By Jared Max
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I can hear the declaration in my head. Smiling wide with homegrown pride, John Sterling emphatically announces, “Gardy Goes Party!”
Of course, this is rhyme play, merely — not reality.
When it comes to the placing of value on playing in an all-star game, Brett Gardner is the anti-Carmelo Anthony. There is no doubt about where priorities lay for the soon-to-be-32-year-old, first-time participant in the Midsummer Classic. Gardy gets to party whenever one of his teammates delivers a walk-off hit. He bathes others with Gatorade. He does not crave to be bathed with others’ adoration, however.
Gardner is the poster boy for working-class success.
Two weeks before the former walk-on at the College of Charleston got hand-picked by American League manager Ned Yost to replace the injured Alex Gordon, Gardner said that the All-Star Game “is not something I’ve put any time or thought into. Some people have mentioned it to me the last few days. I think that if I’m one of the guys that deserves to go I’d like to be a part of it, but if there’s other guys that deserve to go ahead of me then I think they should go represent the American League.”
If my daughter brought Gardner home, the answer would be, “Yes, you have my permission to marry.” Of course, this would only be if Gardner was not married and if I had a daughter. And, this has nothing to with our physical resemblance. In the midst of a rain delay during the 2009 World Series in Philadelphia, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman asked me, “Do people tell you that you look just like Brett Gardner?” I have heard it for years, most recently from CBSNewYork.com colleague Brad Kallet.
Hey, it’s better than getting called Uncle Fester.
Ever introspective of his game, Gardner keeps his house in order. The Yankees’ center fielder has identified his baseball weaknesses and reversed their fortunes to become strengths. As veteran WFAN Yankees reporter Sweeny Murti wrote two weeks ago, “Gardner is no longer just a slap hitter with speed. He is a hitter with a plan with ability to do so much more at the plate.”
Over the last three weeks, Gardner has raised his batting average 39 points. And, for the first time in his eight-year major league career, he has hit 10 home runs in consecutive seasons.
The Yanks’ 2005 third-round draft pick entered this weekend’s series against the Red Sox on an offensive wave that has carried him high, far and gone since June 18, going 33-for-79 (.418) at the plate while also increasing his AL rankings to fourth in runs scored and fourth in stolen bases.
For this effort, the homegrown Yankee will get to celebrate by wearing a unique uniform Tuesday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
“I never had a jersey with my name on the back,” Gardner said Thursday after learning he was named to the AL squad.
Regarding Yost’s choice of him, Gardner was giddy.
“I can’t think of a better way to get in. He could’ve picked several other guys that are deserving, and for him to choose me, I’m definitely very grateful and I got a big thank you coming for him,” Gardner said.
In his endorsement of Gardner, Murti noted that there have been only four position players drafted by the Yankees to be named All-Stars representing the franchise: Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada.
Now, Gardner, currently the longest-tenured homegrown Yank, is on the list.
Regarding my comparison of Gardner and Anthony, five months ago I wrote, “If he had to pull a Willis Reed, Anthony would do so to play in an an All-Star game at Madison Square Garden. Of course, Willis Reed would not have pulled a Willie Reed unless it was the NBA Finals.” A few days later, despite a knee injury that kept him from playing for the rest of the season, Anthony played more minutes than any of the other 23 NBA All-Stars, aside from LeBron James.
If Gardner had been facing season-ending knee surgery next week, do you think he would play Tuesday in Cincinnati? Me neither. This is why we like Brett Gardner. He’s an All-Star replacement and first-team all-pro in levelheadedness.
First-team buzzed-headedness, too.
Follow Jared on Twitter at @Jared_Max