By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork.com
NEW YORK (CBS 2) — When the Yankees traded for Curtis Granderson in the offseason they figured they were getting a very solid young outfielder with some pop who would be an absolute menace both on the bases and with his glove.
He was to solve their center field problems and be the ultimate set-up man at the top of the lineup in front of Derek Jeter. He would turn walks into doubles. He’d probably set a franchise record for triples and likely score close to 130 runs. Fear would be driven into the hearts of opponents because Granderson would make the Yankees’ offense less reliant on the long ball.
Oh the Bombers got something scary alright. Granderson has been nothing but a horror show.
Right now the trade that sent prized prospect Austin Jackson to Detroit for Granderson looks like an absolute fleecing by Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski. Brian Cashman’s entire offseason poker hand has folded in his face, with Granderson, the most applauded acquisition of them all, now at best a glorified defensive replacement.
See the photo attached to this column above? It speaks volumes.
To be fair, we all knew Granderson was going to be a work in progress against left-handers. But it seems even working with Kevin Long, a man who has made Nick Swisher, of all people, into a near-.300 hitter, hasn’t helped. It seems Granderson is worse now against southpaws, hitting just .206 with 1 home run and 4 RBIs with a horrifying .243 on-base percentage, than he was during his years in Detroit, where he built a reputation as someone who could only be counted on to murder righties.
The Yankees didn’t worry about that. It’s looking more and more like they should have.
The clincher for me came Monday against Boston at the Stadium. With the Yankees down 2-0 in the seventh Granderson strode to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out. Granted he was facing one of the best young left-handers in the game in Jon Lester, but still, there were only two things he couldn’t do — strike out or pop up. Yet I’m sure at least half of the 50,000 in attendance knew what was coming and, of course, Granderson did the expected, striking out meekly. His failure to even make contact played right into Red Sox manager Terry Francona’s playbook as he then turned to flamethrower Josh Bard, who threw six pitches in abusing Jeter and Swisher.
The scenario was a microcosm of Granderson’s short career in the Bronx.
Granderson is hitting .239 overall, a career low if the season ended today, with 10 homers and 33 RBIs. He’s batting just .130 with 1 RBI in eight games this month as the Yankees continue to fight desperately to hold on to first in the AL East. His overall .306 on-base percentage would also be a career low if today was game 162. He has struck out 25 percent of the time (74 in 306 at-bats). In all honesty, I can’t find a positive stat anywhere, and I’ve turned BaseballReference.com inside and out.
And the Yankees, thanks to Cashman’s incredible vision of the future, are on the hook with this guy for another three years and $31 million.
Speaking of Cashman, what has he done this season worth applauding? Every move he made in the offseason — Javier Vasquez aside … sort of — has been a disaster. He traded away Jackson, who is currently hitting .305 over 400-plus at-bats, for Granderson, signed Nick Johnson, who was hitting .167 before his latest several-month stint on the DL, and let the aging-yet-proven Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon walk. Cashman has also done basically nothing to fix a leaky bullpen.
About the only thing Cashman did right was hold on to blue chip catching prospect Jesus Montero, who may be the starter next year now that age and injury have seemingly finally caught up to Jorge Posada and Francisco Cervelli, bless his soul for being such a good guy and fiery presence, has shown he has no power whatsoever. And let’s not forget it was reported Cashman tried to package Montero in a deal for Cliff Lee, a move that would have made no sense considering the strength of the Yankees’ current rotation and the fact that the Bombers will in all likelihood blow soon-to-be free agent Lee away with an offer in the offseason.
If the Yankees fail to get to the World Series, barring an unforseen injury to a key player or two from this point on, Cashman should shoulder most of the blame. And if the sharks come circling for Cashman he can kick his feet wildly while holding on to Granderson, the poster flotation device for one GM’s bad year.
By all accounts Granderson is a very good guy, very well spoken and a gem in the clubhouse, so it’s hard to really rip him on a daily basis. Maybe he’s soft in that respect. Maybe only positive reinforcement will empower him to be all that he can be.
Or maybe an offseason in an instructional league will do the trick. If he doesn’t learn how to be a more productive situational hitter he will have no future in this city and his life will become less about playing for the famed pinstripers and more about hiding from the fans and media. If you read around, Granderson has yet to be really taken to task for his failures. But, trust me, it’s coming. While I’m not ready to say this was a Jay Buhner-for-Ken Phelps type of trade, early indications are it could be by the time all is said and done.
Yankees radio voice John Sterling loves to scream like a wildman about how “the Grandyman can.”
Really? It’s time for Granderson to prove it.
The fans know he can do it out in the field. They just never figured they’d miss Melky Cabrera at the dish.
(Jeff Capellini is a senior editorial editor for CBSNewYork.com. He also writes under the moniker “The Green Lantern” on the Jets, Yankees, Islanders and many other things Gotham sports. Please follow him on Twitter at @greenlanternjet)