Slowly they’re starting to disappear. There are fewer and fewer at the ballpark as the days, weeks, months, and seasons go by.
I’m talking about #28 Tiger jerseys. With GRANDERSON on the back.
You just don’t see too many of them anymore. You can call it the passage of time, “out of sight, out of mind,” or you can just recognize that the Tigers are better without Granderson.
Three years ago this December, Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski showed that he had some real brass. He dealt the ultra-popular, talented center fielder to the New York Yankees in a big three-team swap. The reaction was immediate – outrage. The fan base loved Granderson, a quick left-handed hitter who patrolled center and slashed doubles and triples. He was an ambassador of the game, a smiling, friendly young guy who hustled out every grounder, got his uniform dirty, and sprinkled his quotes with “Yes sirs” and “No, ma’ams”. He was everyone’s Mom’s favorite Tiger.
And then he became a Yankee. It was to this generation of fans what trading Alan Trammell to New York would have been to the faithful in the 1980s. It was sacrilegious and hard to stomach.
But now that three full seasons have come and gone, it’s time to acknowledge that Dombrowski won that deal. It may not have been highway robbery, but a crime was committed and the Tigers got away with it.
Austin Jackson had a season in which he’s scored 103 runs, batted near .300 all year long and finished right on the spot), led the AL in triples for the second straight year, and played center field like a man who deserves a Gold Glove Award. His OPS (for those of you stat geeks) was .856. Granderson’s was .811.
Right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer also came to Detroit in the Granderson trade, bringing with him a talented right shoulder. For a couple seasons Max was up and down more often than the NASDAQ, but somewhere this mid-season, Scherzer took a huge step forward. Over a 13-game stretch, Scherzer was 10-1 with an ERA that made him look a lot more like Three-Finger Brown than Brown-Blue Eyes. Max has become a legitimate stopper in the Detroit rotation, giving the Tigers a 1-2 strikeout punch with Velander that few teams have seen.
And that’s not all, baseball fans. Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth also came over in that deal for Granderson. Moan all you want about Coke’s struggles, but he’s been a solid (though erratic and at times frustrating) left-handed arm out of the bullpen for Jim Leyland. Last season he served as an emergency closer twice, delivering two saves as the team went on to win the division title. He also saved a game against the Yankees in the ALDS. Schlereth was a throw-in, and now after concealing an arm injury earlier in 2012 he’s more like a throw-away, but still, the ledger on this deal strongly weighs in Detroit’s favor.
Granderson is one player. He’s hit a lot of homers in the bandbox of Yankee Stadium, a venue made for his left-handed stroke. Detroit also sent starting pitcher Edwin Jackson to Arizona as part of that trade, but they’ve hardly missed him, since Scherzer has been better.
Tiger fans shouldn’t play the “What If” game. Curtis Granderson is a Yankee, and in many ways he’s morphed into a Yankee player on the diamond – all or nothing, homer or strikeout. A batter who could hit anywhere between 5th and 8th in the lineup. He’s no longer an all-around offensive threat.
The Tigers know, because they have a player like that and his name is Austin Jackson.