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Yankees’ Gardner not sure how to earn more playing time

Jun 22, 2011, 2:06 AM EDT

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Brett Gardner has been one of the Yankees’ hottest hitters for the last two months, hitting .357 with a .440 on-base percentage since April 28.

He’s reached base nine times in 15 plate appearances in the three games since replacing the injured Derek Jeter at the lead-off spot. And in his last 50 games, Gardner has a higher batting average than Robinson Cano, a higher slugging percentage than Alex Rodriguez, and is tied with Curtis Granderson for the team’s highest OPS (.943).

Of course none of this means anything once Jeter returns from his calf injury. Joe Girardi confirmed as much on Tuesday, telling Ben Shpigel of the New York Times that “Derek’s been our leadoff guy. We’ll see how he feels, but yeah.”

Whether Gardner’s overall success will earn him some more starts against left-handers remains to be seen. His splits vs. lefties (.286/.390/.343) isn’t much worse than his numbers vs. righties (.294/.366/.465). One thing that is certain is Gardner would like more playing time:

The Yankees, though, are scheduled to face right-handed starters for at least the next six games. When asked what he could do to change Girardi’s mind, Gardner said, “Hit .400 against them, I don’t know.”

Gardner said the sporadic starts could grow frustrating because, “if you’re not getting a lot of at-bats against lefties, it’s hard to get better against them.”

Gardner’s frustration is understandable, as he’s put together nearly two months of extended success at the plate. Maybe he deserves more opportunity to show what he can do, and maybe he deserves to hit lead-off even after Jeter returns. Then again, you have to wonder if Gardner’s success is partly due to Girardi putting him in situations where he is more likely to do well.

Do you need playing time to succeed, or do you earn playing time by succeeding? Players, naturally, will always argue the former, but it’s a chicken-or-the-egg sort of thing.

Of course, I wouldn’t complain too much if I were Gardner. After all, Girardi gave him a shot to share lead-off duties with Jeter to start the season, and Gardner responded with a 6-for-40 slump. Will Gardner get another chance? If he keeps hitting like this, we’ll find out soon enough.

  1. craggt - Jun 22, 2011 at 3:07 AM

    Want to know how I know Derek Jeter isn’t a real leader? A real leader wouldn’t insist on hitting leadoff just to stroke his own ego. A real leader would realize that he’s not as good as he used to be and accept that. I can’t wait until Derek Jeter is out of baseball.

  2. eric feingold - Jun 22, 2011 at 3:22 AM

    Agree with the above post. Derek’s ego has to go.

  3. visnovsky - Jun 22, 2011 at 5:36 AM

    So you’re saying the 40 at bats to start the season prove that the last two months were a fluke and he shouldn’t play more?

  4. uyf1950 - Jun 22, 2011 at 5:47 AM

    I too agree with craggt. Also, concerning the comment and I quote “…do you earn playing time by succeeding…” I would contend absolutely. Especially when the player who you’ve replaced has underperformed as has Jeter in the leadoff spot. He also deserves to be platooned less since he is obviously much better at this stage of his career then the alternative (Jones).
    Let’s face it Gardner is one of the best defensive left fielders in the American League if not in all of baseball. And this year he has proven that when given the opportunity he is the right person to lead off for the Yankees. Give him a shot, if he starts to regress the Yankees can always move him back or go to plan “B”. The last thing I think the Yankees should want to to is hamper the growth of one of the best “young” players on their team. The main objective of the Yankees should be to win and current Gardner give the Yankees the best chance at doing that in his present capacity, leading off and playing full time.
    That’s just my opinion.

    • tinker61 - Jun 22, 2011 at 6:43 AM

      I totally agree. Every time I see “Jonesy” in the lineup, I cringe. My opinion is that Jones is lazy. He’s hanging on for the million or so the Yankees are paying him. I actually thought that the “Pride of playing in pinstripes” would make a difference. I don’t see any difference than his play in the last several years. He lied about an ankle “Rollover.” The plain truth as I see it is he forgot the outs, assumed there were two and just tanked the play. Then lied to cover up. I believe there are far superior options for a fourth outfielder in the minor league system. “Jonesy” should be gone. TODAY!!!

  5. njlurker - Jun 22, 2011 at 6:05 AM

    I realize that haters will take any opportunity to rag on Jeter. However, whether or not Gardner gets playing time is solely dependent on whether a lefty or righty is pitching against the Yankees and is solely a decision by Joe. It has absolutley nothing to do with Jeter. Granderson was originally platooned until he showed that he could hit as well against lefties as righties.

    If right handers are scheduled to pitch against them for the next six games, what’s the problem?

  6. eric feingold - Jun 22, 2011 at 6:14 AM

    Why are folks who analyse the stats and conclude that Jeter is no longer a viable lead-off man and that the Yankees have an alternative called haters?

  7. tinker61 - Jun 22, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    Let me say that I’m one of Jeter’s biggest fans. I saw the first game he played as a rookie and the one he was injured in and a huge portion of those in between. I’m not knocking or ragging on Jeter, but I have an opinion. First, with Jeter leading off we have several player not batting in a position to max out the production. Granderson should never be hitting in the two hole. With Gardner leading off and Jeter at two, Granderson and Swisher can bat lower for more run production. Jeter should man up and tell Girardi to move him down. Girardi should have the balls to tell Jeter he’s moving him down. Just my opinion.

  8. Jonny 5 - Jun 22, 2011 at 8:12 AM

    If you’re not going to use him, trade him for someone you will use. It’s quite simple.

  9. Jason @ IIATMS - Jun 22, 2011 at 8:15 AM

    We’ve been huge Brett Gardner supporters for years now. We had a Free Brett Gardner post in 2009! And we published this yesterday: http://itsaboutthemoney.net/archives/2011/06/21/brett-gardner-is-an-all-star-not-a-platoon-player/

    Wishing Girardi would let the guy just pay daily!

  10. njlurker - Jun 22, 2011 at 8:39 AM

    Because whether or not Gardner plays has nothing to do with Jeter. Whether Jeter bats lead off or ninth has nothing to do with the platooning of Gardner. Yet almost all the comments knock Jeter.

    Why don’t you guys wait until after he gets his 3000th hit and the blogs start pushing for him to be dropped to seventh? Then you can vent your Yankee/Jeter jealously.

    • uyf1950 - Jun 22, 2011 at 9:22 AM

      My friend, it is far from Jeter “bashing”. I have been a Yankees fan since the 1950’s and have seen every Yankee great for the past 50 plus years. The reality is at this stage of his career Jeter should not be batting lead off. And take my word for it anyone that thinks Jeter is at least not partially responsible for Gardner not batting lead off regularly is fooling themselves. If you think Posada made a stink out of being moved to 9th in the batting order wait until the Yankees tell Jeter he has to move down in the order and I just don’t mean down to 2nd. Jeter may not be as public as Posada was with it, but Jeter will put up a stink. Jeter is exactly the reason Gardner hasn’t been given the opportunity to consistently bat at the top of the order now. As for platooning Gardner and playing Jones that one you do have right. For some reason Girardi has it in his head that on many of those occasions when a lefty is pitching Jones is a better option. For some reason that I like most Yankees fans are yet to figure out. As for the comment about Jeter’s 3000th hit if it serves his “ego” and make no mistake about it Jeter has a huge ego let him get it batting at the top of the order. Then move him down the order and I mean “down” the order. That’s just my opinion of a very long time Yankees fan. Who believes the team comes before any individual player.

      • yournuts - Jun 22, 2011 at 11:45 AM

        My friend, I also am a long standing Yankee fan. Your wrong, Gardner has struggled when he was a everyday player. He is much better at this stage of his career to platoon. In crunch time you would rather have Brett Gardner up than Derek Jeter? Please get serious. This is June, the Yankees are 1 game back. Jeter is the leader, Gardner might not start in many outfields in the majors. Jeter huge ego? I think now, get over it and stop listening to these stupid bloggers. They called the Twins dead 2 weeks ago and look at what they are doing now!

      • uyf1950 - Jun 22, 2011 at 12:46 PM

        yournuts – no pun intended. However, you comment might carry more weight about Gardner being platooned if not for the fact that Garardi was platooning him with Jones. Anyone that can rationalize that should heed his own advise and “get serious”. BTW, my friend when in Gardner’s relatively short ML career has he ever been an everyday player. In 2008 he appeared in 42 games, in 2009 he appeared in 108 games in 2010 he appeared in 150 games. His line in 2010 BA .277, OBP .383, OPS .762. that was with 477 AB total. Do you know what Jeter’s line in 2010 was BA .270, OBP .340, OPS .710. So if you think Gardner has struggled what must you think of Jeter? Anyone that witnessed Jeter’s performance the 2nd half of 2010 and doesn’t think it was pathetic is fooling themselves.
        As for both their 2011 numbers: Gardner – .293 BA / .371 OBP / .815 OPS
        Jeter’s – .260 BA / .324 OBP / .649 OPS.
        If not for Jeter’s past reputation and status with the Yankees he would have been moved down the order a long time ago. Because his performance the 2nd half of last year and the majority of this season does NOT warrant him leading off…that maybe my opinion but the facts would seem to bear me out.
        Again, if I can use your words “get serious”.

  11. yankeesgameday - Jun 22, 2011 at 9:30 AM

    Love how a post about Gardner becomes about jeter in the comments. Gardner wants more playing time he needs to get timely hits with risp, lay down proper sacrifice hunts without missing the ball, not strike out looking with a confused “big, another fastball?”look on his face, and when he does get on steal early enough in the count for it to matter to the man at the plate to be able to bunt him to 3rd with less than two strikes, and stop getting caught stealing at a 50 percent rate… That’s just pathetic for a guy with his speed.

    That’s how you get more playing time if you are Brett Gardner, you do all of the little things, not just have a.high ops for a stretch of time.

    • uyf1950 - Jun 22, 2011 at 9:51 AM

      My friend, before you start throwing around comments like “he needs to get timely hits with risp..” You might think about checking out his stats. They are some of the highest on the Yankees and certainly considerably higher then either Jeters and Jones this season. As for his failings at stealing bases, yes his average is poor, but at least he’s trying to make things happen. That’s just my opinion.

    • Kevin S. - Jun 22, 2011 at 11:32 AM

      I really hope that was sarcasm.

  12. ndirishfan1 - Jun 22, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    Brett Gardner needs to be in the lineup more, a lot more. According to an article on fangraphs.com, Gardner has the 12th highest WAR (9.2) of position players since the beginning of 2010. And as the article pointed out, he’s a heck of a lot closer to 5th place on the list than he is to 13th.

  13. yournuts - Jun 22, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    Brett Gardner is doing fine and so is Derek Jeter. In case you have missed what is happening the Yankees and Red Sox are tied in the loss column, the Yankees are only 1 game back and the Red Sox have been the hottest team on the planet! This is June and Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman are doing a great job considering that half the pitching staff is disabled. I keep reading posts about how Derek Jeter should be lower in the batting order or benched. When the season started Gardner was the leadoff man and did not succeed then, now he is doing well when he platoons. When he had the job before he platooned he struggled. Why don’t you let Girardi manage and keep these silly comments to yourself because they make no sense. Jeter is a HOF player and Gardner is just starting to have a career. You don’t have first hand knowledge of what is happening and you don’t understand what leadership is all about on a Major Leaguer Baseball Team.

  14. tinker61 - Jun 23, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    Yournuts, I probably have as much baseball knowledge as you, and I definitely understand Leadership So, If I choose to be critical of Joe Girardi’s BS moves at times, I will express my views. If you don’t like my opinion, disagree and show a REASON, not just another BS opinion. Tell us WHY you have that opinion.

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