Brett Gardner and Darren O’Day declined their options for the 2022 season.
There were mutual options for both players, and the Yankees declined both of them so that those players will be free agents.
It is not certain that Gardner has played his last game in pinstripes, but it seems more likely than not. He has spent 14 years with the franchise posting a 44.3 bWAR over that span, winning a World Series with the 2009 team.
His career is very commendable and deserves to be remembered fondly by the fanbase.
Let’s look at Brett Gardner’s top 10 moments in his Yankees career.
10) Tying Home Run vs. Houston Astros
Early on in 2018, the Yankees faced the Houston Astros in the Bronx, the team that eliminated them from the postseason the year before. Due to some other previously unknown details, the rivalry is still alive, and there is much disdain for the Astros in the Yankees fanbase.
In this game, the Yankees went into the 9th inning down 5-3 when Gardner came to the plate with a runner on. He lifted one into the first row of the short porch in right field to tie the game, just over the leaping George Springer. Then rookie Gleyber Torres hit a walk-off single in the 10th, and the Yankees won 6-5.
9) Highway Robbery
The post-deadline Yankees in 2016 were a lot of fun. Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller got traded away while Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira announced retirements.
Players like Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge were called up during that season and were part of a run that came up short of the postseason but showed that the Yankees were arriving soon, which they did the following year in 2017. In August, Gardner made this incredible catch to help the Yankees win a game against the Los Angeles Angels on a trip out west in August.
8) 2010 Season
There is no video clip here, but Gardner’s finest season arguably came in 2010, and it deserves mention. In that season, Gardner posted a 7.4 bWAR, the most he had in any season by a wide margin. What is notable is that looking at where he accumulated that production, it is nearly evenly split on both sides of the ball with a 3.6 oWAR and a 3.4 oWAR.
This was early in Gardner’s career, and while he was never slow, his speed was of great value in left field and on the base paths.
7) Go-Ahead Triple vs. Boston Red Sox
In 2018 the Yankees and Red Sox were two of the three best teams in baseball. This series was the first time the teams matched up in the Bronx that season. In a back-and-forth game, Gardner came to the plate in the bottom of the 8th with one out and two runners on and the Yankees down one.
Facing arguably the best closer of the last decade in Craig Kimbrel, Gardner hit one over the head of Mookie Betts to score two and put the Yankees up 7-6. Yankee Stadium was in a frenzy. The next batter Aaron Judge rifled one over the center-field wall, and the Yankees won the game 9-6.
6) Let Brett Bang
In the 2019 season, the Yankees faced the Rays in a weekday afternoon game. It is safe to say the Yankees were not happy with Umpire Brennan Miller’s strike zone that day. After Gardner was called out on strikes, he wanted to show his displeasure. Instead of yelling and risking getting ejected from the game, Gardner is seen jamming his bat into the wall of the dugout. But he decided that was not loud enough and decided to bang the roof of the dugout instead, which accomplished the goal of making a louder noise and caused Aaron Hicks to chuckle.
Manager Aaron Boone was ejected from the game and was heard calling his players “savages in the box.” That eventually became a rallying cry for the Yankees, as they were seen doing that banging on the roof gesture after getting on base the rest of the season.
5) Grand Slam vs. Boston Red Sox
In April 2019, Gardner had another big moment against the rival Red Sox. Both teams had been struggling early on, and the Yankees were ravaged with injuries. This was a two-game series in which the Yankees won the first game handily.
In the second game, the Yankees were down 3-1 in the 7th inning when Gardner came up with the bases loaded. He faced relief pitcher Ryan Brasier and hit a line drive to right field that snuck into the first row of the short porch for a grand slam.
The Yankees won the game 5-3 and from that point forward played great baseball despite all of the injuries. They eventually won 103 games and ran away with the American League East.
4) Inside the Park Home Run vs. Minnesota Twins
This moment alone is worthy of being on the list, but there is an off-field aspect that makes this even better. On the day of this game, Gardner visited 18-year-old heart transplant patient Alyssa Esposito. She gave him a bracelet from Project Sunshine, the group that sponsored the visit, and said that would make him hit a home run.
Most fittingly, Gardner hit a blooper to left field that bounced by Denard Span, allowing him to circle the bases with an inside-the-park home run. The Yankees were down 4-1 in the 7th inning when Gardner came to the plate. His inside-the-park home run brought the crowd back into the game and sparked a comeback. The Yankees eventually won the game 5-4 on a walk-off single by Melky Cabrera. This was the first of a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins in which the Yankees swept and won three games via walk-off hits. This series is often cited as when the 2009 Yankees took off. As Yankees fans know, they won the World Series that fall.
3) Wild Card Game Home Run vs. Minnesota Twins
Not much was expected from the Yankees going into the 2017 season, but a new core of players emerged to help them make a run to the playoffs. Along with CC Sabathia, Gardner was seen as one of the last of the old guard. The 2017 Wild Card Game featured a mixture of old and new for the Yankees.
Didi Gregorius and Aaron Judge had colossal home runs for the Yankees in this game. But the last of the old guard had his moment as well, as Gardner lined a home run into the second deck to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. The final score ended up being 8-4 Yankees as they advanced to the ALDS.
2) Go-Ahead Home Run vs. Chicago Cubs
The Yankees got off to a hot start in 2017, and when they went to Chicago to take on the defending champion Cubs, it was seen as the first real test for this incredible team. Down 2-0 in the 9th inning and 2 outs, Gardner came up as the go-ahead run.
With the Yankees down to their final strike, Gardner launched a three-run home run to right field at a freezing Wrigley Field. The Yankees went on to win the game, sweep the series and legitimize themselves as a threat in the 2017 season.
1) 12-Pitch Battle vs. Cody Allen
It was a pretty easy decision to put this one at number one. There is not an at-bat that epitomizes who Gardner was as a player more than this one. The Yankees were up 3-2 in the 9th inning of game five of the 2017 ALDS against Cleveland, but an insurance run or two would have gone a long way for the Yankees. Gardner faced an elite reliever in Cody Allen with two outs and two runners on.
Gardner worked a 12-pitch at-bat in a way only he could and lined a single into right field. The hit scored one while a Cleveland error allowed a second run to score and make it 5-2 Yankees. That was more than enough as the Yankees won the game by that score and advanced to the ALCS after overcoming a 2-0 series deficit.
Featured Image: Frank Franklin II/Associated Press