"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Observations from Cooperstown: Grandy, DeRosa, and Billy the Kid

If you had told me during the World Series that the Yankees could have Curtis Granderson without having to surrender any of these four players—Jesus Montero, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, or Zach McAllister—I would have asked for the signup sheet right then and there. So when I heard that the Yankees had acquired the Tigers’ center fielder for a package of Austin “Ajax” Jackson, Phil Coke, and Ian Kennedy, I was thrilled with Brian Cashman’s latest trade. When it comes to making trades for position players, Cashman is very good; just look at last winter’s deal for Nick Swisher and that long-ago swap that brought Alex Rodriguez to town.

Granderson makes the Yankees younger in the outfield and potentially improves their defensive play at two positions. If Granderson plays center field—and he should in my book—his speed gives him an advantage over Melky Cabrera. Granderson can outrun his mistakes, something that the slower Cabrera has a tougher time doing. I’ve heard all of the talk about how Granderson played a poor center field in September. Given that he’s still only 28, I doubt that he’s suddenly lost his defensive abilities. More likely, fatigue may have been a factor, along with the very real possibility that he fell into a defensive slump. Fielding slumps can and do happen, just like a few years ago when A-Rod had such difficulty throwing and fielding that ESPN had him pegged for DH duties.

With Granderson in center, the Yankees would be able to slide Cabrera to left field, where he would be a huge upgrade over Johnny Damon. An outfield of Cabrera/Granderson/Swisher greatly improves the outfield defense, which was one of the few weaknesses on the world championship team.

In terms of character, Granderson is a slam dunk. People in nearby Oneonta remember his season as a member of the minor league Tigers; they continue to laud him as gentlemanly, cooperative, and community-minded, all traits that have carried over to his time in Detroit. Extraordinarily popular in the Motor City, Granderson should have no trouble blending into a cohesive clubhouse that already has pillars like Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, and Mariano Rivera.

Aside from his late-season defensive foibles, the biggest criticism of Granderson has to do with his inability to hit left-handed pitching. This is a legitimate point that needs to be brought up, but it has been wildly overstated. Exactly who has all this left-handed pitching that is supposed to shut down Granderson? A look at the American League East, where the Yankees will play approximately half of their games, reveals a right-handed landscape. The Red Sox have one left-handed starter in Jon Lester; he’s one of the best in the game, but the rest of the rotation is right-handed. Like the Red Sox, Tampa Bay has one left-handed starter in David Price. The Orioles also have one lefty in rookie Brian Matusz. The Blue Jays are the only divisional rival with two southpaw starters: Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil. That makes for a grand total of five left-handers among the 20 projected starters within the division. And for those interested in the composition of the division’s closers, currently only J.P. Howell of the Rays is left-handed…


The winter meetings netted the Yankees Granderson, a re-signed Andy Pettitte, and Rule 5 pickup Jamie Hoffmann, a versatile defender who appears to have a chance to stick as the fifth outfielder, or perhaps No 4 outfielder if Brett Gardner is traded. (Let’s hope he has more of an impact than previous Rule 5 acquisitions Tim McIntosh and Josh Phelps.) So what’s next? Based on what I’m reading and hearing, the Yankees’ master plan is to sign either Damon or Matsui to be the primary DH. Damon is the higher priority because he can still play the field and has a body less affected by surgery, but Matsui remains an option if Damon is insistent on a multi-year contract. My gut feeling is that the Yankees will sign Mark DeRosa to platoon with Cabrera in left field. The Yankees have long loved DeRosa’s versatility and reputation as a hard-nosed gamer. When he doesn’t start, DeRosa can serve as a utility infielder, backing up Robinson Cano and A-Rod on the infield, and Swisher in right field. The key to signing DeRosa, who will turn 35 in February, will be convincing him to accept a part-time role, since there figure to be other teams willing to give him a starting job at either third base or somewhere in the outfield. If DeRosa goes elsewhere, then Mike Cameron becomes the next viable candidate to share time with Cabrera in the outfield…


The Yankees were shut out of this week’s Veterans’ Committee elections, as former owner Jacob Ruppert strangely failed to garner support despite having overseen ten pennant winners and seven world championships during a prosperous 25-year run. Ruppert received seven votes, but needed nine for election. In addition, Billy Martin fell woefully short, as he received fewer than three votes (nine short of election) from the committee. As much as I’m always fascinated by Martin’s career, I’m afraid that one world championship, two pennants, and no long term success in any of his many stops adds up to a resume that is simply not worthy of the Hall of Fame. There’s also the reality of Martin’s personality. He rubbed so many people wrong throughout his career, from a variety of front office executives to a wide range of media folk, that he will always have a difficult time garnering enough support from any electing body. As great as Martin was in having short-term impact on his teams, he was far from a beloved figure in the baseball world.

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1 Raf   ~  Dec 11, 2009 1:10 pm

Granderson can't hit lefties and he's still a darn good player. Imagine if he learned to hit lefties? And even if he doesn't and become a platoon player, then his offensive value increases. Win-win.

2 Sliced Bread   ~  Dec 11, 2009 1:25 pm

the loss of AJax has made it hard for me to get excited about Granderson, so it's taken me about 72 hours to embrace the trade..
I've paid my respects here, mourned AJax, and what could have been...
now I'm ready to buy one of my sons a Granderson jersey when it becomes available.
Speaking of his jersey, shouldn't Girardi just let him wear #28?
Isn't it more important that Granderson be comfortable in his longtime digits, than for the manager to wear the team's mission statement on his back?

3 bp1   ~  Dec 11, 2009 3:02 pm

[2] I'm with you, Sliced (as usual) on the Girardi number thing. It was cool at the beginning, but after awhile it loses it's oomph. I don't think anyone will accuse him of basking in the glow if he doesn't switch to 28. Just give it to Grandy.

4 thelarmis   ~  Dec 11, 2009 3:58 pm

has GI Joe said he's gonna switch to 28? i hope not. just give to Dancers Groin Rust. uh, i mean, Grandy! : )

5 The Hawk   ~  Dec 11, 2009 6:17 pm

People seem only to talk about starting pitching when it comes to Grando's inability to hit lefties, but he will be facing a lot of left-handed relievers in late innings.

6 Bruce Markusen   ~  Dec 11, 2009 6:48 pm

Hawk, you're right that Granderson will be facing left-handed relievers in the middle innings, but generally those are the weakest lefties on anybody's staff. It's often the difference between facing a Sabathia or a Pettitte vs. someone like Phil Coke.

I'll be curious if the Yankees will ask Granderson to drop down some bunts against left-handers. As a left-hander with speed, Granderson seems like an obvious candidate for the occasional bunt.

If Granderson does not improve against lefties, the Yankees at least have a player like Oscar Gamble, but with speed.

7 The Hawk   ~  Dec 11, 2009 7:06 pm

[6] It's true but at the same time, he's been facing those weakest lefties and apparently not faring too well against them!

I dislike the idea of platooning him, but if it's necessary, it's necessary. However I dislike even more the idea that every game that's close and late, it's gonna be a question of do they PH for him.

8 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 11, 2009 7:52 pm

Hey, before we go all Grandy L. McBadbat on him, can't we see if Kevin Long can help him out a little this spring? Hitting lefties is a correctable offense, given time and attention...

9 Raf   ~  Dec 12, 2009 12:49 am

Granderson will be platooned like Ryan Howard is platooned.

10 Eddie Lee Whitson KO   ~  Dec 12, 2009 1:34 am

Too often overlooked are grandersons home/road splits, which have become more pronounced over the past 3 seasons. 2/3 of his HR were on the road ~ trading 81 games from Comerica national park to the new pinball machine should have a pretty positive impact on his power #s. If we're gonna get another outfielder please dont make it derosa, go for cameron, we can get him on short money, he's a righty, still has power and plus defense.

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