What Went Wrong: Brett Gardner


To call the play innocent would be a lie, especial after Hideki Matsui‘s broken wrist in 2006. The Yankees were trailing the Twins by two runs in the third inning of the 11th game of the season when Brett Gardner made that sliding (and awkward-looking) catch on a Josh Willingham line drive to end the third inning, a hold-your-breath moment both considering the game situation and the injury factor. Gardner remained in the game though, and in fact he went 2-for-2 with two doubles and two walks on the night. By the end of the game, the sliding catch was an afterthought.

Unfortunately, that was the last time the Yankees and their fans would see Gardner until September. That awkward-looking catch resulted in a right (non-throwing) elbow injury that nearly ended Gardner’s season and eventually required surgery. The timeline of events is lengthy and quite chaotic…

  1. April 17th: Sliding catch against the Twins.
  2. April 18th: After being a late scratch due to elbow stiffness, the Yankees placed Gardner on the 15-day DL with a bone bruise and a strain in the right elbow following that night’s game.
  3. April 28th: Swings a bat for the first time since being placed on the DL.
  4. May 2nd: Temporarily shut down with pain in the elbow after taking batting practice for a few days.
  5. May 7-8th: Minor league rehab games with Triple-A Empire State.
  6. May 10th: Shut down again after re-aggravating the injury during the rehab assignment.
  7. May 29th: Swings a bat for the first time since the setback.
  8. June 8th: Minor league rehab game with Low-A Charleston.
  9. June 9th: Setback #2. Gardner wakes up with pain in his elbow and schedules a visit with Dr. James Andrews as well as Dr. Tim Kremcheck per his agent’s request.
  10. June 14th: Yankees announce that Gardner received a cortisone shot and platelet-rich plasma therapy on the elbow and will miss 3-4 weeks.
  11. June 26th: After 69 days on the DL, the Yankees shift Gardner to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot for the recently-claimed Danny Farquhar.
  12. July 6-11th: Swings a bat for the first time since treatment.
  13. July 15th: Simulated game in Tampa.
  14. July 19th: Yankees announce that Gardner will have surgery in the coming days after continued soreness in the elbow.
  15. September 15th: Gardner ran the bases and bunted for the first time since surgery.
  16. September 24th: Live batting practice for the first time since surgery.
  17. September 25th: Yankees activate Gardner off the DL for pinch-running and defensive replacement purposes.
  18. October 2nd: Doctors fully clear Gardner to play without restrictions, meaning at-bats against big league pitchers.

With Gardner on the shelf and Eduardo Nunez demoted to Triple-A, the Yankees lacked speed in a painfully obvious way. The threat of the stolen base was non-existent, and going to first-to-third on a single was a tactic employed by Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, and pretty much no one else. The Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners prior to the trade deadline to replace Gardner, a move that worked out even better than I think the team expected.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Although he returned late in the season, Gardner contributed little in September and into the playoffs. He started the final two games of the ALCS in place of Granderson and Nick Swisher, but failed to reach base in eight trips to the plate. In fact, you can argue that Brett’s biggest contribution to the Yankees in 2012 was getting caught stealing in the eighth inning of Game 161 against the Red Sox. That allowed Granderson to leadoff the ninth against the right-handed Andrew Bailey rather than bat with two outs in the eighth against the left-handed Craig Breslow. Granderson singled to open the ninth and Raul Ibanez followed with a game-tying homer, and the rest was history.

All told, Gardner went 10-for-31 (.323) with five walks (.417 OBP) and two stolen bases (four attempts) during the regular season. He appeared in just 16 games (eight starts) and was a non-factor following the initial injury on April 17th. The Yankees received what amounts to league average production from their left fielders during his absence (103 wRC+), but they lost a ton defensively and on the bases. It’s also worth noting that Granderson started the team’s first 71 games (and 89 of the their first 90 games) in center field, something that certainly wouldn’t have happened with a healthy Gardner.

The Yankees dealt with an overwhelming number of injuries this season, more than any team other than the Padres, but Gardner’s injury was the only one that hurt the club in three different ways — offensively, defensively, and on the bases. He’s been a valuable yet often underrated part of the team for the last few years, and this year the Yankees missed him in a big way prior to acquiring Ichiro.

Categories : Players


  1. Jimmy McNulty says:

    Just a reminder:

    I called this being a serious concern. There’s no such thing as taking an injury too seriously. These guys are doing very strenuous activities and small tweaks to the wrist, knee, shoulder, etc. can mean big things. I hope we take this into consideration the next time a key player comes up with a “minor injury.”

  2. JLC 776 says:

    Having a healthy Gardner for a full year (hopefully) is the best ‘acquisition’ the 2012 Yankees can make for 2013.

  3. Lew says:

    Kind of odd that there is no mention of the World Series around here…I do want to congratulate the Giants. And what does it mean that they defeated the Tigers in 4 games after the Tigers defeated the Yanks that way? To me it means 2 things – baseball is fairly random, and maybe, that having several days off is really not good for a ball club, at least in October.

  4. jjyank says:

    Always loved Gardner. He’s the kind of player that I really like to watch. He’s no Cano or anything, but I think a lot of you will agree with me when I say that a guy who plays premium defense, works counts, and burns up the base paths is an exciting player. I think I’ve also taken a liking to him because he was written off as a 4th outfielder type for so long, and he’s certainly exceeded my expectations. Looking forward to seeing you in 2013, Brett. Hopefully in center field, too.

    • 0 for infinity and beyond says:

      It’s nice to see someone in a Yankee uniform steal a base. He’s exciting and adds a different element to this team.

    • Yankee in CT says:

      Couldn’t agree any further. There was not a single player who replicated his defensive skills in the outfield.

  5. Mark in VT says:

    ….19. Gardner dove into first during the playoffs again. Doctor’s fear that if Gardner “scrappy” play continues, he will back on the DL shortly.

  6. 0 for infinity and beyond says:

    Any chance the Yankees can make a trade for anyone else’s medical staff? Everytime I hear about and injury I vision the Monty Python “Tis mearly a flesh wound” over and over. Seemed like a lot of injuries they tried to rehab turned out in to surgery and done for the year.

  7. CANOlli says:

    Anyone know anything about Ernst Ludwig Kirchner??….i fucking hate general education

  8. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Being that Gardner is the slappiest, scrappiest, snappiest player on the team, and now that know that only slappy, scrappy, snappy baseball wins championships, they should have just cancelled the season the moment he got injured.

    I hope his elbow, legs, eyes, and balls are insured with Lloyd’s of London for next season. If not, Cashman failed.

  9. jayd808 says:

    Putting this play on an endless loops makes me question your sanity.

  10. 0 for infinity and beyond says:

    I keep readying that over and over and it’s mind boggling. Rehab isn’t working, what should we try doc???

    MORE REHAB!!!!! Seriously, how close where the team doctors to try leaches or blood letting?

    • Preston says:

      They sent him to Dr. James Andrews, the best doctor on the planet for this kind of stuff. They sent him for a second opinion at his agents urging. This is another false narrative out there. The Yankees don’t just listen to some team sports trainer for these decisions. They are flying these guys all over the country to the best doctor. Jeter’s ankle surgery is being performed by a special doctor that specializes in those type of injuries. If you want to say that their training staff isn’t doing enough to prevent injuries, that might be true (although I have neither the inside information to the team practices or the medical knowledge to judge those practices, so I don’t know). However it is very obvious that they take all injuries serious and seek out the best advice in the world.

      • 0 for infinity and beyond says:


        IT was a joke. Not to be taken serious and I in no way condone the use of leaches or blood letting.

        Thank you,

        Dr. 0

      • 0 for infinity and beyond says:

        You don’t know the inside information but you know which doctor’s are the best in the world and what his agent said to the team. How do you know that? Did you do the research or did you just happen to read it on the internet? Are you in contact with his agent? You’re making the same assumptions everyone else does on these blogs.

        Hi Pot, it’s kettle, you’re black too :)

        • Preston says:

          I knew that the blood letting and leaches comment was sarcasm. However I was talking about your derision of the Yankees medical staff. I think the defensiveness in your response to my comment speaks for itself. Maybe calling Dr. Andrews the best in the world is hyperbole. But it seems to be a cross sports consensus for the people who are informed and have millions of dollars at stake. So I tend not to doubt it. I trust medical professionals to make a reasoned decision when recommending rehab or surgery to an athlete whose career depends on it and I don’t think that comparing them to a Monty Python skit or sarcastically suggesting they are medieval barbers is a reasoned opinion. And yes all the news I get on Yankee injury reports I get from the internet. I don’t expect the Yankees to be lying about what doctors their players visit or at who’s urging it was. So maybe I’m naive and the Yankees are hiring idiots and James Andrews is incompetent and the Yankees aren’t sending their players to him anyways, that’s just what they tell people in their press releases while they really just bang on his elbow all day with a hammer to toughen it up.

          • WhittakerWalt says:

            No, Dr. Andrews is pretty much the best. if not THE best, he’s certainly top 2 or 3. It wasn’t hyperbole.

            • 0 for infinity and beyond says:

              BEcause you’ve done the research to find out or just going with it because you read his name a lot on MLBTradeRumors.com? YOu guys are no more “experts” than the rest of us and need to stop pretending you are just because you follow RAB on Twitter.

          • 0 for infinity and beyond says:

            Take a chill pill and relax!!!! It’s fans like you that take all the fun out of blogs like this.

  11. CANOlli says:

    I understand that all of you back east are probably going crazy right now with the weather and whatever (btw, it’s 72 in san diego right now), but can we stop with this endless search for scapegoats? Now, it’s the medical staff’s fault? Idk why im even responding this..

    • Preston says:

      No it’s definitely not their fault. However there are training staffs that seem to do things better than others. The Yankees lead all of baseball in DL days. Now obviously that was a little bad luck (Pineda and Gardner) and a lot of older players, but maybe doing some different things or bringing in some new or additional people might help. And yes, I was evacuated from my apartment and I’m sitting in a hotel room going stir crazy. So I will post about anything.

      • 0 for infinity and beyond says:

        Bad luck? Maybe something was wrong with Pineda that they didn’t see in his medicals. Maybe it was something he did in spring training (went to hard to quick). Gardner’s injuries could have been mishandled… Not really sure I would write those injuries off as bad luck. A-Rod getting hit in the hand is bad luck.

        • jjyank says:

          Maybe. Or maybe it was bad luck. Pitching is a very unnatural thing for the human body to do, particularly on the shoulder and elbow. Pitchers get injured. Often. It’s entirely possible that Pineda’s should injury was “bad luck”. We really don’t have much evidence either way.

          • 0 for infinity and beyond says:

            Still the motion is un-natural. So it isn’t bad luck, it’s more par for the course that a pitcher might get hurt. Bad luck is what happened to Andy.

    • 0 for infinity and beyond says:

      Someone needs to be the scapegoat…

  12. Jonathan says:

    I think the biggest loss wasn’t what Gardner would have brought himself but how worn out ibanez andruw and grandy became because of the extra load they were asked to carry. Andruw and especially ibanez played way too many OF innings and it was commented on here numerous times that it could easily lead to them being worn down quickly. Chavez mashing and getting some DH starts with ichiro in the OF gave ibanez a bit of a break and it seemed to rejuvenate him. I dunno if andruw got worn out too as Nunez getting sent to the minors and minor swisher injuries made him play a little more than we hoped. There’s some logic that’s what could have happened but I think the ibanez and granderson’s slumps were huge effects of no Gardner. Hope to see him starting in CF on opening day.

  13. roadrider says:

    I don’t know about Gardner being underrated. If anything, many Yankee fans seem to overrate him. I like Gardner and the complementary skills he brings to the team but even without him for most of the season the Yankees won more games than anyone else in the league and scored more runs than anyone but Texas. I think Gardner could have made a difference in the playoffs but even if he had reached base and stolen second who would have driven him in?

    • dalelama says:

      He is a punch and judy hitter who refuses to bunt to take advantage of his speed and has an innate ability to watch third strikes sail right through the heart of the strike zone. He is perfect defensive late inning substitute.

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