New York Yankees: Aging Lineup Will Continue to Struggle Without Brett Gardner

Brian BuckleyContributor IIMay 18, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10:  Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees looks on from the bench during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on May 10, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Despite the obvious bonanza of talent up and down the Yankee lineup, one would be hard pressed to not recognize the aging parts. 

Four of the current everyday players for the Yankees (Jeter, Rodriguez, Jones, and Ibanez) are over the age of 35, meaning that, on any given day, almost half the lineup could fit into that geriatric equation.

With this aging offense in 2012, the team has managed to win ballgames with the ultimate chick-digging long ball. While manager Joe Girardi isn’t about to channel his inner Lou Brown and tell his players to stop hitting bombs, the home runs are temporary relief to mask the fact that their situational hitting is beyond putrid.

Dingers are most certainly dandy, but a plan B or even a C and D has to be in place for utmost offensive success. In fact, the Yankees have not hit a homer in eight games this year, and they have lost every single one of those contests.  

Nevertheless, great teams win games in a variety ways. But, with Brett Gardner on the disabled list, this team will continue its persistent offensive woes until his return.

The 28-year-old outfielder isn’t a threat for the Triple Crown, nor is he even the fifth best player on the team.  However, his intangibles are what makes this team run as a cohesive unit. 

Without the speedy Gardner in the lineup, they have virtually no one who can bunt.  The next best suitor for the role is the captain Derek Jeter.  Even Girardi’s binder would advise against taking the lumber out of the hands of the team leader with a batting average (BA .366) to sacrifice himself. 

With the opponent knowing there will be no bunts laid down on the part of the Bombers, the opposing pitcher is free to attack the sluggers.  That hurler is more than confident there will be no possible audibles to factor in.  Well, unless you foresee Nick Swisher attempting to take the job and popping up to the catcher.

FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 22:  Outfielder Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees leads off with a bunt against the Boston Red Sox during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at JetBlue Park on March 22, 2012 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric
J. Meric/Getty Images

In addition, no one will mistake him with Rickey Henderson, but Gardner presents a minor nightmare for pitchers when he generously leads off any bag.  Last year, he stole 49 bases and kept opposing pitchers distracted and, better yet, honest.  The leader for the Yankees in base grabs this season is Eduardo Nunez with six, and he currently resides in Scranton Wilkes-Barre due to defensive deficiency

Sure, the Yankees have never prided themselves on the concept of small-ball, but when your next highest base stealer is a soon-to-be 37-year-old like Alex Rodriguez, it doesn’t take Jimmy McNulty to know there is a problem of massive proportions. 

No one is saying the return of Brett Gardner will energize this club into the 1927 Yankees, but his absence is felt with deep reverberations throughout the organization.  His absence makes an old predictable team become that much more vanilla and predictable. 

If the Yankees think relying on venerable home runs will get them to the Fall Classic, the suits in the suites need to think again.