Friday, July 24, 2009

Granderson Not Alone, But Most Guilty Among Tigers Offenders

Curtis Granderson is bright, engaging, a terrific guy, and as fine a representative as any to represent Major League Baseball internationally.

He's also dragging the Tigers' offense down.

Grandy isn't the only one who's guilty, for sure. There are plenty of suspects you could place in a lineup---not a batting lineup, I mean a police lineup---and different fans would select different perps.

Some might point at second baseman Placido Polanco.

"There! THAT'S him! That's the guy who's taken our offense," an excitable fan might say about Polanco, who's hitting a very pedestrian .262, some 40 points below his career average, in the Tigers' No. 2 slot in the batting order.

Another witness is likely to wag a shaking finger at right fielder Magglio Ordonez. Perhaps most of them would.

"Arrest that man! Forthwith! HE'S the one!"

The evidence against Ordonez is plentiful.

A .257 BA. Five homers. Thirty-two RBI. A measly slugging percentage of .351. And Maggs was the Tigers' cleanup hitter for most of the first two months of the season. But it was left to the others to clean up after his mess.

There are even some, and one of them is banging away on his keyboard right now, who would look cross-eyed at Miguel Cabrera.

Miggy has solid numbers, at first blush. But he hasn't put the Tigers on his back, like the true superstars do, and carried them when they weren't able to carry themselves, which is most of the time anymore.

I have sneers for all of the above, but I'm coming back to Granderson.

I don't take any joy in blistering Curtis, because I'm one of those who's had the good fortune to spend time with him, and he's simply a joy to talk to. He's the kind of young man who I'd love for my daughter to marry.

Three years ago, early in the 2006 season, I predicted great things for Granderson, who at the time had just beaten out a kid named Nook Logan for the center field position in Detroit. I compared his cherubic grin to that of Isiah Thomas, and warned the rest of the American League that Grandy's smile would be like Thomas' in another manner---it would be an assassin's smile, bright on its face but lethal in its cold heart.

If you care to, you can read my boosterism of Granderson here.

Fast forward to 2009, and where are the doubles? Where are the triples? Where's the annoyance he's causing opposing pitchers at the leadoff spot? Where's the .280-.300 batting average?

It's almost as if Granderson sold his baseball-playing soul to the Devil, in exchange for a season as a home run hitter.

Curtis has 19 dingers, which means he'll likely eclipse his career high of 23 this season.


So we're left with a .257 BA, 10 doubles, and four triples.

When Granderson missed the first few weeks of the 2008 season, his absence was used as one of the reasons why the Tigers came out of the gate oh-so-slowly. Made sense, as Grandy was coming off his dynamite 2007 season, when his 2B/3B/HR line read 38/23/23, and his average was .302.

How he failed to make the All-Star team in 2007 is almost as baffling as why he made it this year.

Granderson isn't an All-Star---not now, and not when the team was announced. Maybe he made it because the center field crop is dry this year. Not sure.

Regardless, he hasn't performed at an All-Star level, the 19 home runs aside. He's still flashing some decent leather defensively, but he's simply not being the catalyst at the top of the order that the Tigers need so badly now.

It's almost cruelly ironic, to Tigers' fans, that Granderson hit one of his once-signature triples in the All-Star Game.

And as for the home runs, this isn't Rickey Henderson. Or, closer to home, Louis Whitaker. It's not like Curtis has been leading off a bunch of games with the longball.

One of the beat writers in Detroit, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, suggested that Granderson's off-the-field benevolence might be catching up to him. Too many distractions, in other words. Henning's theory was indirectly seconded by manager Jim Leyland, who fretted that Granderson is one who hates to say no to anyone.

This isn't the Curtis Granderson that I signed up for. Despite playing half his games at spacious and extra base-friendly Comerica Park, Grandy has just those 10 doubles and four triples, which is, frankly, sickly. They aren't numbers that cause disruption, which is what a leadoff hitter is supposed to do.

I was asked on a recent podcast whether I thought Granderson had it in him to make a sharp turnaround in the second half of the season.

It's always been in him, from Opening Day. Why it hasn't presented itself is a mystery that may never be fully explained. So to think that it could suddenly materialize after almost 100 games is a stretch. I hope I'm wrong.

Granderson has gotten a free pass from the media, for the most part, despite his subpar performance. Maybe it's because, as I indicated in the opening, there are lots of people at whom to point fingers. His bad year is getting lost in the shuffle with everyone else's bad years.

But the leadoff hitter ought to be auspicious, both in his praise and in his scolding.

It's time to quit ignoring the facts. Curtis Granderson is dragging the Tigers down, and it needs to stop. Right now.

Easier said than done, I know.


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