Why the Granderson take down?

Lynn Henning was ahead of the curve on the Curtis Granderson trade front. He started beating the drum for a Granderson trade in October. It’s  something that I never would have seen coming. So kudos to Henning and his crystal ball. But why in the aftermath of the trade has he become so completely anti-Granderson and such a staunch supporter of all things Tigers?

On October 20th Henning wrote:

They will trade Curtis Granderson for two players. I cannot shake a personal belief that dealing Granderson is their only way out of heading into 2010 with zero chance to win the division.

While I disagree that keeping Granderson would have prevented them from winning the division, the accuracy is remarkable here. Henning would go on to say that the Tigers would use the trade to pick up a bullpen arm and a position prospect. He guessed on shortstop as the position, but pretty uncanny.

Henning continued the theme into November blogging about the possibility of a trade and this time saying it wasn’t about the finances, but that it was a means to get younger players in position to help the team.

As the winter meetings approached and other baseball executives were told that the Tigers were shopping Granderson, Henning picked up steam putting the odds at 80%. Other writers thought that the Tigers were asking for such a steep price for Granderson that he likely wouldn’t be on the move with Peter Gammons saying that the price was Phil Hughes and Austin Jackson. Only Henning and USA Today writer Bob Nightengale saw the burning desire for the Tigers to move Granderson.

They added young arms and now have arguably the best pitching, big leagues to the minors, of any organization in baseball.
Lynn Henning

When the trade went down Henning penned a number of articles talking about how Dombrowski is building an enduring roster. He was cautioning fans to not judge the trade by 2010 and to get use to a payroll two-thirds of what the Tigers have maintained. Henning was effusive in his praise for the new Tigers and spoke of how the team will now be competitive for the next decade.

If Henning wants to sound like a member of the Tigers PR department, that’s fine. And if he’s celebrating conjuring up this trade that seemed farfetched in October but came to fruition in December, no problem. What I have issue with is the negative Granderson articles that he has come out with since the trade.

There was the section of a recent article called The Downside of Grand which listed  his salary figures for the remainder of the contract ($25.5 million). It also listed his batting average against left handers each of the last 4 years. The article also selectively listed his less poor September and October batting averages each of the last 2 years.

My rebuttal is that even in Granderson’s “down year” he was valued as a $15.3 million player and over the last 4 years he’s been worth $79.8 million with his lowest year coming in 2006 when he was valued a $14.6 million. He won’t make more than $10 million in any year during his contract unless a club option for $13 million is picked up in 2013. With regard to hitting lefties, he has a .894 career OPS against righties – who he faces in 76% of his plate appearances. As for late season fades, he has a .797 career OPS in September/October.

Selective stat picking isn’t a crime. I’ve done it here to make points as well, though I do try and present a complete picture as often as possible. I’m more troubled by articles like Granderson was beloved but on the decline.

Here Henning uses phrases like “fell from grace” and he spoke of “building tension in the clubhouse.” He essentially threw the Tigers offensive struggles all on the shoulders of Granderson.

Granderson, even as he hit 30 home runs, came to embody the Tigers’ sputtering, sprint-and-slip offense. The supposed ignition switch often became a drag on a batting order that seemed to deflate or inflate based on what Granderson was doing.

That an offense with Adam Everett, Gerald Laird, and Brandon Inge composing a third of the lineup and one that saw Clete Thomas batting third far too often deflated based on Granderson’s performance is ludicrous. Is Henning really blaming all the offense’s struggles on Granderson here? Is Granderson supposed to ignite Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, Aubrey Huff, Marcus Thames and every other hitter?

But it gets better. Henning also blamed Granderson for doing too much for the community.

If it were just a matter of having an off season, the Tigers might have lived with it. But it goes deeper than that. Granderson has been spread too thin in Detroit. In that respect, his charm is also his curse.

snip

One must be careful about making criticisms here. But this feeling has been deep for a very long time, mostly because Granderson, for all his decency, on too many days appeared to be putting in more of a work shift than concentrating adequately on a game that must be played with consummate passion and attention.

That Granderson did fewer outside appearances in 2009 than he did in his quad-20 2007 season didn’t seem to deter Henning from questioning his commitment to the Tigers. Granderson’s work ethic has never before been questioned, and it shouldn’t be now either. Henning failed to note the extra work that Granderson would put in, such as making the trek to Toledo on several occasions to get in extra hitting work with Mud Hens coach Bull Durham.

It’s hard to argue with Granderson’s batting average last year (though a deeper dive would tell you it isn’t a reason to be concerned) or his struggles with left handed pitching. Those are facts and a matter of record. However, criticizing his commitment to baseball or his passion for the game is out of bounds – and to do it in the context of his giving back to the community  – is itself worthy of criticism.

In too many people’s rush to look at all the things Granderson can’t do (mediocre arm, strikes out too much, can’t hit lefties) they have forgotten the things that he can do. He hits for power, works the count, takes walks, runs the bases, and plays above average defense and he does it all for a contract that is a relative bargain. Maybe that’s why Brian Cashman wanted him so much.