Readers who have managed to continue following the Mets through one of their dreariest seasons in recent memory know that Curtis Granderson was traded to the Dodgers last week for minor league relief pitcher Jacob Rhame and some modest—but apparently vitally important—payroll savings. It was typical of many pre-waiver-deadline deals: A bad team sent a good player on an expiring contract to a good team looking to fortify itself for a playoff run. From that formulaic perspective, it was a trade that benefited everyone, and it was time to say goodbye. From a fan’s view, however, it hurts to see Granderson leave.
Durable, productive, energetic, philanthropic, and relentlessly positive, Curtis Granderson personified what Mets fans loved best about their team over these last three-and-a-half years, and his departure signifies the end of the ascendant Mets of the Sandy Alderson era.
The bond with Granderson was forged early—all the way back to his introductory press conference, when he made that shot-across-the-bow comment about having heard that “true New Yorkers” are Mets fans. It was the perfect thing to say in that spot, fresh out of Yankee pinstripes as he was, and it was just the thing for Mets fans to hear, as sorely in need of some harmless braggadocio as we were.
Indeed, that simple moment of levity washed clear any lingering anxiety from the lead-up to Granderson’s signing. Lest we forget, when Granderson hit free agency in 2013 he was fresh off an injury-shortened season with the Yankees in which his production took a significant hit. That he was 32 years old didn’t help his case for a four-year deal, and that the memory of Jason Bay was still fresh made many fans all the more dubious about an investment in Granderson.
On the other hand, some folks evenly retorted, Curtis Granderson is not Jason Bay. Further, who cared about the last year or two of a deal if it meant adding an established, above-average position player to a team that was seemingly on the brink of being good? Shouldn’t a team that plays in the biggest market in the country be able to handle such a contract?
Well, maybe not. As I wrote this offseason:
It was easy—and sensible, really, given all the circumstances—to dismiss the Mets’ salmon-dinner courtship of Curtis Granderson as a cynical ruse to appease a disgusted fanbase; and when it came out that the Mets didn’t want to give Granderson the four-year deal he was seeking—preferring, reportedly, to stick to three—it felt like an “of course” moment: a preordained miss that the front office and ownership could spin as an earnest try. After all, hesitating to offer a fourth year to a player of Granderson’s age was perfectly reasonable on paper. But everyone saw through the “long-term flexibility” facade and knew it was simply a matter of the owners being unable to accommodate even a relatively modest sunk cost for a season or two at the tail end of a contract in order to materially improve the team in the present.
With the Mets, the cynical take is often the correct one. In this case, it was off by a long shot. Granderson signed his four-year contract and went on to vindicate it in a way that, frankly, few other Alderson free agent signings have.
Others can delve more deeply and eloquently into Granderson’s production than I can, but that he put up the 51st-best wRC+ in MLB over the period of time he was with the Mets says a lot. No one would pretend Granderson is elite, and his detractors will always be quick to point out his low batting average, for whatever that criticism is worth. Nevertheless, Granderson was a pretty damn good baseball player for the Mets.
It is easy to root for damn-good baseball players on one’s favorite team, but it is only the rare sort who inspires a deeper and sustained attachment among fans. Granderson was surely one such player for Mets fans. His actions, and the accolades he received, indicate much about him as a person.
Not every baseball player has a charitable foundation, let alone one in which they are actively involved, let alone one that demonstrably “aids positive youth development via education, physical fitness and nutrition.” Not many players donate $5 million to their alma mater to help them build a new baseball field; nor does every baseball player win the Marvin Miller “Man of the Year” Award or the Roberto Clemente Award—the one that “annually recognizes the player who best represents baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions both on and off field.” I haven’t seen too many players who routinely take a minute to chat with kids and give them a fist bump while in the on-deck circle. Some baseball players seem to have a knack for social media; but not all of them use their unique position of visibility for both fun and a greater purpose.
It is folly to expect baseball players to be model citizens, and it seems we encounter new evidence to support that assertion with increasing frequency. There is also a lot of misguided scrutiny of players’ playing styles (hello, Carlos Beltran and Yoenis Cespedes), and amateur psychoanalysis of their apparent dispositions and attitudes (lookin’ at you, #unconfident Lucas Duda).
Here, too, Curtis Granderson is the exception. And in our post-modern era of cynicism and irony and hot takes, it is a wonderful feeling to be able to lower one’s guard for a moment and enjoy the actions and words of a baseball player who truly is a great example of how to comport oneself in the many fields and arenas of this life.