Curtis Granderson hopes to build on successCurtis Granderson hopes to build on success
It's enough motivation.
On a team that features Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, Granderson was the New York Yankees' best hitter last year, leading the team in most major categories, including homers (41) and RBIs (119).
That was quite an accomplishment, especially for a guy who has been a leadoff hitter most of his career and isn't considered a big-time slugger, like A-Rod or Teixeira. The speedy center fielder had never hit more than 30 homers or driven in more than 74 runs in a single season until last year. Granderson also led the Yankees in runs (136), triples (10), slugging percentage (.552) and OPS (.916).
A true Bronx Bomber, for sure.
What can Granderson do for an encore on New York's grand stage?
"Continue to work and continue to build off everybody here that's trying to win championships," Granderson said. "You see a guy like Derek Jeter who has five championships and he's not just good because he's using his God-given ability. He won one championship and he wasn't content with that and he just kept working harder and you see that attitude filtered throughout the organization. I came in and tried to be a part of that. You learn to not be satisfied with where you are."
The left-handed hitting Granderson is hoping to cut down on his strikeouts and increase his walks. Granderson drew a career-high 85 walks, but he fanned 169 times in 2011. He only batted .262, up from the previous two seasons, but far below the .280 average he had over his first five seasons.
"There's always going to be that one at-bat where you are not feeling well and that last at-bat might carry over to this at-bat and if there's any way you can fight that because you add up the number of at-bats that you give away in a course of the season, it could be 20-30 at-bats," Granderson said. "If you just get a hit in a few of those, your average jumps up a little and one of those may be a game-winning hit. Those are the things I'm trying to improve on."
Granderson did his damage mainly out of the No. 2 spot in the Yankees' potent lineup. He's batted in each spot from one through nine at least once over the course of his career, but was predominantly a leadoff hitter in his first six seasons in Detroit.
"It doesn't matter to me," Granderson said. "Wherever they happen to put me, I'll just check the lineup every day."
Granderson's best all-around season before 2011 was with the Tigers in 2007. He hit .302 with 23 homers and 74 RBIs. Granderson also had career-highs in doubles (38), triples (23) and stolen bases (26).
The two-time All-Star had 30 homers in 2009, but was traded to the Yankees in a three-team deal that December. The Tigers got center fielder Austin Jackson from New York and righty Max Scherzer from Arizona in the trade.
"I tell people this all the time: Curtis goes to New York and they act like they discovered Curtis Granderson," Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon said. "Curtis Granderson is good. It's not like they got him and all of a sudden he became a great player."
Granderson has benefited from the short right-field porch in the new Yankee Stadium. That doesn't mean he views himself as the next Barry Bonds and will swing for the fences every time up.
"I don't look at numbers," he said. "I just want to be consistent across the board. You can have as successful a season by doing some different things numbers-wise if you help the team win games, come up big in the clutch and that's the key to success."
McClendon, a former manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates before joining Detroit's coaching staff, was quiet impressed with Granderson during his years with the Tigers. He is sure Granderson will make any adjustments necessary to improve his performance rather than being satisfied with his success.
"I have no doubt that he will round his game accordingly to Yankee Stadium and I think the average will come up and the home runs may come down a little bit," McClendon said. "But overall, I think he's going to be a more productive player."
Patrolling center field in New York's famed navy pinstripes is not an easy task. Granderson follows a litany of legends, including Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Bernie Williams, Earle Combs and Bobby Murcer are among the other greats who also played center for the Yankees.
Granderson is up to the challenge on the field and away from it. He's been lauded by commissioner Bud Selig and many others for his contributions away from the ballpark. Granderson has represented major league baseball in offseason clinics in China and South Africa, and created the Grand Kids Foundation to benefit educational causes.
"Curtis is a tremendous person, he's very knowledgeable about what he's trying to accomplish," McClendon said. "And from a physical standpoint, he's very talented."
More from YES
In Thursday's episode, Chris Shearn talks Knicks-Pacers with Brian Sanborn.
David Wells pitched a perfect game on May 17, 1998. Here's the breakdown.
Sarah Kustok recaps an exciting first season for the Nets in their new home.