Matthews: Brett Gardner Is Yankees’ Unsung Hero

BRETT GARDNER IS YANKEES’ UNSUNG HERO

During baseball’s offseason, I advocated the New York Yankees cut ties with 35-year-old outfielder Brett Gardner in favor of keeping Clint Frazier.

Not good.

What happened? Gardner wound up a full-ltime player and significant contributor for the Yankees while Frazier spent most of the season in Moosic, Pa., as a pouty and demoralized Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRider.

If I were Gardner, I’d look at the salaries of other veterans on the Yankees and ask for a nice pay hike for 2020. The fans and media, as well as most of his appreciative teammates, probably would support him.

Here is the 2019 salary list courtesy of prominent Yankees from spotrac, the invaluable source for all things related to pro sports (try it, you’ll like it):

Masahiro Tanaka $22 million (10.09 percent of team payroll)

Aroldis Chapman $17.2 million (7.89 percent of team payroll)

J.A. Happ $17 million

Zack Britton $13 million

DJ LeMahieu $12 million

Didi Greogorius $11.750 million

Adam Ottavino $9 million

James Paxton $8.575 million

Edwin Encarnacion $6 million (Yankees portion of his salary)

C.C. Sabathia $8 million

Brett Gardner $7.5 million (3.44 percent of team payroll; obviously a bargain)

Dellin Betances $7.25 million

Austin Romine $1.8 million

Tommy Kahnie $1,387,500

Aaron Judge $684,300

Gary Sanchez $669,800

Gleyber Torres $605,200

Luis Cessa $578,975

Luke Voit $573,200

Giovanny Urshela $528,168

Cameron Maybin $471,472

Clint Frazier $320,968

2019 Injured List

Giancarlo Stanton $26 million (11.93 percent of team payroll)

Jacoby Ellsbury $21,142,857 (9.90 percent of payroll)

Aaron Hicks $6,285,714

Luis Severino $4.5 million

Greg Bird $1.2 million

Miguel Andujar $617,600

Mike Tauchman $443,280.

The Yankees braintrust hit gold this season with the emphasis on paying the big money to veteran starting pitchers and receivers. They could afford to go that route because so many key position players haven’t had enough MLB service time to demand mammoth salaries: Judge, Sanchez, Torres, Voit and Tauchman.

Gardner was supposed to be a reserve this season. After making a career-high $13.5 million in 2016, he made $12.5 million in 2017, $11.5 million in 2018 and this season’s $7.5 million.

Injuries to Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks turned Gardner into a full-timer this season: 130 games; .249 batting average (113-for-454); 25 doubles, 7 triples, career high 25 HRs and career-tying 66 RBI. He is in terrific shape and still can run in the outfield and steal a timely base (10-for-12).

He has made it clear that he wants to come back to the Yankees – the only MLB team he has played for. He wouldn’t like right in another uniform and he probably wouldn’t be as productive.

Do the Yankees want Gardner to return on another one-year contract? I would hope so. Why not?

I was wrong. My bad. Good for him.

SOME NATIONAL PROPS FOR THE 2-0 BILLS

The national media is catching up. These 2-0. Buffalo Bills are a team on the upgrade.

In assorted NFL Power Rankings entering Week 3, Buffalo is ranked 10th by USA Today, 12th by The Sporting News and 15th by ESPN. ESPN almost always underrates the Bills. I wonder if favoring large markets is a factor.

USA Today said, “Looks like a young up-and-coming club with a real opportunity to make a serious playoff run in 2019 after winning first two games on the road.”

Colin Cowherd, the popular noon-to-3 national talk show host of “The Herd”, also has Buffalo 10th in his rankings with the observation that the Bills could have the most-underrated coaching staff in the NFL.

BOB’s WEEK 3 “BEST BET”

My 16-16 record against the NFL point spread this season is weak but my 2-0 “Best Bets” is OK and I’m sticking with the Buffalo Bills for the second straight week.

The Bills are favored by 6 points in their home opener Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Buffalo is one of only four teams ranked in top 10 in both total offense and defense: 9th is offense (a nice surprise) and 6th in defense (no surprise).

Cincinnati is 2nd in passing offense – inconsistent Andy Dalton has been hot -- but 32nd in rushing. Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard have combined for 54 yards on 39 carries.

The Bengals figure to come out firing and they’ll be up against one of the league’s very best air control units.

For the record, Baltimore is 1st in total offense and 2nd in total defense, New England is 6th and 1st. and San Francisco is 7th and 9th).

The “Best Bet” BUFFALO (-6) 28, Cincinnati 10.

EVEN THE 2019 DOLHINS COULDN’T TOP THE 1923 ROCHESTER JEFFERSONS

The Miami Dolphins have been outscored by a mere 92 points in their first two games this season – 59-10 by Baltimore and 43-0 by New England.

It could’ve been worse. In fact it was for the 1973 New Orleans Saints, the 1961 Oakland Raiders and the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons, the three teams in NFL history that lost their first two games by more than the hapless Dolphins:

1973 Saints – Lost 52-7 home to the Atlanta Falcons and 40-3 at Dallas on Monday Night Football. Differential minus-92.

2018 Dolphins – Differential minus-92.

1961 Oakland Raiders – Lost 55-0 at Houston and 44-0 at home to the San Diego Chargers. Differential minus-99.

1923 Jeffersons – Lost 60-0 at the Chicago Cardinals and 56-0 at the Rock Islands Independents. Differential minus—116, a record that obviously will be tough to erase.

The Jeffs officially were 0-4 that season, with home losses to the Toledo Maroons 13-6 (they did manage to score a touchdown on a pass from Al Sheard to Hal Clark) and 13-0 to the Buffalo All-Americans.

Two other Jeffs NFL games (against the Chicago Bears and Hammond Pros were scheduled but not played.

The highlight of the season for the Jeffersons was a season-opening non-league 46-0 victory over the Hornell Independents at the Rochester Ball Park September 30.

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NFL STAT PACK THROUGH WEEK 2

NFL home teams and their supporters at the betting windows are struggling so far this early NFL season.

Through two weeks, home teams are 17-17-1 con the scoreboard and 11-21 against the Las Vegas betting lines.

Week 2 home teams were 6-10 last week outright and 6-11 against the spread.

Teams scoring first were 10-6 and are 18-13-1 this season.

Teams leading after the first quarter were 9-3 and are 18-13-1 this season.

Teams leading a halftime last week were 14-2 and are 24-7-1 this season.

Teams leading after the third quarter last week were 13-2 and are 23-7-1 this season.

Teams winning the turnover last week were 7-3 and are 17-5-1 this season.

Teams leading in time of possession were 11-5 and are 21-9-1 this season.

Teams with the most rushing yards were 11-5 and are 22-9-1 this season.

Teams with the most passing yards were 8-6 and are 16-15-1 this season.

Teams with the fewest penalties were 6-10 and are 13-15-1 this season.

Teams with the fewest yards penalized were 8-8 and are 19-12-1 this season.

5 of the 16 games were decided by 3 points or less (10 of 32 this season).

9 of the 16 games were decided by 7 points or less (17 of 32 this season).

Teams with the better record entering the game were 6-3.

The NFC was 3-23 in interconference games and leads this season 4-2.

There were 618 points in 16 games Week 2 (38.6 PPG). There have been 1,394 points in 32 games (43.56 PPG) this season.

HAPPY SPORTS BIRTHDAYS TO...

Wednesday, September 18

Serge Ibaka 30...Lance Armstrong 48...Toni Kukoc 51...Ryne Sandberg 60...Chip Banks 60...Peter Stastny 63...Billy Sims (64)...Dennis Johnson 65...Rick Pitino 67...Darryl Sittler 69...Scotty Bowman 86. Baseball star third baseman Heinie Groh was born on this date 130 years ago and died at age 78 in Cincinnati in 1968.

Thursday, September 19

Trae Young 21...Senorise Perry 28...Stephon Gilmore 29..CJ McCollum 28....George Springer 30...Tyreke Evans 30...Brittany Lincicome 34...Gio Gonzalez 34..Danny Valencia 35...Rick DiPietro 38...Dan Bylesma 40...Jim Abbott 52...Ken Rosenthal 57...Don Beaupre 58..Dan Hampton 62....PGA Jane Blalock 74...Joe Morgan 76.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

September 18

1848 (171 years ago), Baseball rules changed to allow the first baseman to tag the bag at first base for an out instead of tagging the runner.

1938 (81 years ago), the NFL Chicago Bears beat the Green Bay Packers 2-0, Aaron Rodgers did not play.

1956 (63 years ago), Mickey Mantle became the eighth MLB player ro hit s0 home runs in a season.

1963 (56 years ago), in the final MLB game at the Polo Grounds, the New York Jets lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 5-1 before a gathering of 1,742 fans.

1991 (38 years ago), former Rochester Red Wings manager John Hart became general manager of the Cleveland Indians.

1997 (12 years ago), Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo were elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

September 19

1947 (72 years ago), Jackie Robinson was named National League Rookie of the Year.

1948 (71 years ago), Pancho Gonzales won his first of two consecutive U.S. tennis singles titles.

1988 (31 years ago), American diving star Greg Louganis smashed his head on the diving board at the Seoul Olympics. He recovered to make the final qualifying round and won gold medal the next day.

2004 (15 years ago), Europe retained the Ryder Cup with its best-ever margin over the United States, 18 1/2 -9 1/2 at Oakland Hills CC.

2015 (4 years ago), Japan beat South Africa 34-32 in Brighton, England, in the biggest upset in World Cup rugby history.

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