Commentary

Curtis' big gamble a grand mistake

Chances are Granderson will regret his decision to leave the Bronx for Flushing

Updated: May 14, 2014, 12:25 PM ET
By Ian O'Connor | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Curtis Granderson cannot admit his mistake for public consumption, not for the next four years, anyway, and he certainly was in no position Tuesday night to confess that he should have bet on himself rather than on the unworthy likes of the New York Mets.

His new big-city team had just defeated his old big-city team, the Yankees, for the second consecutive time and for the sixth consecutive time over two seasons. A night after homering off Hiroki Kuroda, Granderson ripped a three-run shot off Vidal Nuno in the first inning to set an encouraging tone in this 12-7 victory and to remind Joe Girardi that the starting rotation he pieced together around Masahiro Tanaka has come completely undone.

Things looked bleak for the 19-19 team in the Bronx, a little less so for the 19-19 team in Queens. The Yankees' right fielder, Carlos Beltran, was hoping a cortisone shot would quiet the screaming pain in his elbow and spare him a date with a surgeon's blade, while the Mets' right fielder, Granderson, was busy making short work of the short porch that was built for his flawed but fearsome uppercut from the left side.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Granderson
AP PhotoCurtis Granderson belted a three-run HR in the first inning of the Mets' 12-7 win Tuesday in the Bronx.

Only here's the problem: As Granderson prepared to head back across the river, he knew there was no turning back. These were his only two games of 2014 in Yankee Stadium, a home-relatively-sweet-home he never should've left in the first place.

Remember, the Yankees did make a qualifying offer of $14.1 million to Granderson, this after injuries reduced his 2013 to a 61-game mess. The pending free agent could've gambled that he'd remain healthy and return to his long-balling form in a long-balling park, setting himself up for a lucrative offer from the Yanks after the 2014 season. Or he could've taken the sure, multiyear money from a desperado like the Mets, who play in a cavernous stadium known to leave the most powerful of sluggers cowering in their cleats.

Granderson reached for the security of the longer guarantee, and odds are he will regret that choice for years to come.

"I looked at it as I wanted an opportunity where I could continue to be comfortable, continue to play, where we had a chance to go ahead and build and win," Granderson said. "And, obviously, the Yankees organization is a team to do that. But the Mets presented that same opportunity to me, and it was a position that everything looked good over there."

Just not nearly as good as they could've looked over here in the Bronx. In his last two healthy seasons as a Yankee, Granderson drove in a combined 225 runs and led baseball with 84 homers, 47 of them hit at home. With his fading batting averages and on-base percentages and with a mere 10 stolen bases over 160 games in 2012, Granderson had found the ideal office for his limited brand of work.

Sixty million bucks over four years persuaded him to pack up his belongings for Citi Field, the same office that made 66 million bucks over four years the worst deal Jason Bay ever made.

On the surface, the numbers game was an easy one for the 33-year-old Granderson to play. The Mets were offering $46 million more than the Yankees were, and after fracturing his forearm and pinkie finger, the outfielder decided he couldn't leave that kind of cash on the table.

"I've always looked at the obvious things that are there for you," Granderson said, "and the fact you had offers out there to go long term, and there was interest from other teams, you've got to go ahead and take that. Because definitely nothing is guaranteed unless you're actually getting a guarantee.

"You never know what's going to happen, especially when you look at the situation that did happen. You try to get yourself to free agency, I finally get a chance to do it, and all of a sudden you have two injuries. ... There could've been another freak thing, something very similar."

But Granderson had averaged 153 games played over the previous seven seasons, and he'd been disabled last year only by wayward pitches. His body wasn't breaking down. He had reason to believe that he would play 150 games in 2014, and that he would send at least 20 balls flying over the Yankee Stadium wall.

Asked if he considered remaining with the Yanks, Granderson said, "Not for the qualifying offer, no." He maintained that nobody advising him suggested it would be a bad idea to break up this perfect marriage of player and park.

"Obviously, I don't think the Yankees would've stopped in terms of the guys they brought in," Granderson said. "So it would've been a lot of guys out there all competing for playing time, and who knows how things would've ended up on my side?"

Truth is Granderson would've had the job in right, and Beltran's bone spurs would've likely been some other team's problem. Granderson would've found the kind of lineup protection the Yankees forever provide with their superpower resources, and he would've actually earned a higher salary this year than the $13 million the Mets are paying him.

So no, Granderson didn't have to take the outsize risk taken by Max Scherzer, who rejected a $144 million bid from Detroit in favor of a $15.525 million wage and a shot at free agency in the fall. The outfielder could've waited here rather than steer his career toward a dangerous corner of Jason Bayville at Citi Field.

As it is, nobody's surprised that Granderson has hit four of his five homers on the road and twice as many in two games in the Bronx than in 19 games at Citi.

"I'm not sure what it is," Granderson said of his success at Yankee Stadium. "You try to get a pitch that you can hit and elevate and drive, and this ballpark, unlike some other ballparks, those balls end up getting out of here."

Exactly. Beyond the homer on the hanging Nuno curve Tuesday night, Granderson also managed two walks and a ninth-inning squibber between the mound and third base that never reached the dirt and still counted as a hit. He left the building with an honest-to-god batting average north of .200.

But this son of a Mickey Mantle fan, Curtis Granderson Sr., did not leave the Bronx expressing any regret over his offseason choices. He simply headed toward Queens with a franchise that can't protect him from the burdens assigned a big slugger in a much bigger ballpark.

In the end, Curtis Granderson might win this series. That doesn't mean he'll win his gamble.

Ian O'Connor

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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