There was a point in early June when I was talking baseball with a friend of mine and the topic of Curtis Granderson came up. I believe the quote my Yankees fan friend spouted smugly from his lips was "thanks for taking Granderson off our hands." There wasn't much for me to say at that point besides defending the fact the Curtis was drawing a lot of walks as the Mets' leadoff man. On all other scores, Granderson wasn't getting it done on the field.
Like most of the fan base, I expected Granderson to be a middle-of-the-order run producer for the Mets after he signed a four-year, $60 million dollar deal before the 2014 season. Most people didn't expect him to duplicate the 40-home-run seasons he put up thanks to Yankee Stadium's short right field porch, but 25-30 homers seemed feasible considering he had cracked the thirty-homer barrier while playing for the Detroit Tigers in spacious Comerica Park. It was not to be. Granderson struggled out of the gate in April (.136 average, one home run) and finished the year hitting just .227 with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs. His .714 OPS was the worst of his career.
There were comparisons to Jason Bay, who also signed a big free agent contract with the Mets back in 2010, and proceeded to bomb on the New York stage. Bay was so bad for the Mets that they bought out his contract after three years. Would history repeat itself or did Granderson just have a down year? The Mets did what they could to help. They moved in the fences in right field in the offseason and then hired his former Yankees hitting coach, Kevin Long, to help with Granderson's 2014 hitting woes.
And then a funny thing happened. Just days after my June conversation, Granderson got things right. He sizzled at the plate that month, hitting .291 with seven homers and posting a .914 OPS. July saw him slide back to a .250 batting average and just three homers, but in August he caught fire again—along with the rest of the Mets' offense. Nine doubles, seven homers, 22 RBI, and a .931 OPS marked Granderson's most productive month in a Mets' uniform.
The Mets lacked offensive firepower for much of the season. David Wright and Travis d'Arnaud missed huge chunks of time due to injuries. Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, and Juan Uribe were yet to be acquired. Michael Conforto was still playing minor league games for St. Lucie and Binghamton. Granderson has been the Mets constant through it all, and while the Mets have clearly been carried by their dominant, young pitching staff, the case can be made that Granderson has been the team's most valuable player. He leads the Mets in hits, runs scored, walks, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, and on-base percentage, and is tied for the lead in OPS with Lucas Duda.
There's also reason to believe that Granderson's defense has markedly improved over last year, so his improvement from 2014 can be seen across the board.
Now, with the Mets engaging in meaningful September baseball for the first time since 2008, and the possibility of a playoff berth for the first time since 2006, I plan on having another conversation with my Yankees-loving friend, hopefully, in late October/early November. I'm going to tell him "thanks for letting the Mets take Curtis Granderson off your hands."