What are the alternatives to Brett Gardner?

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Last night was another rough night for Brett Gardner. He went 0-4, including a failed sac bunt, and looked pretty bad doing so. On that failed sac bunt…I think it’s safe to say that it’s time to halt the Brett Gardner as bunter experiment. The Yankees have been trying to get him to do it well since last year and it’s just not working. Gardner clearly doesn’t possess the skill to bunt and the Yankees need to stop forcing it. Gardner has shown that, if nothing else, he’s able to work the occasional walk and that’s more valuable than dropping down a crappy bunt every now and again. I say let him take his pitches and work his way on that way. But….

Gardner just isn’t hitting right now. He’s also not doing the whole base stealing thing, either. And, as mentioned before, the bunting isn’t there. So, what can the Yankees do if this continues? They’ve already done one thing, and that’s to drop Gardner back down to a low spot in the lineup. That makes complete sense and the Yankees should get props for recognizing it early. So, here’s props.

The next route would be to eliminate the platoon and just make Andruw Jones the full time left fielder. This isn’t completely undesirable, considering the fact that Jones has been a full time player for most of his career. However, he’s been relegated to platoon duty of late after 2007 (.304) and 2008 (.207!) saw Jones post miserable wOBAs against right handed pitching. But, in every year other than that (since 2002), he has a wOBA of at least .337 against right handed pitchers. I think I’d feel comfortable if the Yankees wanted to make Jones the full time left fielder, so long as they think his body could hold up.

The extreme option–if this slump becomes even more prolonged–would be to option Gardner back down to the minors. I don’t see this happening unless Gardner really bombs and can’t correct himself after about 100 PAs. At that point, we could hear the Scranton Express coming for Brett with Chris Dickerson or Justin Maxwell on board to take Gardner’s place in the Bronx. In that situation, I’d imagine they’d go with Dickerson since he’s left handed, but I don’t think the difference would be huge. If that happens, I think Jones would already be the starter.

There’s also the trade market, but it’s not developed at all this early in the season and speculating about any sort of trade would be irresponsible and unfounded, so I won’t do that here. By all means, though, feel free to discuss any trade possibilities in the comments.

I’m inclined to give Gardner the benefit of the doubt here, since I’m always confident in a guy who can work walks and play good defense. However, if he can’t work those walks and is struggling to make even decent contact, then it’s a problem.

A native and resident of the Mean Streets of Southwestern Connecticut, Matt is a narcissistic, misanthropic 20something English teacher who lives by a simple creed: Yankees Only.

36 thoughts on “What are the alternatives to Brett Gardner?

  1. I’m willing to stick with him for 100 at-bats. After that, if he’s shown no sign of improvement, it’s time to bench him and give someone else a chance. His defense is still great, so he can still be a defensive replacement and pinch runner, so I think he should stick around regardless.

  2. oldpep

    I think it’s his hands. Even great hitters take a while to recover from hand injuries, and it’s possible he keeps aggravating the situation with every head-first slide.
    In any case, he has to be able to hit some of the BP fastballs he’s seen lately or he becomes useless. I think he will, but I also believe he’d do it a lot sooner if he learned to slide feet first.

    • We’re in the third week of the season! He’s going to be fine. The entire line up rarely has a stellar year. Fans seem so quick to pull the trigger on slumping players these days. Gardner is a younger player on this aging bomber team and needs to be given time to work through it. Tex had a tough year especially the first half last season and Jeter’s woes have been hammered into oblivion. These guys are great players and pros who will work through rough spots, so be patient. Maybe Boston should dump Crawford since he’s slumping? Or the Phils should start unloading since they are having problems. I’ve been following BB for over 60 years and attended thousands of games and I can’t name you one great who didn’t struggle at times.Any of you remember when Clete Boyer was in a deep slump in 61 and wrapped his bat in the on deck circle with bandages? The crowd would roar and Casey made him stop after a couple of weeks. He ended up with a decent season for Boyer. Remember Jimmy Piersal? I was at a game where he ran around left field gathering paper blowing on the field and lit it! They had to stop the game and extinguish it. He batted above 300 and with his frequent antics he was still a star. One great player who was in a slump went to the plate and batted from the other side. No, he wasn’t a switch hitter. He shocked everyone including himself and hit a sharp clean single up the middle.Knowing he did that from the opposite side of the plate gave him new confidence and in no time the slump was history. The Yanks are 2 games up and the season isn’t a month old. The oil isn’t even completely worked into the leather yet. Worry about slumps and weaknesses come the end of June and tweak it then. This is a great team that has a great chance to win the East.I had a friend who begged me to invest and partner in his new company in 67.I thought he had lost his mind. Selling bottles of water for the price of a bottle of pop? The business took off. An engineer by profession, he was making money big time. Then he began to analyze this and that and tweak his operations. Newer companies seeing his sucess began selling water too. Soon they passed him. He was perplex. I told him to stop over analyzing and go back to the winning formulas when he was booming. He did. He was a winner again! When he died, the company was sold for millions. What am I Saying??? It’s early, yanks are in first place, some players are hot and some are not! But it’s working. Be patient and don’t try to micro manage a winning team just yet!!!! Thanks,,,,, .

      • Bill

        i enjoyed reading that. Thanks for the time it took you.

      • Cazwell

        Yours is one of the very few sensible comments I see posted! But then I also remember Cletus Boyer. Now if only Joba can don some thick glasses and pull the old Ryne Duren trick although the stands are too close in the new stadium.

      • Johnny…
        Very well written and true. It is amazing to read some of the writings of fans that where parsing Brett last year get on his case this year. He is not the only Yankee not hitting, how about Jeter, Jones and Posada?
        I thought I was the only one to have followed the Yanks for 60+ years…thanks for being a true Yankee Fan!

        • There’s a big difference, though. Posada, Jeter, and Jones have all already established high levels of performance and bought themselves the benefit of the doubt. Gardner hasn’t done that yet.

          • DILO1

            AMEN, AMEN!!!!

  3. Peter

    I think Gardner was overrated going into this season and has been for awhile. He had one good half of a season last year where his BABIP was very high. He has no power at all and really relies on his ability to walk at a solid rate, which pitchers learned after a half season that there is no reason to throw him anything besides strikes. The second half of last season he was pretty bad and it has simply carried over. I realize he will have some type of bounce back, but he doesn’t seem to me someone who is going to consistently hit in the .280 range. I actually wanted Carl Crawford this offseason (who is also struggling) because I think Gardner is just a solid 4th outfielder. Other than his fielding he really offers nothing which isn’t good for a corner outfielder.

  4. Rich M.

    Pete, don’t forget that his first half last season was more than acceptable: 1H BA – .309, OBP – .396 and OPS – .811); his 2H BA -.233, OBP – .366 and OPS – .698. Reason for the drop-off?, perhaps fatigue from playing every day for the first time in the Bigs OR more likely the wrist injury he suffered in July.

    I cannot understand why he is unable to improve his bunting deficiencies; I thought for sure they would have worked extensively to address that in ST, I do feel he should be given a bit longer leash to get untracked before he is benched, sent down or moved. He IS an excellent defender, and in that stacked lineup should be “carried” provided he hit .250 at the bottom of the order.

    • roadrider

      Fatigue? Wrist injury? Sure – I buy both of those but not as complete explanations for Gardner’s fall off in the second half and certainly not for this dismal start this season. The opposition simply made adjustments both in defensive positioning and pitching approach that Gardner has not been able to adjust to. He’s not getting the infield hits and bloopers that artificially boosted his BABIP in the first half last year and pitchers are pounding the strike zone against him because when he swings – well nothing much is happening. Why walk him and have him steal?

      Bunting is not going to help him much because it can only work on a limited basis. If it’s done frequently it’s too easy to defense without the threat of being able to consistently swing away for hits. Unless Gardner can show more legitimate hitting skills than he’s show so far in his career (including last year) he’s done as a MLB regular. That high OBP last year may well have been a castle built on sand.

      The argument that the lineup can “carry” a weak hitter has been debunked many times in many places. It’s only true as long as there are no slumps and/or injuries, and let’s face it, there always are. Yeah, Gardner is a good OF (not last night though – should have had Encarnacion’s 2B that landed on the warning track) but he’s not playing a premium defensive position he’s a corner OF – that’s a spot for a masher not a slap hitting glove man who can’t even maintain a high BA!!!

      I agree that he deserves a longer leash than 15 games but if he can’t pull out of it by the end of the month it’s time to pull the plug and recognize that while speed is a nice asset to have as a player if that’s most or all of what you’ve got then (in baseball anyway) you haven’t got much.

    • T.O. Chris

      I read (I think on MLB Rumors) that Alex actually begged the team to bring in Melky this off-season.

  5. Rich M.

    Maria, bottom line: Melky was a distraction to his “running buddy” Robbie Cano. (Remember when he was sent down and Cano’s play picked-up dramatically?) Less goofing around and partying at night will do that.

    Melky will do just fine as a career fourth OFer elsewhere. Leave Cano to his devices, such as .300/30+/100+ seasons and multiple GGs and AS selections. Yanks come out ahead big-time! 😉

  6. Frank

    I agree with Peter about Gardner being over-rated. He had a very good first half last season and everyone thought he was best thing since sliced bread. For me, he serves better as a role player. The player I’d like the Yankees to obtain via trade is Denard Span. Who knows, Perhaps, if the Twins have a down year, they look to move him although I doubt it.

    • Denard Span is the exact same player as Brett Gardner; I’d rather just wait on Gardner instead of giving up assets for the same player who’s due to get paid a lot. No thanks.

      • T.O. Chris

        I don’t like Gardner let’s trade for Emilio Bonifacio!

  7. My first response is that this is your article and certainly your opinions. And you’re definitely entitled to those. That said, I completely disagree with your bunting theory. Having played briefly as a minor league catcher (injury ended my dream) and having spent the last 35 yrs coaching baseball at most levels including American Legion and Senior AAU and 1 stint at a private high school, my opinion is that Gardner just flat doesn’t WANT to bunt. Any ML baseball player with the skills to even reach the ML is more that capable of LEARNING to bunt. I’ve seen Gardner work himself in to situations at bat to where the bunt has to be wiped off, In MHO it was intentional. For the life of me, I will never understand why he get’s himself into those 0 and 2, 1 and 2 counts almost every time at bat, then looks at a called third strike more than anyone else in ML baseball. I have no clue what happens to him from an organiza6ional standpoint. I’m sorry the young man was injured last season. As far as anyone knows, he’s healthy now. I just personally believe it’s time for the Talking Heads in the organization to make a move.

    • Larry…
      I also, am a coach and was a player. Being a coach, you must know that not everyone can learn how to be a very good bunter. It’s just like every other baseball skill, some can and some can’t. It is like catching the ball with your bat. Two of the best bunters the Yanks ever had were Rizzuto and (believe it or not) Mickey Mantle.
      Bunting is a lot like pitching off speed pitches…Feel…one has it or not.

    • Bill P.

      I don’t agree with Larry in regard to Gardner and his inability to handle two-strike counts since Brett Gardner had the best batting average with two strike on a hitter in MLB last year. I have also coached and believe the fall-off here is two-fold: The wrist injury has definitely contributed to some flawed mechanics and he is not making the adjustments he needs to make since pitchers have adjusted to him; he needs to quit trying to pull the ball and use the whole field!
      Good Luck, Brett–As a 50 yr Yankee Fan I am pulling for you. I just hope they get the SP thing straightened out!

  8. Maria

    get Melky back! NEVER should have traded him.

  9. Juan Carlos

    He is an out dresed as ballplayer, it’s time to send him to the unemployed office

  10. Daniel

    I. Don’t think its an issue yet. I think he should be looked over, but not scrutanized. There are many players across the league to begin slow and then go on to do big things (and not just the big names.) I too belive the hand injury may be playing a role in this situation. And because of his reputation for drawing walks he’s a guy in the lineup who will be seeing a lot of good pitches. I say give him a couple days off to work with the trainers, and then let him figure his swing out. Batting ninth is an ideal spot for him because its like having two lead off hitters from the 3 or 4th inning on. If anything I belive he is UNDER rated rather over rated. He has the staples to be a good defensive contact hitter for years to come.

  11. Daniel

    Another thing is, lets not forget about Derek Jeter a couple years back starting 2 for 32 or something disasterous like that and he ended up with a .291 avg. (those are probably off a little) But I think were not giving Gardner enough credit for the simple fact that he’s not a big name yet. Sure the “big names” have proven themselves in the past. But it’s no different than what Gardner is going through now. “well I think he’s overrated” Why? because he doesnt hit 40 hrs you roided out long ball junkie. He’s only played full season. He plays small ball something the Yankees DONT HAVE. Jorge Posada only has 8 hits on the season, but because 5 are hr’s no one comments on it. I think what we should really be doing is picking on Rodriguez and Texiera, there is no reason for Cano to be batting 5th in the lineup. Robinson is the best all around player on that team. Fielding, Hitting for contact, and hitting for power. I believe Robinson Cano should be hitting third, Rodriguez should stay clean up and Texiera should be hitting 5th. yes, he hits for power, but he doesnt hit very often. It may seem like I’m just going off on a tangent but I just feel we tend to pick on the younger guys too much especially when he’s a yankee. Just my two pennies.

  12. mike

    So, who in the Majors does know the art of bunting? A select few. The skill just isn’t taught any more (from little league up)
    especially in the American league. Players are expected to have power because that’s what fans like. I think speed is an exciting part of the game which involves not only getting to a flyball on defense; but bunting and stealing (which is also not used enough).

  13. Bill S.

    Yes Gardner’s defense is fine but is anyone else tired of seeing him work counts to 3-2 only to hope for an infield hit or a walk ? Isn’t that what we already have in Jeter? Although Jeter is at least showing signs of lifting the ball to right field. Gardner is at best a 4th outfielder on any team.

  14. Joe Botchagaloop

    He’s not talented enough to be a consistent producer offensively. Aside from that he’s fine. The Yankees have a 210 million dollar payroll with a single A leadoff hitter who cannot keep up with anything over 89 mph, swings the bat like Johnny Damon throws a baseball, can’t bunt, can’t steal a base without seriously compromising the current at bat because he waits forever. He’s a good defensive replacement and late inning pich runner and that’s it. He’s just not very good….it’s that simple.

  15. YankeeMike

    What seems to have been forgotten here is that Gardner did bunt in the minors – it was a big part of his game. He said on one of the YES shows that somehow his skill in bunting was “lost” when he was expected to hit to play in the majors and he focused on hitting. It seems very strange that you can forget something basic like how to bunt if you did a lot of bunting and were effective on this before. I mean Gardner looks absolutely awkward bunting. Seems like he doesn’t want to bunt. Hopefully he gets whatever he needs to straighten himself out – it is nice to get a speedster on the bases – just another part of the arsenal of offensive weapons to win games.

  16. George Clark

    If he’s going to hit leadoff he’s got to hit. He’s NOT…I believe he’s 3 for 6 in SB’s…not acceptable. He has huge holes in his game and should be on a very short leash. When the Red Sox get going, and they will, we will not be able to carry Gardner’s deficiencies.

  17. Daniel

    No one is talking about him hitting lead off, Why does everyone forget he hit .270 last year? Its nothing more than a slow start. Wow you guys are brutal haha
    He brings speed to a power line up, that is a good thing. We are three players away from being a very scary team to face (Not that were not already.) Two more guys for speed late in the game, and a solid starting pitcher.

  18. Brads

    Grady Sizemore. Get him asap before the price goes thru roof.

  19. JT

    Gardner is not a ML caliber hitter. He should not be starting. He’s a late game pinch runner/defensive replacement. Das it…

  20. […] thereof) to start the year. In the comment section of that RAB article, and the comment section of my piece about Gardner from yesterday, people brought up the fact that Melky and Robinson Cano were good friends when they were both on […]

  21. DILO1

    Anyone who has watched Gardner through the last two years had to have noted the following;

    1) He was a slap stick hitter for the most part, limiting his at bats to either walking, infield pop ups, lazy outfield pop ups, or striking out.

    2) He took countless good pitches, usually limiting his options to swinging at possible 3rd strikes. It took other teams a while to realize this and now pound the strike zone, yet he continues to take the pitches. He listened to the press about his ability to take pitches and be a good two strike hitter. I’d like to smoke whatever they were to arrive at that conclusion.

    3) Whenever he did reach base, he was indecisive as to when to steal, which usually affected the batter behind himj who took pitches to allow him to stealand found themselves in a hole. The manager should have then taken the lead and gave him the steal sign, in lieu of him anchoring himself to first base most of the time. Not only has his batting average settled into his norm, but his base stealing became almost non-existant.

    Combine his stats for the last 2 1/2 years and be surprised that many minor league players in the same position have stats that far exceed his. His defensive skills can be matched by many major leaguers. What good is his speed if he can’t get on, and when he does, he hesitates to steal. He has far from dominated at anything during his time in the majors. Girardi fell in love with his speed and let that overshadow comon sense. His defensive capabilities are not that difficult to match by many other outfielders in the minors, given the chance, if that is the criteria for making the majors.

  22. chaim

    Gardner has won the fielders bible award last year for his defensive effort in left field, which means he was one of the most energetic run preventers in 2010. this is the closest thing of a defensive player producing runs. this means, he helped his team win more games than some highly celebrated players. add in the fact that he had an enormous OBP which is the most important offensive stat (even in his 2nd half season slump – he had a respectble .360 OBP.) to me such player is the essence of a very good player. someone who you should hold on the longest rope possible, no matter how bad he struggles in the beginning of the season. remember that he’s profound at starting seasons slowly. The 2009 season he also started very slow, lost his everyday job and then rebounded to have a decent year.

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