At the Winter Meetings in Florida last week, legendary sports reporter Peter Gammons spoke about the Mets signing Curtis Granderson. Like most people who were asked, he thought that the signing was a good turnaround for a club that’s refrained from spending any substantial money in the past three years, and hasn’t had a successful free agent signing since Carlos Beltran. One specific thing Gammons mentioned was that Granderson is a fantastic guy. Gammons highlighted Granderson’s consistent charity work, his on-the-field work ethic, and general positive demeanor in the clubhouse. He likened Granderson to the Mets’ David Wright, a class-act in his own right. He called them two of the greatest human beings in the game of baseball. While this may have helped some Mets fans feel warm and fuzzy, we all know where nice guys usually finish.
Before we delve further, let’s take a trip back in time. In 1983, the Mets made a trade for a dynamite first baseman named Keith Hernandez, who at 29 was already a fiery veteran who won a championship with the St. Louis Cardinals. What Hernandez brought to the team was grit, high-quality performance, and a winning, if sometimes off-putting attitude. He helped solidify the lineup and brought a sparkling glove to first. Conversely, Granderson was not traded, will be 33 when he puts on a Mets uniform, and does not have the high batting average that Hernandez possessed.
Comparing Granderson to Hernandez is apple to oranges, but that’s not really the point. Granderson is joining a Mets squad that is teeming with stellar young arms, much like Hernandez did back in 1983. Hernandez did not make the Mets winners all by himself, but his experience being on a winning team certainly helped. That is what Granderson can bring, and in that way can emulate Hernandez. Being a nice guy is wonderful, but it will only help the Mets so much. Granderson needs to show the Mets how to win.
It’s still too early to tell if Matt Harvey will regain his Doc Gooden-like aura on the mound when he returns in 2015. And while the young arms of Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell all panned out well enough to bring New York a title in 1986, today’s young studs are still just coming up through the minors. It’s reminiscent enough, though, to make a Met fan dream. Maybe Granderson, Chris Young and Bartolo Colon can make this team marginally better. Maybe that will help the young guys coming up through the farm system believe in a winning attitude. Maybe that franchise-wide winning attitude brings in another key free agent in a couple of years, like when Gary Carter joined in 1985. Maybe, just maybe, the Mets will have something going then.
That’s a lot of maybes, unfortunately. Colon is in his 40s, Young hasn’t been an everyday player since 2011, Granderson’s power might not translate to Citi Field, and the young guns are still not proven. But Mets fans now have something to hang their hats on. This team is spending money in an effort to compliment young talent coming up through the minors, and these new guys have been on winning clubs. So yes, nice guys usually finish last. But maybe a couple of great human beings can help bring a championship back to Queens.