When it comes to rooting for the person, not just the player, nobody makes it easier than Curtis Granderson. Whether it’s the way he approaches fans at spring training, the charitable work that earned him both the Roberto Clemente and Marvin Miller awards this year, or his always-positive attitude in in-season interviews, the 35-year-old outfielder is the type of athlete you might could reasonably point to as a real role model.
When it comes to rooting for the player, Granderson hasn’t made it too difficult in his three years with the Mets, either. After a so-so debut season in orange and blue in 2014, he was easily the team’s most valuable player as it won the National League pennant in 2015. And this year, despite some struggles that had some Mets fans calling for him to be benched in the dog days of summer, he finished the year with a .237/.335/.464 line, a 114 wRC+, and 30 home runs, his highest single-season total since he hit 43 for the Yankees in 2012.
His detractors weren’t making baseless claims, and perhaps some of us were probably willing to cut him a little more slack for his production because of Granderson the person. Through August 16, Granderson had just a .730 OPS, and you couldn’t avoid hearing about his freakishly-low RBI total despite his relatively high number of home runs hit. In the end, 24 of his 30 home runs came with nobody on base. The fact that he hit 16 of his home runs out of the leadoff spot in the Mets’ batting order explained some of that, at least, but his overall production lagged with men on base. Strangely enough, though, of all his small-sample men-on-base splits, he fared best with the bases loaded, hitting .400/.333/.700 in those 12 plate appearances. In total, he had 59 runs batted in for the year, one of those weird baseball things that probably won’t repeat itself in 2017.
It might also be easier to look at Granderson’s season in a positive light because of the way he finished the season. From August 17 through the end of the regular season, he hit a whopping .279/.399/.620 with 12 home runs as the Mets fought for and won the National League’s top Wild Card spot. And when the Mets’ crowded outfield forced him into center field—probably for more of the season than he would have preferred—he handled the position capably.
There’s no doubt that Granderson has already been worth the four-year, $60 million contract he signed with the Mets after the 2013 season. Next season is the last one under that contract, and he’s set to make $15 million. In the context of baseball’s finances at this point in time, his whole deal has been a bargain.
He’ll have his doubters going into next year because he’ll have turned 36 a couple weeks before Opening Day. If the Mets sign Yoenis Cespedes, perhaps some other team comes along and offers the Mets much more for Granderson in a trade than for Jay Bruce, making 2016 season his last with the team.
But in the ideal scenario—with Cespedes and Granderson on the team and Bruce traded—it wouldn’t be surprising to see Granderson put together another solidly-above-average season. Age catches up with all athletes eventually. It just doesn’t seem to have figured out Granderson yet.