In my very early years of watching baseball, my favorite player was Reggie Jackson. Once he left the New York Yankees after the 1981 season, I gravitated toward Dale Murphy. Though not a Yankee, Murphy was on TV almost every night thanks to the Atlanta Braves being on Super Station TBS. Once Don Mattingly arrived in 1984, he became my favorite. The only time I felt chills at a sporting event was when Donnie Baseball was introduced before Game One of the 1995 American League Divisional Series. After he retired, the Yankees starting winning big but I never had a player that was “my guy”. Those Yankee teams were something to behold and even though Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are going to the Hall of Fame and I admired them deeply, I couldn’t pick one as my favorite. I now have someone I root for just as much as the players in my early baseball years.
Curtis Granderson is now my guy and, in my opinion, is a New York baseball icon.
I started liking Grandy as he progressed through his time with the Yankees. Prior to joining the Bronx Bombers, he was pretty darn good with the Detroit Tigers as well. In 2007, he stroked 23 triples, the most in a season since Dale Mitchell had the same number in 1949. He followed that up in 2008 by banging out 13 triples, also a league high. The Tigers traded him to the Yankees after the 2009 season for Austin Jackson. Granderson turned out to be a wonderful player for the Yankees. In two of his four seasons, he clubbed more than 40 home runs twice with the 2012 output of 43 the highest in franchise history by a left-handed hitter since Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961. He finished fourth in the MVP race in 2011 and was a two-time All Star with the Yanks. Unfortunately, his final Bomber season in 2013 was curtailed by a broken forearm he suffered in Spring Training. The season ended with no playoff berth and was the end of the line for Rivera. It also proved to be the end for Grandy in Pinstripes.
I knew the Yanks were not going to re-sign him and I was sort of OK with that. Baseball is a business after all, even though it hurts sometimes to admit that. Management felt he would cost too much and it seemed as though New York wanted to go in a different direction. However, the Yanks proceeded to ink Jacoby Ellsbury to an outlandish seven-year $153 million dollar contract that was terrible then and looks even worse now. Three days later, the New York Mets signed Grandy to a four-year $60 million dollar contract, making me smile because I at least got to watch him every day. As for the Yanks, they have essentially traded him for Ellsbury. How is that swap working out? Granderson is spearheading the Mets in the playoffs while Ellsbury was benched for the Yankees’ Wild Card game against the Houston Astros. The ex-Yank and current Met has been just as terrific for the Amazins as he was for the Bombers. I am happy for him but man, does it hurt not to have him in the Bronx. I also feel bad that he arrived on the Yankees the year after their World Series victory.
Besides being a tremendous player, Granderson is a great guy off the field. He was named the Marvin Miller Man of the Year in 2009 by Major League Baseball. It recognizes the achievements on the filed as well as contributions to the community. He has had endorsements for Nike, Louisville Slugger and Rawlings but has asked all payments be made to his foundation or to inner-city baseball programs. His Grand Kids Foundation, started in 2007 is one of the most recognizable and largest charities by any athlete. In 2012, he donated $5 million dollars to his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Chicago. For more on his remarkable work off the field, check out this article from Newsday by Marc Craig.
I am happy that Granderson is getting another chance to win a World Series ring. It’s a shame it’s not with the Yankees but I am OK with it being the Mets. If my kids asked who they should emulate both on the field and off it, I would without hesitation say Grandy. Just look how much fun he has day in and day out playing the game. I would be hard-pressed to find a picture of him without a smile in the outfield. Baseball is meant to be fun and watching Curtis Granderson reminds me of that every time I see him. I wish him and the rest of the Mets the best of luck for the remainder of the playoffs.