It's now been 18 months since Brett Gardner made the American League All-Star team as a fourth outfielder. Eighteen months. Lincoln Chafee, Rick Perry and Trump had just launched presidential campaigns. Obama had just announced opening of diplomatic ties with Cuba. That racist shithead had just shot up the black church in Charleston. Just 18 months. Feels like 18 years.
In mid-2015, Gardner looked like a future Yankee captain. He hit .303 before the All-Star break, .206 afterward. He finished at .259, booed in the Selig Memorial Wild Card Game after what had become his signature at-bat: The slow roller to second base.
At 33, he's coming off 18 crappy months. Last season, he hit .261 and stole only 16 bases. There are first basemen who stole more. (Wil Meyers, Paul Goldschmidt) The Yankees have him for two more years - $12 million and $11 million - with an option for a third that looks increasingly absurd.
Adding to our worries is the fact that Gardy this spring has sucked. He's hitting .204 with one HR and 2 stolen bases, and his collapse has become the 15 minutes of silence in each happy talk Yankee podcast. In right field, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks are waging a furious territorial war, hammering balls, while Gardner turns in another 0-for-2. That great first half of 2015 is starting to look like a historical blip.
Wait a minute... I can't even believe I'm saying this. For years, Gardy has been my favorite Yankee. He won a Gold Glove last season, no small feat, and ranked 4th on the team in WAR - if you follow mystery stats. (Keep in mind, Chase Headley came in third, after Sanchez and Didi... so tell me all about Sabermetrics, WAR fans.) He should be a valuable Yankee... but let's face it: Gardy is in trouble.
All winter, he was a trade rumor. His lousy spring has now undermined his value to the point where the Yankees may have to keep him. Cashman will never get enough to justify a trade. But if Judge and Hicks keep hitting, or if Clint Frazier gets hot in Scranton, it's Gardner's job they come for. (The Yankees, as everyone knows, are contractually bound to Ellsbury like Ahab to the whale.) With a wave of young outfielders in the system, Gardy is odd-man out. I can't help but think that is at least a partial reason for his current struggles.
In a perfect world, Gardner would be ripping it up this spring, boosting Yankee hopes and maybe greasing his trade to a contender. But at .204 - no power and meager base stealing - we're stuck with him, and he's stuck with us. And neither is happy. That's a bad deal.