My hope was that Brett Gardner might develop into more than a better-hitting version of Paul Blair, whom the Yankees kept for years despite his Mendoza-like stick because of the various deficiencies of their regular outfielders. As we all remember, Reggie could run but couldn't catch, Pinellia could catch but couldn't run, and Mickey Rivers and Roy White could run and catch, but couldn't throw.
People complain about Johnny Damon's arm. Next to Rivers, Damon was Jim Edmonds.
So Blair, who could run, catch, throw, and bunt--who could, it seemed, do everything on earth except the tiny little skill we know as "hit the ball out of the infield"--made a decent living for a number of years, mostly as late-inning defense. (He did get a game-winning hit in the World Series, thus joining both the illustrious Jose Vizcaino and the immortal Luis Sojo for that laurel.)
Until this year, you looked at Brett Gardner, you thought: white Paul Blair, plus a half-dozen extra hits per month, make it .240 instead of .200.
Now? Is there All-Star talk? It appears.
He won't get there, not with Pettitte, Hughes, Mo, and Cano getting there on merit alone, and A-Rod and Jeter or both on reputation. But what heady times.