Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Delusions Of Grandeurson

To state the obvious, the Curtis Granderson signing by itself won't make the Mets into a Playoff team. In fact, it's no sure thing that the signing will even make them a contending team right away. Granderson, who will be 33 on Opening Day of 2014, is coming off a season completely undercut by a pair of freak injuries, switching leagues for the first time and moving to a ballpark that's decidedly un-friendly to hitters.

And yet, I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the move.

Skeptics seem to point to Granderson's signing potentially being another Jason Bay-type disaster, and for all we know, that could very well happen. Granderson's career arc doesn't necessarily posit that he's due for that kind of a serious dropoff (Unlike Jason Bay, I never referred to Granderson as an overglorified Gabe Kapler). First of all, Granderson actually seemed like he wanted to come to the Mets. Jason Bay seemed to come to the Mets because nobody else would take him. But it goes deeper than that. While playing most of his formative years in spacious Comerica Park, Granderson was a gap hitter who hit a lot of doubles and triples (his 23 in 2007 led the AL) and scored a lot of runs. When he moved to the cute little bandbox in the Bronx, those doubles and triples were suddenly flying out of the ballpark, which led to 41 and 43 Home Run seasons in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Nobody's hitting 40 Home Runs a season playing half their games in Citi Field, but a more likely scenario would see Granderson's Home Runs drop off and his doubles and triples increase again. Point is, he's used to simply hitting line drives, so the park factor won't fuck up his head the way it did to Bay.

Also, the specter of playing in the media vacuum that is New York can mess up some sensitive-types. Jason Bay came to New York after spending many years in Pittsburgh obscurity and surrounded by a galaxy of stars in Boston before coming to the Mets with the expectations of being The Man and rescuing the Mets from a down season (the fact that things were already too far gone is besides the point; we really hadn't accepted that as truth yet). After a slow start, he pressed and never recovered. Granderson arrives with the Mets having already spent 4 years playing in New York for that other team, so he's used to the basic craziness of the whole thing. Granderson is also one of those gregarious, outgoing types, who's more likely to fire back some witty retorts when faced with criticism. Additionally, Granderson is joining a team that's taking a step forward in rebuilding. He doesn't have to be The Man. He just has to do what he does and help make the players around him better. This is also something he's generally used to doing. He's not a savior and nobody is viewing him as such. Or, at least, they shouldn't be (the real savior is going to miss playing with Granderson for a year, assuming things go as planned).

Really, the best thing about the Granderson signing is that it happened at all. After about a month of Free Agency chatter and a tepid amount of player movement, the Mets fans were really starting to get restless. This was supposed to be the Offseason where things finally started to happen for the Mets to bring them out of this 5-year abyss. Nobody was amused by the Chris Young signing, particularly when, for a while there, it looked like that was all the Mets were going to do. But then the Granderson rumors picked up steam and finally it became official last Friday morning. Finally, the Mets had gone out and done something of consequence. It's been a long time since the Mets made a Free Agent signing of some note, and that it's someone that fans can really get behind makes it that much better. It means that the days of us Mets fans having to talk ourselves into the idea that somehow Shaun Marcum is a shrewd Free Agent pickup are (probably) finally over.

If anything, the Granderson deal is probably more like the Pedro Martinez signing back in 2005 as far as the statement it makes. Pedro was past his prime and probably signed for a year longer than the Mets should have given him, but they had to bring him in and they couldn't fuck it up. Once Pedro signed, and made it clear that this was where he wanted to be, other Free Agents saw that the Mets were serious about putting together a winning team and pretty soon, guys like Carlos Beltran, Billy Wagner and others were coming on board. Pedro didn't ultimately perform to the worth of his contract (though not for lack of effort), but no Mets fan can possibly think it was a bad move for how it eventually set the team up for success. Of course, that was fleeting success, but it was fun while it lasted, wasn't it? This is what the Mets are doing with the Granderson move. It's a 4-year contract, which will last until he's 37 and probably on the downside of his career, but that's irrelevant. The Mets are a big-market team and should be able to absorb a few bad contracts assuming the economics fall into place.

By signing Granderson, the Mets are finally making good on the promise they've continually made to their fans that 2014 would be the year things finally got better. By signing Granderson, the Mets are sending a message to other Free Agents that this is a team players want to come to (and Granderson said as much in his press conference Tuesday). They're sending the message that this 5-year journey through Hell is finally coming to an end and the team is going to get serious about winning once again. Granderson's effect on the Mets may not be obvious immediately, but in time, it will pay off.

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