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Has Brett Gardner been underappreciated so far this year?

Brett Gardner has been critical to the Yankees this year, even if his stats don’t jump off the page.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

To the disappointment of some fans, Brian Cashman and the Yankees brought Brett Gardner back for the 2019 season with a contract worth $7.5 million. Coming off his age-34 season, Gardner’s play only confirmed that he was in fact getting older. On top of that, his .236/.322/.368 batting line and 90 wRC+ certainly did not garner the salary he was given. His play, however, is not the only reason why he earned this money and why he is back for his twelfth season in pinstripes.

Brett Gardner is currently the longest-tenured Yankee. He has been with the team since he was 24 years old in 2008. Elite defense always served as his calling card even though he has never been a plus hitter. At this time, his presence on the team is maybe more important than it ever has been in his career.

Obviously, nobody is denying his importance on the 2009 World Series team, but even then he wasn’t an everyday starter with players like Nick Swisher, Melky Cabrera, and Johnny Damon getting most of the playing time. After what seemed like an unproductive seven or eight years for the franchise, Gardner’s career hasn’t had many pivotal moments until recently. The Yankees have been a legitimate playoff contender since 2017 now, and Gardner’s role on the roster has become increasingly important, especially as the club has gotten younger.

With several weekly roster moves and adjustments in the first month of the season, Gardner has been a point of consistency. His leadership shouldn’t go unnoticed. Aaron Boone was brought in based on his interpersonal communication skills. So far he has done a tremendous job keeping this team even-keeled, but that simply doesn’t happen without players like Gardner being there day in and day out. Having been to a World Series before, having played 52 postseason games, and having played 12 years in the league, the value he can bring to a clubhouse is unmatched.

Gardner’s statistics this year have not opened any eyes, but even though it certainly doesn’t show in his batting average, Gardner has still played fairly well. He has smacked six homers, driven in 13 runs and has scored 21 times. A fun fact for Yankees fans, with his homer against Felix Hernandez tonight, Gardner now has more home runs than J.D. Martinez in 2019.

There’s not a lot of good to take from his stat line, but by the end of this season, you have to look to guys like Gardner, Boone, and CC Sabathia for getting the team through a time like this.

Who knows? Maybe there’s more to Brett Gardner’s story in a potential 2019 postseason run.