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The Yankees activated Brett Gardner yesterday. His return highlights his importance and the issues with Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez.
Brett Gardner is my current favorite player on the Yankees. Watching him play is what I look forward to when the season begins. The same could be said of my previous favorite Yankees, Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams. Win or lose, especially with Donnie Baseball in the 80's, I could still enjoy the game watching them do their thing. Gardner only played the first nine games of the season before going on the DL and this year has felt longer without him playing left field.
Now with only eight games remaining in the season, Gardner has been activated albeit an incomplete activation. His only current use is as a pinch runner or defensive replacement. You know, the "Chris Dickerson" role. It's a role I've never liked seeing Gardner in. Unfortunately it's the only part he can play right now as his bat is still not quite ready yet. Some of Gardner's greatest assets are his bat, his patience at the plate, and his ability to get on base. It adds so much to his Barry Allen-ish speed. I admire the desire and determination to help the Yankees out in any way possible, but it just seems like this is being rushed.
Since he cannot hit yet, Gardner will only be seen in the 8th or 9th inning. I don't see the point. Sure, he is the best defensive left fielder in the league, but Dickerson can easily fill the role of defensive replacement for one inning. Dickerson is also fast enough to potentially score from 1st or 2nd due to a nice line drive along the lines. Melky Mesa can also run as well, despite him missing 3rd base that one long, long, long game. I just don't see a purpose for a Brett Gardner on this team right now unless it's the complete Brett Gardner package. Here's the issue though; with Ibanez and Jones needed to hit different pitchers, how much of Gardner would the Yankees have used this year?
This is the issue I've always had with the Yankees being so gung-ho on signing Raul Ibanez this offseason. Just like with the lefty righty match up in the bullpen, the DH role was going to see the same thing. "Raul Ibanez will not be in the outfield much" said some Yankee fans this offseason. It was obvious he would be, since A-Rod and Jeter would need DH time this year as well. Platooning was inevitable, much like Arnold's victory in Commando. Gardner would eventually be the odd man out. I would have preferred this to having him out for the whole year. That doesn't change the fact that platooning really hasn't worked out this year and why it's important to have players who can do it all.
Raul Ibanez can only hit a specific type of pitcher. Raul Ibanez cannot and should not ever play the outfield. He serves only one purpose. Andruw Jones can only hit a specific type of pitcher. Andruw Jones, while not Ibanez divey, is getting to old and slow to play the outfield. He serves only one purpose. Brett Gardner is very patient at the plate and gets on base. A lot. Brett Gardner can run. Really fast. Brett Gardner is so good at playing left field that he should probably be playing center field. Brett Gardner's injury and subsequently the injuries to Swisher and Granderson are the primary reasons why the Yankees traded for Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro has performed very well for the Yankees thus far, both on defense and offense. He's also pretty fast.
I would like to think that the previous paragraph shows the issues I have with certain players over others. I do not like players that only serve one purpose. Not one bit. This can also extend to the bullpen. Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones have not hit that well this season. Ibanez has come through in some key moments and Jones had that really great series against the Red Sox, but otherwise both have under performed this year. When a one tool player does not perform, they serve no purpose. Gardner and Ichiro could slump it up behind the plate but still serve a purpose in the outfield.
Building a team is not an easy task. The players you need might not be out there. The tools you need just might not be available. The Yankees organization have once again put a potential championship team on the field. This potential championship team has been plagued with injuries all year, like Gardner's. Gardner's injury has shown how useful to this team he really is. I cannot say how this season would have progressed with Gardner playing. All I can say is that I'd really prefer him in the lineup over one tool players in 2013.