Grand Cards: The Grand Scheme Rejects That Weak Sauce

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Grand Scheme Rejects That Weak Sauce

Get that weak s**t out of here  Have you seen it?  Tell me you’ve seen it.  From Jaybee,  thanks to a tip from friend-of-the-blog Drizz:

Quoth Jaybee:
“Somewhere, Detroit fans (and the guy at Grand Cards) are weeping.”
Nope, not this guy.  When images of 2010 Topps were first released and I saw that there was a Granderson Tigers card I was pleasantly surprised.  But surprised was really the operative word.  This is a company who has given me photoshopped Tigers cards of Gary Sheffield, Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera and others over the course of the last three years—now you expect me to believe that they have a reasonable opportunity to photoshop a marquee player as a Yankee and they’re not going to take it?  I find that hard to believe.

Then, as the SPs started leaking out and various alternate versions arrived and I recalled them creating a Sabathia SP card in last year’s set, I thought to myself: “it’s only a matter of time.” 

The card companies are gaga over Yankees/Red Sox stuff.  That’s fine, whatever.  I don’t take issue with a Curtis-as-Yankee card in Series 1.  He was traded with at the winter meetings (aka long ago), and Topps has a history of photoshopping/airbrushing players into their new uniforms.  What’s more, I don’t have an issue with them creating a Tigers Granderson card—which is good for me—and a Yankees SP version, which I don’t care about at all.

What I care about is this:  that is the most pathetic Tigers/Yankees photoshop job that I’ve seen this side of Ralph Houk.

When you think of the Yankees what do you think.  Is it pinstripes?  It’s pinstripes, isn’t it.  Raise your hand if you thought of something other than pinstripes.  Right.  And what is notably absent from our new Curtis-as-Yankee card?  You got it.

So, they blew an otherwise easy photoshop job by neglecting to add the requisite striping.  Perhaps that’s too hard for entry-level card designer X?  No worries, why not just give him a grey road uniform—that would even make sense in the context of the Comerica Park shot!  But no, that 2nd level thinking doesn’t fly at Topps HQ.

And so, I weep not for the state of Granderson and Tigers fans the world over, but for Yankees fans and Topps collectors alike, who have to suffer this sad, sad depiction of Curtis.

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen…  This was a big weekend as far as send-offs were concerned.  Well, not multiple send-offs, but the big one.   What appears to be the last Grand Kids Charity Basketball Fundraiser, featuring our departing star center fielder, went off swimmingly—and was chock full of bittersweet notes.

It was one of those bittersweet days, though -- evident in the requests of fans who asked that Granderson sign his autograph with No. 28, his number as a Tiger, instead of No. 14, which will be his new number in New York.

"Not yet," he said, when asked if it has sunk in that he's a Yankee. "But once I get to Florida, start working, play in the first spring game, wear the uniform, each step will solidify it."

This entire weekend was a step. But a difficult one.

"To see the turnout at an event like this, that's when I see how much (he's meant to the fans)," Granderson said. "I also saw some of the guys who were in town this weekend like Carlos (Gullen) and Magglio (Ordonez).

"Hey, I've not done anything else yet for another team, so they're still my teammates."

From Mike Brudenell at the Free Press:
From the screams of the three young girls waiting in line together at Seaholm High School in Birmingham on Sunday, it could have been the Jonas Brothers entering the building.

Turn back the clock more than 40 years, and it might have been the Beatles.

And it wasn’t long before the praise started coming from all angles.  Seeing as how Curtis is about to join the club of departed sports celebrities who’s legacies become more pronounced and endearing after their gone, Lloyd Carr had this to say:
"I have so much respect for him and what he has done for the community," Carr said. "The way he handled himself on and off the field was wonderful."

And Michael Rosenberg summarizes just why this has been so hard on all of us:
Mostly, though, Granderson talked about how much he appreciated Detroit. And I think this gets to what bothers people, more than anything, about the Granderson trade.

It might make baseball sense. It might make financial sense. But no Tiger of this generation understood and appreciated the community more than Granderson. And he got shipped out.

…Good Riddance?  With all the goodwill and fond memories surrounding Curtis Granderson this weekend, statements from the Tigers—and Dave Dombrowski, specifically—speak to a disconnect between the team’s management and its fans.  From Steve Kornacki via The Core Contrarian:
Dombrowski didn't hedge on his decisions Saturday during TigerFest at Comerica Park. During an hour-long Q & A session with announcers Dan Dickerson and Mike Stone and fans, he was asked who would replace Granderson in the leadoff position.
"You know," Dombrowski began, "we didn't really have a leadoff hitter last year."
The fans grew restless. A few said in hushed tones, "Wow."
He picked on the negative reaction, adding, "I'm not taking anything away from Curtis Granderson." He quickly complimented Granderson's many abilities, most notably his power.
Burn.  Dombrowski clarifies his statement in Beck’s blog, but still.  Dude.

Back to Rosenberg for a second:
Worse, the one thing that everybody should have loved about Granderson -- his off-field work -- started to be held against him. There were whispers that his full plate was hurting him at home plate. Granderson said he didn't know if those whispers came from the Tigers or not, but he was being diplomatic.

"It's amazing how so much is talked about, about players not doing something," Granderson said. "Then I do something, and it's the reason why I was playing bad. My book took two days. That's it: two days. If I did an autograph signing it was on an off day. If I was mentioned with (the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program), it's really just my name.
Beck fleshes it out even more.   With all of the off-the-field stuff that Granderson did, and took unreasonable amounts of heat for from the likes of Lynn Henning and others, his busiest year was 2007 which, oddly enough, was his best: 
"I was doing two school visits a day and then coming to the ballpark, and then two more the next day," Granderson continued. "Then we had all the Tigers events. We were establishing the [Grand Kids] foundation. We were doing autograph signings. I had the blog I was doing three times a week versus one time a week. All these different things, and it was arguably the best season. So I can't put too much into what's happening off the field correlating with on the field."

Thank you.  I couldn’t believe how much crap Granderson got for his community work while he was in Detroit.  I realize that players may have a tendency to understate the impact that off-the-field commitments have, but this seems to provide a nice counterexample by offering a comparative assessment of community work.  He did the most in 2007 and that was his best year.  He did less later on, when he struggled more.  I say that equals no correlation, for those keeping score.

Speaking of extracirriculars  I’m going to mention this once again, just so that I can say “I told you so” if the opportunity ever arises.

Curtis Granderson is the type of player that doesn’t have overflowing natural talent, but has enough talent and a strong work ethic such that he can excel at anything, provided he puts in the time to work on it.

To wit:  In 2006 there was concern about the amount of strikeouts he compiled.  He cut his total from a league-leading 174 to 141 in 2007 and further, to 111 in 2008.  In 2007 there was concern that he couldn’t hit lefties.  He went from .160/.225/.269 in 2007 to a .259/.310/.429 in 2008.  Similarly, concerns about his defense were put to rest in 2008 after he spent extra time working on his routes and jumps.

These are tangible, significant improvements that occurred in every off-season since his rookie year.  Every time there was a major or perceived major flaw in his game, Curtis spent the offseason and all of Spring Training working hard to improve in those areas.  And every year he showed progress and improvement in his areas of focus.

But in 2009 many would have you believe that the wheels fell off.  Granderson regressed in strikeouts, ability against lefties and defense.  Some of these gripes were legitimate, others were a bit out there.  From the horse’s mouth (and Terry Foster):

Granderson is also a Gold-Glove caliber center fielder. The Tigers will miss his glove more than his bat. He felt so comfortable in center field that he mentored and lectured younger outfielders on how to run toward angles and make plays. But he made two mishaps in the outfield last season and Granderson began reading how his defense slipped.

"It is amazing," he said. "You misjudge two balls and you can't play the outfield anymore. It is very funny. And those were two games we won. I don't know how that turns into I can't play the outfield any more."

So what did happen in 2009?  Why the severe regression that so many people claim?

Prior to this season, Granderson’s spring training was interrupted by the World Baseball Classic.  I know, I know—the WBC argument is a cop-out and it has no impact and blah blah blah.  Except that Granderson isn’t some Ken Griffey clone with natural talent oozing out of his pores.  Granderson is the type of player that needs to work hard to improve and stay sharp.  He needs spring training.  Instead, he was shuttled off to the WBC given very limited playing time and forced to spend the pre-season without any cohesive training plan or roadmap to improvement.

Many will say that my reasoning is specious and that the WBC argument is bunk.  That may be, but if so, I really encourage the Tigers to stop making the exact same case

Armando Galarraga might have had a sour 2009 season after his 2008 Tigers breakthrough. But expectations within the Tigers front office are that Galarraga will counce back nicely now that he doesn't have to contend with the World Baseball Classic, which is being blamed for his rocky 2009. It's because in the Tigers' view Galarraga never was able to properly prepare for '09.
Funny how you can make that argument on the one hand and never once suggest that this could have been an issue with Granderson.

So that’s my opinion on the matter.  I think that the WBC is partially to blame for Granderson’s struggles this year, simply because I don’t think that he has the natural talent to compensate for that lost training.  That’s not to say that he’s not talented, it’s just that—like the rest of us—he needs to work hard to succeed. 

That’s why we like him—and that’s why I’m so surprised that people were so quick to dismiss this season as the reality and not the outlier.

Misc.  Ernie Harwell is still writing and today is his 92nd birthday.  Tons of good notes from the Tigers winter caravan.  A Cardboard Problem runs down some of the good and bad from 2010 Topps so far.