Brett Gardner suffered yet another setback on Tuesday, prolonging his already lengthy stint on the disabled list. While Gardner’s situation is not approaching the absurdity of Carl Pavano’s, it is concerning that Brett—at 28 years old—has spent 93 days on the DL. There has been no history to suggest that Brett is anything short of a hard-nosed player and is undoubtedly doing everything in his power to return to the field this season. But the fact remains that Gardner has suffered numerous setbacks with this elbow injury and there is a real possibility he will not return this season. If Gardner does not return, can the Yankees survive without him?
Thus far, the Yankees have not missed their starting left fielder. Would they rather have Gardner patrolling left field and batting ninth than platooning Ibanez and Jones? Yes. But Raul and Andruw have done a tremendous job in left field this season. The Yankees have received 16 home runs and 44 RBIs out of their left fielders—which have primarily been Ibanez and Jones. For the season the two have combined for 24 home runs and 66 RBIs overall—significantly more power production than Brett can provide the Yankees. But the Yankees are not lacking power.
It is highly publicized that the Yankees rely heavily on the home run to score—roughly half of their runs are scored via the home run. A common belief is that, come October—when the pitching is better—the Yankees will struggle to score runs like they do during the regular season. Having Brett Gardner at the bottom of the order to utilize his speed and ability to get on base (Gardner’s career OBP is .355—Ibanez and Jones have a combined .309 OBP this season) would be a tremendous lift for a Yankees offense that struggles with runners in scoring position.
Barring any trades the Yankees will finish the season with the outfield they have now. My concern is that Ibanez and Jones, 40 and 35 years old respectfully, can easily break down at any time because of increased playing time. There is no doubt that both have been extremely productive—and clutch at times—so if they remain healthy the Yankees should continue to see great production out of left field and will not miss Gardner in 2012.