The Yankees unveiled their new prize (Curtis Granderson) on a new stage (the Legends Club) this morning, but today was not your typical introductory press conference. First, let’s discuss Granderson, then, in my next post, I’ll move on to the news of the day.
• As you know, Granderson will wear No. 14 — not No. 28, the number he wore with the Tigers. Granderson wore 14 in high school and had a fun reason why. Just like now, his coach had already claimed the number he wanted — 22 — so Granderson donned the number worn by his father, Curtis Sr., who wore 14 in his adult softball league. Granderson originally was excited the number was available, but once he learned the back story he had no intention of pressing for No. 28 if Joe Girardi wanted it in the Yankees pursuit of their 28th World Series crown. “I thought, ‘Let me back away from that,’” he said. “I know how tradition is and superstition is (here) from an outside standpoint. I didn’t want to mess with that.” He joked about a possibly scenario many of you hope for, that the Yankees win and Granderson can get his number back in 2011.
• Granderson valued the opportunity to symbolically patrol the same grounds as DiMaggio, Mantle and Williams. But he realizes the necessity to improve against left-handed pitching. He joked that he’s bound to improve by not having to face CC Sabathia — the big man was on the dais, along with Girardi, A-Rod, Brian Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner, Lonn Trost and Jean Aftermann — but it was Sabathia himself who suggested the difference between the young Granderson and the hitter he has become.
After the press conference, Sabathia explained his pattern against Granderson. He used two-seamers inside for show, but retired Granderson on breaking stuff away. As an opponent, CC knew Granderson had grown “more pull-happy” as his power numbers increased.
Eager to get started, the new center fielder, who batted .183 vs. LHP last season, has already spoken to Kevin Long. The two plan on meeting this winter, either in Chicago, where Granderson lives, or in Arizona, where Long is located. Alex Rodriguez said hitters can expect a 10-15 percent jump in production thanks to Long, and believes he will help Granderson improve on his weaknesses.
• Granderson is widely known as one of baseball’s good guys. He has his own foundation, graduated from college despite leaving early and is considered one of the good guys in a clubhouse. He credited his upbringing for that — both parents are retired educators, and his sister is a professor at Jackson State — and said he gets along with others thanks to a diverse background. He mentioned best friends of different racial backgrounds. As for what he saw in the Yankees, the well-spoken 28-year-old said he admired the newfound chemistry in the Bronx, too, noting that something changed here last season.
“In the past, you hear about the Yankee payroll. You have a lot of guys who make a lot of money and don’t get along. That obviously wasn’t true. You saw guys having fun. At the end of the day, no matter how much money guys are making or how long you’ve played this game, it’s the same game you played since you were a little kid. Typically, the teams and the guys who have the most fun are usually successful.”
That’s all for now. I’ll have more from Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman on Damon, as well as an update on A-Rod’s health in a bit. The next post will include audio of Granderson, Steinbrenner, Girardi and Cashman.