Brett M. 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.
- AL All-Star (2015)
- AL Gold Glove Winner (2016/LF)
- AL Triples Leader (2013)
- AL Stolen Bases Leader (2011)
- Won a World Series with the New York Yankees in 2009