It's been more than a week since Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson were traded, and probably too late to write about it now. But while scrolling through the Tigersosphere's varied thoughts and lamentations, I realized I hadn't really expressed my feelings about the whole situation. I mostly just passed along what had happened, and let you guys take it from there.
Considering, however, that I once wrote that Curtis Granderson was the face of the Detroit Tigers franchise (ESPN.com still has it online; just click on the Tigers logo), I thought I should probably respond to him being traded.
First, here's what I wrote, back in 2007:
For the face of their team, some Detroit Tigers fans might choose a player who persevered with the team during those really bad years, but can now revel in its success. Others might prefer one who joined the Tigers at their lowest point after having achieved success elsewhere.
But I like a guy who symbolizes the newfound prosperity of baseball in Detroit, whose performance has shown that the fans can actually believe the organization when it says this player is going to be good.
He might draw his loudest cheers when blazing around the bases for a triple or making a smooth, assured catch in the outfield. But Curtis Granderson also evokes love and respect from Detroit fans for striving to be something more than just a ballplayer. Because of that effort, and the promise of more to come, Granderson represents the Detroit Tigers like no other player.
If you'd told me on October 7, following the Tigers' loss to the Twins in the AL Central tiebreaker, that Granderson (and Jackson) wouldn't be a part of next year's team, I'd have made a face and told you to do something inappropriate (and possibly illegal) to yourself. No way. Especially Granderson.
When the trade happened, I was deep into the analytical mindset, and thought the Tigers made a pretty good deal (though I would've felt better if they got another starting pitcher from the Yankees). I told myself that the Tigers were smart for seeing what they could get for players such as Granderson, and if he was one of the few players that could be moved in an attempt to improve the team's fortunes, then that was the cost of doing business. (And in terms of handing out contracts recently, business has been bad in Tiger Town.)
But there's the rub, right? Did the Tigers make themselves better with this trade? We won't know for a few years, unfortunately. Which is one reason why this was so hard to digest. Granderson is what's happening now.
What was happening, however, may have been obscured by the general goodwill toward Granderson. His past performances, personality, and public service greatly enhanced his popularity. And maybe that caused us to overlook some growing flaws in his game. Lynn Henning seems more than happy to point those out, continuing to lob grenades of Granderson's failings in what almost appears to be a vendetta against him. But perhaps that speaks to why the Tigers became willing to trade the type of player whom every team would seem to want on their roster.
Granderson has literally been an ambassador of baseball, teaching the game overseas. He was also a presence in the local community, using his celebrity standing to raise money for schools throughout the state. Maybe other professional athletes do that sort of work too, and just don't publicize it as much. But Granderson seemed to enjoy being more than a baseball player. It's kind of a shame that he's now being criticized for having aspirations outside the game.
Of course, it's that game that allows him such opportunities in the first place, and as his employer, the Tigers are entitled to demand a full commitment. We'll see if this ever becomes an issue in New York.
I'll admit I'm a soft touch for Granderson. Being the rare non-pitching prospect that developed into an everyday player appealed to me as a fan. (Remember when it was between him and Nook Logan for the center field job?) As I've said on several occasions, I don't think it's a coincidence that Detroit's return to baseball relevance occurred at the same time the Tigers found a regular center fielder. As a fledgling sportswriter back in 2006, I certainly appreciated Granderson being one of the few players who stayed by his locker until every question was answered. Not to mention that he treated me the same as the (clearly) more established reporters.
(And when I had an assignment for a magazine that ended up never seeing publication, Granderson gave me an interview. It was on really short notice, too. But I thought it was worth a shot, and he helped me out. It's too bad that the thing never saw print. He and his publicist probably thought I made the whole thing up.)
Maybe this has clouded my perspective of Granderson. Perhaps he's a player that's already reached his peak, and the Tigers were smart to get what they could while his value was still relatively high. But I'll stick to my assertion that he's also the kind of player you want on your team, the kind of player that makes it easy (and fun) to be a baseball fan (casual or hardcore). I know I felt pride as a Tigers fan when he appeared as an analyst on TBS' postseason broadcasts, or blogged at ESPN.com and Big League Stew. That was our guy. Our Tiger.
Will Granderson become just another guy on the Yankees? You can't help but wonder that, as he joins the team of Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira, Sabathia, and Rivera. But maybe it's also not giving him enough credit. Maybe he'll be their best center fielder since Bernie Williams. Even though Grandy's now playing for the team so many love to hate (and watching him in the pinstripes will feel vaguely like watching an ex-girlfriend with a better-looking guy who makes more money), I'll be rooting for him to achieve that status. I'm still a resident of Grandyland.