For the first time in New York Yankees history, players will wear names on the back of their jerseys to celebrate MLB’s Players’ Weekend. Tonight through Sunday, you’ll see players like Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge wear nicknames like ‘Kraken’ and ‘All Rise’ on the back of their uniforms.
However, not everyone wanted to participate in the event.
The only Yankee that won’t wear a nickname is left fielder Brett Gardner. But it’s not because he didn’t want to have fun. It’s because he respects tradition.
“I’m more of an old-school guy, so I’m not a big fan of it,” Gardner told ESPN prior to this weekend’s festivities. “It doesn’t really matter what I think. I’ll play and hopefully we’ll win.”
When Major League Baseball asked Gardner what nickname he wanted, he said he wanted “No Name”, which would mean a blank space above his No. 11. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball denied Gardner’s request, informing him he had to put something.
In the end, Gardner went with his given last name.
“I tried to go no name at all and keep it original,” Gardner said. “But they made me put something. I figured I never had my name on the back of my jersey before, so instead of putting a freakin’ nickname, I put my name on there. That [having no name] apparently is not allowed.”
The move caused controversy among the media, with websites like Deadspin calling Gardner the “sheriff of the fun police”. But it was Gardner’s decision, and from a business standpoint, choosing his given name was genius.
Long after MLB Players’ Weekend is over, the nickname jerseys will become obsolete. But Gardner choosing his given name means his jersey will never be obsolete, and in the long run, will bring in more money.
Also, when Gardner steps on the field tonight, he’ll make history by being the first Yankee to ever wear a game jersey with his name on it. Not even Derek Jeter has an official jersey with his name, but I’m sure he would if Players’ Weekend existed during his career.
Gardner not choosing to wear a nickname isn’t the end of the world. And no Deadspin, it doesn’t mean he isn’t a fun player. It just means he made an excellent business move.