Earlier this month, Lynn Henning, in a piece for the Detroit News, said the following about the Yankees new center fielder, Curtis Granderson. “It wasn’t economics, per se, that caused the Tigers to trade Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees when Granderson had a fairly sane contract. In the case of Granderson it was more about other things: Granderson’s in-and-out ways with baseball, his off-the-field priorities, his bar and restaurant in Chicago, his .249 batting average, his stuck-in-the-mud ways against left-handers, his tepid defense (apart from the occasional sensational catch), etc.” Now, while the final few items rattled off by Henning are performative issues that have been noted at length since the Yankees acquired Granderson, the former issues – “Granderson’s in-and-out ways with baseball” and his “off-the-field priorities,” such as his “bar and restaurant in Chicago,” plus charitable work – represent a criticism that I had not heard before. Essentially, Henning was saying that Granderson actually does too much and is too available, to the point where it impacts the quality of the on-the-field product he regularly provides.
I was intrigued by Henning’s comments so I sent him an email and asked for further information regarding this supposed – and newfound – issue and he was very helpful, pointing me to another article he had written in early December. In that text, Henning writes, “Granderson has been spread too thin in Detroit. In that respect, his charm is also his curse… One must be careful about making criticisms here. But this feeling has been deep for a very long time, mostly because Granderson, for all his decency, on too many days appeared to be putting in more of a work shift than concentrating adequately on a game that must be played with consummate passion and attention. I’ve had discussions with Granderson on this very subject and his testimony has been compelling. He acknowledged last summer that he probably was over-scheduled during past seasons… And with his complicated, ever-demanding life tugging at him from all directions, the Tigers perhaps correctly decided his primary vocation would always share space with too many other facets of his rich and fascinating career.” Remarkably, Granderson’s upstanding character, his role as a baseball ambassador, has, according to Henning, affected him performatively in previous seasons (to some degree).
I sat on the info from Henning for a few weeks because I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to write a post on the matter – questioning an athlete’s off-the-field activities, many of which are philanthropic, is a sensitive subject – however, I was given an opening after Granderson himself spoke at length about the alleged “do too much” issue yesterday (of course, he spoke on the topic following a charitable basketball game he held in Detroit). Needless to say, he seemed certain that his off-the-field commitments had not, in any way, hindered his baseball production.
“It’s amazing how, you know, so much is talked about players not doing something [to give back],” Granderson said after Sunday’s game. “Then I do something, and now that’s the reason why everyone thought I was playing bad. But yet, my involvement with so many different things — from my book, to my foundation, to education, the RBI program — is very minimal.
“My book ["All You Can Be"] took two days. That’s it. Two days. Everybody thinks it took a lot longer. I did autograph signings on an off-day. When I mentioned with RBI and countless organizations, it’s really just my name, and that I support them. They may have an event, but there’s a good chance I’m probably playing and not there. So there are a lot of things the resume, but it’s not that time-consuming.
“It’s amazing what’s OK to spend your time on and what’s not. If I were married and had kids, that’s OK. But the fact that I’m helping out everyone else’s kids, there seems to be a problem with that.”
Granderson said he really isn’t sure where the pushback is coming from. But it’s clearly something worth defending himself against.
“It’s been talked about over the past two years, I think,” Granderson said. “And honestly, the busiest year was 2007, which was arguably my best year…
“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.”
In the end, Granderson is right – one “can’t put too much into what’s happening off the field correlating with on the field,” not when the off-the-field activities in question involve hospital visits for terminally ill children or charitable sports events. After all, these are not negative off-the-field activities that are physically detrimental and typical to many young athletes such as substance abuse, etc. Still, Henning does make a point about being overcommitted, which is, in my opinion, valid (not necessarily for Granderson, but for anyone). At some point, saying, “No,” is needed and, while Granderson is leaving Detroit, the home to many of his off-the-field commitments – we’re not just talking about charities here, there are other business ventures we are discussing – he is headed for New York, where everyone will want a piece of the new center fielder for an assortment of causes, endeavors, and more. For a man who is, to his credit, available for “everything,” it will be interesting to see how Granderson juggles his new life as a Bronx Bomber, especially as he attempts to simultaneously continue and further his off-the-field work in his former city, Detroit.
I don’t think it is an issue to worry about – it’s better to have someone who supposedly does too much rather than too little – but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some writers bring it up if he struggles on the field, as they did in Detroit.
Photo via Air America
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