Brett Gardner on being the Yankees' table-setter in 2017Getting on base, and moving while on base, is Gardy's focus
"Getting on base is my number one job. Offensively, your number one goal is to try and score runs, but you can't do that if you don't get on base," he said. "So for me, I want my on-base percentage to be as high as possible; I'm not as worried about my batting average, but I want to get as many walks as possible and make the pitcher work."
Gardner's on-base percentage in 2016 was .351, his highest in a full season since 2010, and his 70 walks were his most since that same season. Even Gardy's .261 average was an increase over 2014 and 2015, but his .713 slugging percentage tied for his lowest career mark in a full-season, and recent trends show that in recent years, he's getting on base at a better clip but not getting as many bases.
That's a tide that Gardner would like to stem this season.
"I mean, you want to try and be as consistent as possible, and I think that begins in the off-season and then down here in Spring Training," he said. "You're working on having a plan, being prepared for each and every game, and trying to have a good idea of what you want to do against a certain pitcher you may be facing that night. I think that all plays into staying consistent."
Once he gets on base, Gardner wants to try to steal more in 2017 as well. He stole 16 in 20 attempts last season, with both totals being full-season career lows, and counting an injury shortened 2012, Gardner has less attempts in the last five years (107) than he did in 2010-11 alone (118). That's also a trend the 33-year-old would like to reverse, even though he's battling the inevitable loss of speed with age as well as a different mindset on the mound.
"If you're known as a base stealer it may be a little harder as time goes on - you may have a little extra attention on you - but I think for the most part, the last few years, there's been an increased focus on holding runners," he said. "Pitchers are being quicker to the plate trying to control the running game, and that maybe affects you a little bit on the bases - and like I said, I think that any time you're known as a base stealer, you're going to get that extra attention over there."
Of course, all of those notions of a table-setter are only one facet of the game, and there's one other Gardner prides himself on: defense. He won his first Gold Glove in left field last season, and for him, it was finally a reward for something he has worked hard on day in and day out throughout his career.
"Yeah, that was pretty special. I mean my defense is something that I've always taken a lot of pride in," he said. "Offensively I can be inconsistent at times, but defense is something you can bring to the table every day. I've always taken pride in playing good defense, and it's nice to get recognized for that. To finally win a Gold Glove, that's something I'll cherish forever."
That makes one Gold Glove, one All-Star appearance, and one stolen base title in the trophy case for Gardner, but if you ask him, the only accolade he wants in 2017 is the trophy he got in 2009.
"Our goal every year is to win the division, make it to the playoffs, and win a World Series," he said. "I think the last couple years have been very disappointing - not just for myself, but for the team and the organization - so we need to win the division, get back to the playoffs, and win a World Series."