played errorless defense in the outfield. The Yankees missed the postseason that year, which was also the last one they played in the old Yankee Stadium.
In 2009 spring training, Gardner was competing for the starting job as the Yankees' center fielder with Melky Cabrera. He ended up making the team and sharing playing time with Cabrera. In the spring, he had received the "Kevin Lawn Award" for being the Yankees' top minor league batter the previous season. He played 108 games, missing time due to a fractured thumb, and hit .270/.345/.379, with 26 stolen bases. He was a back-up in the first two rounds of the postseason that year, playing 9 games, but getting only 4 plate appearances, then went 0 for 10 in the 2009 World Series as the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies for their first Championship since 2000. In 2010, he was the Yankees' opening day left-fielder, having beaten out veteran newcomers Randy Winn and Marcus Thames for the job, and celebrated by stealing home against the Boston Red Sox. He went on to hit .277/.383/.379 with 97 runs scored and 47 stolen bases in 150 games and played more games in the outfield than anyone else on the Yankees, mainly in left field, but also in centerfield for 44 games while starter Curtis Granderson was unavailable. He didn't fare as well in the postseason, going 5 for 27 (.185) with no extra-base hits and three walks in 9 games as the Yankees bowed out to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.
Gardner was installed as the Yankees' leadoff hitter to start the 2011 season, moving Yankee icon Derek Jeter to the second spot in the batting order. He played 159 games that season, hitting .259 with 87 runs scored and leading the American League in stolen bases with 49. He drew 60 walks in addition to his 132 hits. He went 7 for 17 with 5 RBI in the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers, but the Yankees were eliminated in 5 games in spite of his great contribution. In 2012, Gardner only played 9 games for the Yankees before being felled by an injury. On April 17th, he injured his right elbow in making a diving catch against the Minnesota Twins; he tried rehabilitation, but in July an MRI indicated more serious damage and the need for arthroscopic surgery, seemingly ending any hopes of a return that year. He was hitting .321 at the time of the injury and in his absence, veterans Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez received the bulk of the playing time in left field, until the acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki in August. However, Gardner's recovery was quicker than anticipated, and he was back on the field in late September, getting into 7 games as a back-up. He ended the season with a .323 average in only 31 at-bats, but was placed on the Yankees' postseason roster. He did not get a plate appearance in the ALDS, but made his first start since April in Game 3 of the ALCS on October 16th, replacing Nick Swisher in the line-up, and hitting lead-off with Derek Jeter having suffered a broken ankle in Game 1.
Heading into spring training in 2013, the Yankees decided to shuffle their outfield crew, following the departure of Swisher, Jones and Ibanez through free agency. They thus announced that Gardner would be the starter in centerfield, with Granderson moving to left and Ichiro Suzuki patrolling right field. It seemed a perfectly natural move in retrospect, given Gardner's great speed and defensive prowess, but the conservative Yankees had generally been averse in recent years to moving established players from their positions, even if a defensive edge could be gained. Gardner ended up being one of the few Yankee regulars to be healthy all season, playing 145 games, 138 of them in center field. He hit .273/.344/.416, led the AL with 10 triples, in addition to 33 doubles and 8 homers, he scored 81 runs while driving in 52. He was not as fearsome on the basepaths, however, as he stole only 24 bases, getting caught 8 times. The Yankees had a very difficult season, racked by injuries and controversy, however; they finished third and missed the postseason.
There were more changes to the Yankees' outfield picture coming into 2014, with Granderson moving over to the New York Mets as a free agent and Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran coming on board on long-term contracts. While the Yankees had released Vernon Wells, they still had Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano under contract, leading to speculation that Gardner would be the odd man out, especially as it was announced that Ellsbury would play in centerfield. On February 23rd, however, the Yankees announced they had signed Gardner to a four-year deal worth $52 million, indicating they saw him as their starting left-fielder. This brought out more questions about how the Yankees were spending an awful lot of money on outfielders the wrong side of 30 when they had pressing needs to renew their infield. With Ellsbury and Gardner both having a game based on speed and a history of time missed to injuries, the age factor was particularly risky. In a strange twist, Gardner and P CC Sabathia were the only two Yankees to start on Opening Day in 2013 and 2014; mainstays Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira had both been injured when the 2013 season started and all six other 2014 starters had been acquired since. On September 21st, he hit the 15,000th home run in Yankees history, dating back to 1903, when he connected off Drew Hutchison of the Blue Jays in the 5th inning of a 5-2 win. The Yankees were the first major league franchise to reach that total. He finished the year with 17 homers and 58 RBIs, both career highs, while hitting .256 and scoring 87 runs. He stole 21 bases in 26 attempts.
Gardner had one of his best seasons in 2015, being a mainstay in left field while CF Ellsbury and RF Beltran both missed time with injuries. He was rewarded by being named to the All-Star Game for the first time. He had a career day on September 12th in a doubleheader against the Blue Jays, when he hit three homers, including a pair of three-run shots in the nitecap, but it was all for naught as the Yankees were swept and saw their chances of winning a division title dwindle to almost nothing. In 151 games that season, he hit .259 with 16 homers and 66 RBIs, also scoring 94 runs and stealing 20 bases in 25 tries. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts as the Yankees lost the Wild Card Game to the Houston Astros, however. He played another 148 games in 2016, batting .261 and scoring 80 runs. His power fell over previous seasons, as he only hit 7 homers and drove in 40 runs. His OBP was still a solid .351, but his drop ion power lowered his OPS+ to 91, his worst performance since his sophomore season.
On April 12, 2017, he was injured in a violent collision at first base with Rickie Weeks of the Tampa Bay Rays. Weeks was learning to play first base, and when he dropped a wild relay from pitcher Xavier Cedeno, he stepped into the basepath in an attempt to recover the errant ball, and right in the way of Gardner, who was running at full speed and could do nothing to avoid banging into him. Both players had to leave the game. He only missed one game, however, but hit only .205 in April, being one of the rare Yankees players struggling with the bat as the team got off to a blazing start. He righted things in May, however, as he hit .327 with 9 homers and 21 RBIs and 23 runs scored. Rookie Aaron Judge was getting all the media and fan attention on the team, but he was contributing just as much from the lead-off spot. On June 1st, he recorded the 999th and 1,000th hits of his career in a 12-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. he played 151 games, hitting .264 with 96 runs, a career-high 21 homers and 63 RBIs as the Yanks returned to the postseason as the first wild card team in the AL. He went 2 for 4 with a homer and 3 runs scored in New York's defeat of the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Game, and 6 for 21 in their upset win over the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. Thing were a bit tougher as he was limited to 4 hits and a walk as the Yankees lost the ALCS to the Houston Astros in 7 games.
He started off the 2018 season slowly and was hitting just .198 on May 9th as the Yankees were tied with the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East. He broke out of his slump with three extra-base hits, and a two-run triple off Craig Kimbrel in the 8th that put New York ahead to stay. They won that game 9-6 for their 17th win in their last 18 games and took over sole possession of first place. In the end, the Yankees won 1000 games but still finished behind the Red Sox, who had a historically-successful season. Gardner hit .236 in 140 games, his lowest average since his rookie season in 2008, with 12 homers and 45 RBIs. However, he did score 95 runs and was successful in 16 of 18 stolen base attempts. He did not start the Wild Card Game against the Oakland Athletics, as late-season acquisition Andrew McCutchen played left field and led off and Brett only came in as a late-game defensive replacement. He then was 0 for 8 in the Division Series as the Yankees were defeated in four games by the Red Sox.
He was back starting in center field at the start of the 2019 season, out of necessity because the Yankees were facing a rash of injuries, including one to CF Aaron Hicks. On April 17th, he hit a milestone homer against the Red Sox, the 100th of his career. It was a grand slam off Ryan Brasier with two outs in the 7th inning and it turned a 3-1 deficit into an eventual 5-3 win. On June 8th, frustrated after making an out in a game against the Cleveland Indians, he threw his helmet in anger against the dugout wall, only to have it bounce back and hit him square in the face. The result was a cut lip requiring 6 stitches, and major embarrassment as the scene was caught on camera. It was a difficult stretch for Brett, as he was in an 0-for-22 skid and had seen his batting average fall to .217, putting him in danger of losing his starting job when regulars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton returned. However, as Stanton remained out for a long time, and other injuries kept piling on, Gardner continued to play basically every day. On August 9th, he got into an uncharacteristic argument with umpire Chris Segal after being ejected for arguing balls and strikes in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays; after being thumbed, he had to be restrained from attacking the umpire from manager Aaron Boone, apparently irked because he had been thrown out without even saying a word. He was not even the player batting at the time: it was teammate Mike Tauchman and Segal apparently assumed the unpleasant comments coming from the dugout had come from the veteran outfielder. What was undeniable was that Gardner had been banging his bat loudly against the dugout roof in protest of the umpire's calls, and on August 17th, he was ejected again, this time by first base umpire Phil Cuzzi, for doing precisely that, as it was clearly a way to show up the umpires that clearly fell afoul of rule 6.04 (e) regarding unsportsmanlike conduct. He finished the season at .251 in 141 games, with 86 runs, 26 homers and 74 RBIs. His OPS+ of 117 was the highest of his career in a full season (it had been 120 in 2012, but in only 16 games). In the postseason, he went 3 for 12 with a homer in the Yankees' sweep of the Twins in the Division Series, but only 3 for 22 with no extra-base hits in their loss to the Astros in the ALCS.
- AL All-Star (2015)
- AL Gold Glove Winner (2016/LF)
- AL Triples Leader (2013)
- AL Stolen Bases Leader (2011)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2017 & 2019)
- Won a World Series with the New York Yankees in 2009