John Harper of the New York Daily News put on his best Damien Cox impression for his readership this morning by writing a column fishing for a connection between Jose Bautista and performance enhancing drugs. While he stopped short of justifying his smear job through the lunacy of suggesting that “you gotta ask the question,” Haper does end his piece on Bautista with an incendiary ”Let’s hope he’s legit.”
It would be kind of interesting to see what the response to Harper’s piece would be if we altered some of the details and replaced Bautista’s name with another home run hitter currently enjoying a power surge: the New York Yankees’ Curtis Granderson. Now, I understand that Bautista’s emergence as a power hitter isn’t an exact parallel to Granderson’s, but there are quite a few similarities.
And so . . .
Nearly two months into the season, it seems safe to say that Curtis Granderson is even better than the player that Brian Cashman and the Yankees believed he could be when the team traded Austin Jackson and Phil Coke to the Detroit Tigers, and Ian Kennedy to the Arizona Diamondbacks in order to acquire him. But who is Granderson, exactly? Is it too early to say he is the successor to Alex Rodriguez as the most feared hitter on the Yankees?
One thing is for sure: As he backs up his 14 home runs during the last two months of 2010 with another stunning show of power in 2011, Granderson has become one of the must-see sluggers in the game.
For that matter, with power pitching dominating baseball again, Granderson is a power-hitting sensation the sport desperately needs these days.
Let’s hope he’s clean.
Sorry, but even in this drug-testing era, it’s impossible not to be suspicious when someone suddenly starts hitting home runs at a higher rate than at any other point in his career at the age of 30. Unfortunately, steroids forever hardened us to the romance of power surges, especially when baseball still has no test for human growth hormone.
At the very least, however, as he increased his home run total to 16 with two dingers in the Yankees series against the Mets, Granderson is proving that the end of last year was no fluke. If we match the last two months of last year, with the first two months of this season, the Yankees center fielder equals his career high season total from 2009.
The mechanical adjustment theory is at the root of Granderson’s transformation. In mid-August, just before his home run surge, Kevin Long, the Yankees hitting coach, spent two days with Granderson to totally reform his swing.
At age 29, Long worked with Granderson to cut down on his long swing which would theoretically improve his performance specifically against left handed pitching. The result has been the 30 home runs since August 14, 2010, only Jose Bautista has more since that date.
Granderson doesn’t have the bulked-up look of Barry Bonds back in the day, or Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa. But he seems to be gaining that type of aura as a slugger.
It’s hard not to cringe when you hear comparisons to names that are forever associated with steroids. Of course, the name that personified the phoniness of the numbers during that era was Brady Anderson.
At age 32, presumably with the help of performance-enhancers, the Orioles outfielder hit 50 home runs in 1996, or 26 more than in any other year in his career.
And it wasn’t long before McGwire was hitting 70, Bonds was hitting 73, and we all became numb to the longball.
Now the game needs someone to bring it back, maybe even make a run at 60 again. Granderson is a great story. Let’s just hope he’s legit.