Right fielder Curtis Granderson agreed to terms with the New York Mets on a four-year, $60 million contract on December 6, 2013. The signing was a head-jerker for MLB Nation, who thought that after four ball-bashing years as a high-strikeout, 40-homer guy with the Yankees that "Grandy" would take his services to a World Series-contending team in need of a prolific veteran slugger. Instead he shocked the world and remained in New York. The fun-loving, reserved and always polite Granderson simply switched train stops and headed to the Q-boro to play for a team whose fans were proud, ornery, disgruntled and fed up with the fact that its beloved squad hadn't won more than 79 games since 2008.
He became enthralled with the cozy confines of Yankees Stadium and despite growing up in Illinois and jump-starting his career with the Detroit Tigers in 2005, Granderson got infected by the NYC bug and grew close to the city's deep and embracing baseball culture.
Granderson had seen one side of the tracks as a lucratively-paid chess piece in the New York Yankees win machine. The glitzy, corporate kings with championship rings falling out of their fat pockets, had just won their first World Series since 2000 when one of baseball's good guys joined The Evil Empire. In 2009, the Tigers began shopping Granderson to other franchises in an effort to reduce their payroll and he found his way to the bright lights and big city via a three-team trade. He spent the next three seasons monster mashing, before getting hurt in 2013 and playing just 61 games. Then, like so many hired guns that frequent Yankees Nation, his time and usefulness to the organization was up. It was time to roll out.
He didn't have to be the man with the Yankees. All Granderson had to do was his job and the money machine would do the rest of the work. The Mets were going through a more frugal period, rebounding from near financial disaster and just finally getting in a position to pursue some real-deal free agents again. Not the Jason Bay type either. A legit baller like Granderson. A vet who plays the game the right way.
Granderson is used to playing in pressure-cookers, but with an upstart Mets team full of babies, his clubhouse grind has changed.
"I was with an older club with the Yankees," Granderson told me during a brief interview at his locker inside the Mets clubhouse. "And I was one of the young guys and in a matter of four months, by switching club houses, I became one of the older guys on this Mets team. That's just the way the demographic of the team happens to be. We have a lot of young guys here finally getting up and maintaining and doing their thing, where you have established veterans over there in the Yankees organization, but no better, no worse. I spent four great years with the Yankees in the Bronx and people have always asked which one I like better and at the end of my four years here, I'll be able to give a better assessment of that. It's hard to compare four years to a year and a half so far."
Why Citi Field in the first place?
"What GM Sandy (Alderson) and the front office mentioned to me was that a lot of young and talented guys were coming," Granderson told The Shadow League. "He felt that with my help and a few other guys, we'll be able to do some good things. That's what I wanted to be a part of. They (Mets brass) have been able to back that up and we still have young arms developing at the MLB level. We have guys like a deGrom and Noah Syndergaard and other guys in the minor leagues coming up. That was one of the things I liked. It was worth the risk. That's a team you want to be with and grow with."
For the Mets -- a team that was rebuilding with unfamiliar names -- adding a respected, familiar face to their lineup-- albeit a former Yankee -- was a move they had to make to show the fans they were serious about pursuing players you could add to a championship mix.
Some pessimistic pundits labeled it a money grab on Grandy's part. The Shadow League told you in December of 2013, that eventually Granderson would get his props for coming to the Mets. In the piece, "Curtis Granderson Is The Second Coming Of Amare Stoudemire," I compared the two athletes, who both embraced tough tasks in being the first legitimate free agent piece for broken down New York franchises in rebuild mode. They both got paid well for it, but grueling times would lie ahead.
"Granderson is in a similar situation to Amare. Granderson is a three-time MLB All-Star (2009, 2011–2012) and won the Silver Slugger Award in 2011. Granderson developed into a feared lefty slugger in Yankee Stadium, mashing 84 total homers in 2010 and 2011. Injuries wrecked his 2012 and limited him to just 61 games. By the time he was healthy, it seemed he was the odd man out in the Yankees' restructuring plan. The diminutive bomber’s four-year $60 million contract with the Mets was out of the Yankees price range. At age 32 and coming off an injury-plagued season, both parties felt that the relationship had run its course.
The Mets, similar to the Knicks before Amare made his leap of faith, have been the laughing stock of baseball for some time. These once proud franchises not only share the same colors, but a recent losing history highlighted by egregious ownership.
Amare’s signing offered the Knicks a ray of hope in an otherwise ugly time. Granderson’s arrival in Queens could have a similar effect.
Stoudemire, now a member of the Dallas Mavericks, helped the Knicks break a playoff drought and he had his moments in the sun, but there were more dark times and more injuries. He never got to fulfill his intended purpose with the orange and blue. His stay was brief and the team's rise was even shorter.
Granderson, on the other hand, played in 155 games with the Mets in 2014. He struggled at times, just like the rest of his 79-win squad and batted just .227 with 61 RBI. But he also provided some of that power (20 homers) and optimism and professionalism and playoff experience the club will desperately need in the near future. Granderson has played in a World Series, four ALDS and three ALCS in his career. Besides, this Mets team is built for the future and appears to be constructed with staying power.
Power that is blossoming before our eyes as Granderson's leadership and bat has played a huge part in the Mets 2015 return to baseball relevancy. They were leading the NL East for most of the season, but a recent slide has them in second, 1.5 games behind Bryce Harper and the Nationals. That's still quite acceptable for Mets fans who are finally reaping the fruits of their saintly patience. Coming to the Mets is looking like a brilliant decision by Granderson. It's looking like he can finally tell the haters and doubters, "I told you so."
"Its been fun, Granderson said, But I still got a long way to go before I can say anything like that," but everything that I felt would be a cool situation if it happened...is happening."