Sunday, August 20, 2017

Broken News: Curtis Granderson, The Underappreciated Met

Curtis Granderson smiles one last time in a Mets uniform.  (Elsa/Getty Images)

Welcome to another edition of Broken News, where someone else breaks the news and then we break it some more.  As most of you know, Curtis Granderson was traded on Friday to the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that's currently one thousand games over .500 (give or take a couple of games) and planning its World Series parade in August.

The departure of the veteran Granderson to the Dodgers was a move that many people expected to happen for months.  However, one thing that wasn't expected was the outpouring of love for a player who heard a few boos earlier this year after a slow start to the season.  One particular fan on Twitter couldn't help but notice that Saturday's first post-Granderson game caused others to dust off their Granderson apparel to wear at Citi Field.

Curtis Granderson went through his share of slumps in nearly four years as a Met, as evidenced by his .239 career batting average with the team.  However, in his short tenure in Flushing, he earned every penny of the free agent contract he signed prior to the 2014 season and provided several moments that caused many a fan to get out of their seats and cheer.  He was also much more valuable than most people think.

For example, as much as people say Daniel Murphy was a postseason hero in 2015, and he was, at least in the NLDS and NLCS, did you know that it was Granderson who led the team in RBIs during that magical playoff run?

Murphy may have hit seven home runs in 14 playoff games in 2015, but that only led to 11 RBIs.  Granderson drove in a dozen runs batting out of the leadoff spot in the batting order.  The right fielder reached base 24 times in those fourteen October and November games, stole four bases and scored ten runs, all while striking out just seven times in 64 plate appearances.  Compare that to Murphy, who struck out seven times in the World Series alone when he forgot that the postseason didn't end after the Mets won the pennant.

In the Division Series, Murphy hit three of his seven postseason homers and almost single-handedly won Game Five.  But there may not have been a Game Five had the Mets not won the critical Game Three, and Granderson collected the series-turning hit in that contest.  After the Mets lost the second game of the series on Chase Utley's leg-breaking slide, the Dodgers took an early 3-0 lead in Game Three.  Not wanting to face elimination in Game Four with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, the Mets stormed back against starter Brett Anderson.  New York scored a run in the third and loaded the bases for Granderson, who promptly cleared them with a long double to center field.  With that blast, the Mets took a lead they would not relinquish and went on to win the series.

Granderson continued to give the Mets leads in the NLCS, driving in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning of Game One against the Cubs.  His two-out RBI single broke a 1-1 tie and the Mets would never trail in the series; a four-game sweep in which Granderson reached base five times, scored three runs and stole three bases.

Had the Mets defeated the Royals in the World Series - a Fall Classic Murphy famously didn't show up for - Granderson would have been the odds-on favorite to take home the World Series MVP trophy.  In the five-game series, Granderson hit three homers and scored six runs.  No one else on the team crossed the plate more than two times.  Each of Granderson's three homers gave the Mets a lead, but unfortunately, the Mets could not capitalize on Granderson's penchant for providing emotional lifts with the fly balls he lifted into the outfield seats.  New York coughed up all three leads Granderson gave them and lost a heartbreaking World Series.

Murphy got all the accolades (and the lucrative free agent contract) for what he did in the 2015 postseason, but Granderson was the most consistent player the Mets had during their October run.  His clutch hitting should not be buried behind Murphy's exploits.

So what else did Granderson do as a Met that went largely ignored by his detractors?  During his tenure with the Mets, no position player had a higher WAR than Granderson.  His 10.4 bWAR is higher than the runner-up in this category, Juan Lagares, who posted an 8.0 bWAR from 2014 to 2017.  Everyday players like Yoenis Céspedes (6.3 WAR) and Michael Conforto (5.9 WAR) didn't play for the Mets in 2014 and the first half of 2015, but Granderson's 5.1 bWAR in 2015 alone was higher than the combined WAR put up by Céspedes (2.3) and Conforto (2.1) in just over 400 plate appearances between the two.  To put Granderson's Mets career in perspective, the only player on the team with a higher WAR since 2014 is Jacob deGrom, who has a 15.5 bWAR since his Rookie of the Year award-winning 2014 campaign.

Finally, had Granderson stayed a Met for another few weeks, he would have joined some elusive company.  Granderson hit 19 HR in 2017 before being traded to the Dodgers.  In his first three seasons with the team, he clubbed 20, 26 and 30 home runs.  Had he hit one more homer before the trade, he would have become just the sixth Met to reach 20 home runs in four consecutive seasons.  The other five?  You may have heard of them.  Their names are Darryl Strawberry, Kevin McReynolds, Howard Johnson, Mike Piazza and David Wright.  Not a stinker in the bunch.

Granderson finished his Mets career needing five homers to reach 100 with the team.  Had he reached triple digits, the Mets would have been the third team for which he hit 100 homers, as he accomplished the feat with the Tigers (102 HR) and the Yankees (115 HR).  Only five men have ever homered at least 100 times for three different teams.  Four of the five are Hall of Famers and potential Hall of Famers (Reggie Jackson, Jim Thome, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre).  The other is Darrell Evans, who hit 414 HR in his career and won a World Series ring with the 1984 Tigers, something Granderson is now shooting for as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Perhaps most importantly, in this era when Mets trainer Ray Ramirez is Public Enemy No. 1 because of all the injuries that have befallen Granderson's former Mets teammates, it should be noted that Granderson played in 573 of a possible 606 games during his time as a Met.  He played in 150+ games in each of his three full seasons with the team and had played in 111 games this season before the trade, putting him on pace for another 150-game campaign.  To put that in layman's terms, Granderson never went on the disabled list as a member of the Mets.  The Hospital For Special Surgery - also known as the second home for many members of the Mets - only saw him during the 2015 off-season, when he went in for thumb surgery.  But I'm sure he made several appearances visiting patients while he was there.  Because that's the kind of guy Granderson is.

Curtis Granderson was loved by his teammates and by members of the community.  His charitable efforts and work with children and the needy earned him the Roberto Clemente Award in 2016.  His performance in the 2015 World Series could very well have brought him an MVP trophy had the Mets not surrendered the crown to the Royals.  His career numbers with the team in less than four full seasons are among the best in franchise history.  And lest we forget, his final hit as a Met was a grand slam against the Yankees.  Despite all this, Granderson was very much underappreciated by Mets fans.  Or so we thought.  The love on Twitter after his departure and the plethora of Granderson shirts and jerseys at Citi Field last night tell another story.

Granderson was actually very much appreciated by supporters of the Mets.  It's too bad it took his departure for most of them to realize his value to the team and the city he played in.

We tip our cap to Curtis Granderson, who walks off to Los Angeles as a great Met. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

1 comment:

Major League Bride said...

Well said. Quite often it's the players who quietly get the job done without fanfare on a daily basis - both on and off the field - who make the greatest impact on their teammates.