Granderson would be worthy successor to DeRosa for Cubs clubhouse chemistry
Curtis Granderson is not too good to be true.
The Detroit Tigers center fielder has imperfections, to be sure. He slumped off in several categories in 2009. His career high in home runs with 30 was offset by drops in average (.249) and an increase in strikeouts (141).
But at 29 next season, he’s still entering his prime on the field. A season like 2007, when he had 38 doubles, 23 triples and 23 homers with a .302 average is still well within his grasp. Just as important, Granderson is the majors’ role model for off-the-field deportment and community service, having just been named the Players Association’s Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award.
He’s the anti-Milton Bradley. And as such, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry should seek to craft the most creative deal of his career to bring Granderson to Wrigley Field, where he could be the ideal No. 5 or No. 6 hitter, squeezed in between Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano. The chief fringe benefit is Granderson would restore the clubhouse chemistry lost when Hendry inexplicably traded away the popular, versatile Mark DeRosa for three minor-league pitchers a year ago, and made even worse with the arrival of the off-his-rocker Bradley.
Kenny Williams of the White Sox also should try to figure out his own pitch to land Granderson, although the odds are far greater against a team in the Sox’s own division trading such an attractive piece to a rival.
Granderson would create his own good aura simply by coming home. A native of the far south Chicago suburb of Lynwood, he starred at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Just to show how much he loves his home town, Granderson elected to live with his parents in the off-season rather than fleeing to some Sunbelt mansion. A healthy dose of wind chill and driving in snow always helps retain the proper perspective on life.
Granderson’s Grand Kids Foundation has attempted to promote education in poverty-stricken inner cities in Detroit and Flint, the worst of the worst in this country.
“There were things I wanted to give back to the community,” said Granderson. “That community didn’t necessarily have to be Detroit. It worked out well that my mom and dad (Mary and Curtis Granderson, Sr.) are educators. My sister is, too. I graduated from college as well. I wanted to focus on education.”
With such a level head on his shoulders, the younger Granderson was immediately looked upon as a community activist among the Tigers players when he came up.
“A lot of people came to me,” he said. “They asked me if I wanted to focus on breast cancer, do you want to do autism or something like that. Those are all great causes, but for me I wanted to do a foundation where I’d be completely involved in that. And education was my No. 1 passion.
Focusing on public schools in the inner city, Grand Kids has a specific message from its founder.
“Initially we wanted to show there’s so many different avenues to get an education,” Granderson said. “It’s not just math, science and reading. If you want to be a great artist, you can go to a music and performing arts school. If you want to be a great cook, you can go to a culinary arts school. We also wanted to provide information and financial backing. We have scholarships available.”
In the first year of Grand Kids, Granderson staged a “striving for excellence” program for all grades, first through 12th. Entrants could submit through three ways: essays, music and art. Granderson was part of the judging committee. He spoke at schools on off days or before night games.
Granderson is a comparative bargain by today’s astronomical salary standards, but perhaps a bit too rich for the Tigers, who have been hammered by plummeting ticket sales in Michigan’s depression-level economy. The Cubs certainly can fit the Granderson deal into their present and future budgets. He will make $5.5 million in 2010, $8.25 million in 2011 and $10 million in 2012. The contract has a $13 million option for 2013 with a $2 million buyout.
“It won’t change him,” Mary Granderson said of her son’s lifetime-security deal. “The kind of person Curtis is, is not superficial. Having money will enable him to be an even better person.”
He could buy an awful lot of baseball cards with those payouts. Granderson had a classic boy’s upbringing, collecting cards of big-league heroes. Now he’s a popular subject of today’s cards.
“I would go to garage sales,” he said. “They’re not as big as they are now. I would go with my mom to get other stuff. She’d circle three or four garage sales and I’m going there as well, because I know someone’s going to be selling some baseball cards.”
I don’t know if Hendry has met Granderson already. But I have, many times. There’s always the friendly greeting, some chit-chat and a lot of common sense about baseball and life.
Baseball’s best teams emphasize good character as much as raw talent. The two often go hand-in-hand. Granderson, who would give the clubhouse a massive transfusion of character, is worth giving up one of the Cubs’ top position-player prospects, such as Starlin Castro or Josh Vitters.
Let’s see just how good of a wheeler-dealer Jim Hendry is.