Brett Gardner hasn't always gotten the respect he deserves from fans of other teams or, at times, even Yankees fans themselves. The reasoning behind that may be that he was forced to play the corner outfield spot typically reserved for power bats when that was never quite his game. Now, though, Gardner is finally on everyone's radar. He's the third best position player on the Yankees in terms of fWAR so far this season, and his skill set at the top of the order is one of the reasons why the Yankees are in the fortuitous position of first place in the AL East.
Perhaps the most endearing thing about Gardner is that he leaves everything on the field seemingly every time he goes out there to play. He works counts at the plate, uses his speed to advance himself on the bases, and basically serves as a defensive vacuum cleaner in the outfield. He seems to be ready and willing to do whatever it takes to help the team all the time. The result of that all out play is often a dirty uniform for Gardner, as pictured above, but that is just the mark of a player who is giving 100% on all sides of the ball. Getting dirtied up is usually a mark of honor in baseball because of the affection heaped upon players who are gritty and hustle. Those cliches describe Gardner for sure, but he's advanced himself beyond needing them to justify to others why he is so good.
Observe examples of Gardner doing his thing:
Gardner has added a new dimension to his game in recent years by hitting for more power than he did early in his Yankees career. His strong start to the season earned him his first All-Star appearance in 2015, and there should likely be more to come. Gardner may not get recognized the way he should for his defense with Gold Glove awards because of the weight given to offense by voters, but Yankees fans know that he's been deserving of multiple for his career already.
Having a homegrown player to root for makes baseball more fun, and Gardner has emerged as that player for the Yankees right now. Having him go above and beyond at the plate and in the field just makes him more endearing. The Yankees and their fans are lucky to have such a player on their team.
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