Saturday, November 14, 2009

Trading Granderson Not as Tragic as Some Would Believe

Curtis Granderson is a nice guy. He’s the kind of man any father would be thrilled to have his daughter marry. He is one of the true ambassadors of baseball, and I don’t throw those kinds of words around willy-nilly.

But I’d trade him in a heartbeat.

This is one of those columns that will get me, figuratively, run up the flagpole at Comerica Park, hung in real-life effigy. You’ll have thought that I started a Kill All Puppies campaign by the time the vitriol is done with.

That’s OK. Nowhere does it say, “Thou must always write what people WANT to read, not what they SHOULD read.”

It’s the job, or rather the duty, of the columnist to present opinions and viewpoints that are genuine, not populist. Even if those opinions are as popular as ants at a picnic.

The hot stove has been fired up. It’s the time of year—the World Series done, the general managers convening—when logic gives way to jingoism. When the bubble gum cards get broken out.

Give me your Joe Shmoe and I’ll give you my John Doe.

The GMs are meeting, and they don’t do it to say hi and catch up with the wife and kids.

All 30 of them are charged with trudging to the meetings, some better equipped than others, and sniffing around to see how they could improve their ballclubs via trade.

Some have better, more attractive bubble gum cards than their colleagues. And more money.

It’s a time for the Internet to teem with rumors, suggestions, and demands from its paying customers.

Break out the bubble gum cards!

The media people, who should know better, don’t, apparently. They’re the ones who usually cast the first stone.

There’s this mythical thing—a place, really—that conjures up, to me, an image of a baseball player posing in front of a throng of potential suitors. He’s standing, by his lonesome, as if on display, on this mythical spot.

It’s something called the “trading block.”

The media people, supposedly so well connected, hear things. Perhaps sometimes they imagine that they hear things. Maybe voices come to them in the middle of the night.

Then these things get splattered onto the Internet, and don’t worry, the fans will take it from there.

One of these things went splat! onto the Internet this week.

“Report: Tigers’ Granderson, Jackson on trading block.”

Not sure where it started, nor by who. Someone heard something, I suppose. Payroll money might be an issue.

The players are center fielder Curtis Granderson and pitcher Edwin Jackson—two supposed key playing cards in the house of them that collapsed with historic ignominy down the stretch.

Not so much Jackson, who has only been a Tiger for one season, but Granderson’s possible cashiering has the fan base in Detroit beside itself.

In a way, it’s charming that the mere thought of dealing Granderson away is met with such resistance. This is because it shows that being a good guy and being active in the community still means something to some towns. And Detroit has been very good that way; they’ve always appreciated the hard-working guy, the genuine dude.

But I’m getting rather tired of being satisfied with just having a bunch of nice guys on the Tigers. The Tigers have had nice guys for years. Maybe not as high profile as what Granderson does, but nice guys nonetheless.

When Miguel Cabrera’s drinking binge made headlines in the final weekend of the season, what sprung to my mind almost immediately was, “This kind of stuff just doesn’t happen with the Tigers.”

The Tigers have been, for the most part, a button-downed organization with precious few rabble rousers on their roster over the decades. That’s why the Cabrera thing resonated so much; it was so out of character for anyone wearing the Old English D over his heart.

Nice guys are great. But winning is even better.

It may sound cold and callous, but give me players with whom I can win baseball games, not popularity contests.

Granderson is coming off an All-Star year, but in title only. He should have been an All-Star in 2006, or 2007, or 2008. Any year than 2009, when he made the squad almost out of default because of the dearth of center field talent in the American League.

He hit .249, was dreadfully and shockingly ineffective against left-handed pitchers, had an obscenely low on-base percentage—that gauge of a player’s ability to not make outs—of .324, dipped dramatically in doubles and triples, and struck out 141 times. All as a supposed leadoff hitter.

It was Granderson, by the way, who made a baserunning blunder befitting a Little League player in the ninth inning of the one-game playoff in Minnesota, getting doubled off first base on a line drive. A blunder that tore the heart out of the Tigers.

Yet he is considered an “untouchable,” another terrific sports word.

You don’t dare trade Curtis Granderson, his adoring public says, because, well, he’s CURTIS GRANDERSON!

He’s a nice guy. Is active in the community. Someone on the Internet wrote that Granderson was the “face of the franchise.”

He does have an electric smile, I’ll give you that.

I’ve talked to Granderson on a number of occasions. A couple years ago we shared a few minutes of quiet time after a game—a loss—as he told me about his experience in Great Britain, bringing baseball to kids across the pond.

The guy’s terrific, no doubt. Always has time for the ink-stained wretches and shameless hangers-on.

But to say that he’s untouchable, beyond consideration for trade, might be community wise but is baseball foolish.

In fact, there may be no better time to trade Granderson than now, with the Tigers in need of a shakeup after the most embarrassing season in their history. You heard me.

This was worse than the 43-119 debacle of 2003. Worse than 53-109 in 1996 or 57-102 in 1975, when the Tigers lost, at one point, 19 straight games. Worse than those dreadful teams of the early-1950s.

You can have all of them and they can’t beat the 2009 Tigers in terms of flat out embarrassment and shame. They became the only team to be in first place starting as early as May 10 yet fail to win its division. They became the first one to cough up a three-game lead with four games to play.

And you’d have a .249 leadoff hitter considered untouchable from such a disgraceful outfit?

If you want to use that word, untouchable, then take pitchers Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello and call me in the morning.

I’m not saying give Curtis Granderson away for a box of baseballs and a batting doughnut. All I’m saying is, take a look at it, if you can get something decent in return.

Someone has to say it in this town, for cripe's sake. No one else seems to have the temerity to do so.

9 Comments:

Blogger Lee Panas said...

Greg, You knew you were going to get grilled for this article so here goes :-)

Even in an off year, Granderson was the second best position player on a team that missed the playoffs by one run. He is also the most complete player on the team, capable of playing both offense and defense and running the bases. Looking at his last three years combined, he's been one of the top CF in the game and even last year was above average.

He can't hit LHP but he can do everything else. He is a bargain at the rate they are playing him. I would argue that more Tigers fans are underrating than overrating him now. This is all before you even get into is contributions off the field which may be more than any player in the game.

Can he be traded? Sure, any player can be traded in the right deal but they need to get a LOT for him to make a deal worthwhile. And I'm not talking about a collection of some team's over hyped prospects which is what I'm hearing in most of the rumors. I think Dombrowski will end up being really sorry if he trades him, especially when he bounces back to his career averages again next year.

I think DD knows that and will ultimately keep him.

Lee

10:32 AM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

Lee...

The gist of the piece is not that I'd be actively seeking a trade, just that I don't think he's "untouchable."

I agree about the prospects thing, though, which I fear may happen if the goal is to cut payroll.

The good news is that Mike Ilitch might not sign off on a Grandy trade, though I'm not sure how much he sticks his nose into that kind of thing.

But the point was to simply refute the notion that Granderson shouldn't be traded simply because he's a nice guy and good in the community.

It could also be that 2009 was a down year and that he'll bounce back.

I rode Grandy all year if you noticed. I was one of the few who did it, for whatever reason. The media gives the guy a free pass too often.

Greg

12:23 PM  
Blogger OldEnglish said...

It's a tough conversation, and I appreciate both sides of the argument. I've already said that I'd have a hard time watching Grandy play for someone else, but I understand that in baseball very few players should be totally untouchable. It would have to be a total sweetheart deal in my mind to justify it. I was also disappointed with Curtis' play at the plate this year. Particularly frustrating was his missing of fastballs in the zone. To me, that meant his concentration wasn't on or something. Anyway, good job Greg and Lee.

8:20 PM  
Blogger nice said...

haha....................................................................................................

5:05 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

sorry, all i hear in this post is "blah blah blah i kick puppies blah blah blah satan satan hail the devourer of worlds blah blah scrodvomit".

;)

12:54 AM  
Blogger Michael David said...

Greg, great job playing devil's advocate. You do a great job of getting everyone thinking box of 'fandome'.
The Tigers used the word 'untouchable' for prospects Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller in the past, too. Yet, they were dealt when the Tigers felt they got a solid deal. Such is life in pro sports.
I'd hate to see Grandy go, too, but you have to save judgement until there actually is a trade, and to see what the Tigers pick up. It's easy to be a fan, and say 'that was a bad trade! DD doesn't know what he's doing!'. Or, the other way around, saying 'Wow, what a great trade. We wish Grandy the best, but will be glad to see ______ in Detroit'. I wsa a big fan of Maybin's when he was with the 'Caps, and was disappointed to see him traded (maybe he'll be back now?). But getting Cabrera was a good thing.

7:52 AM  
Blogger 李通友 said...

Better late than never.
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5:53 AM  
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2:32 AM  
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5:24 AM  

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