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The Grandersonian Presence

Don’t remind Ray Ramirez that Curtis Granderson [1] is still out there, still playing, still hitting, still in one piece. Ramirez, or our conception of Ramirez as grim reaper of Met body parts [2], eventually gets everybody. He doesn’t get Granderson, though. Three-and-a-half years into a four-year contract, Grandy stands on two feet that he puts one in front of the other on his way to the outfield pretty much on a daily basis. If he isn’t starting, he is available to pinch-hit. You can’t always tell it from his throws, but his arms work, too. They can swing a bat and lately do to great effect. The parts between the limbs stay intact. The head is surely screwed on right.

Pending whatever damage I’ve done by deigning to mention his thus far indestructible durability, Curtis Granderson does not go down as New York Mets typically do. Not from Ramirez’s soul-harvesting alchemy, not from the ravages of time siccing themselves on a 14-season veteran, not from stubbornly torpid springs when his batting average wouldn’t qualify for welterweight competition. He was slashing .122/.175/.211 after two games in May. He has elevated to .235/.327/.473 with two games left in June. Grandy is up, and he is at ’em, and — when enough of his teammates meet him at the cross streets of Capable and Competent — he is helping the Mets win some games.

Curtis did that on Wednesday night in Miami. He helped the Mets immediately by not departing the batter’s box so quickly. Grandy lingered purposefully for nine pitches until working a walk from Jeff Locke [3]. Nobody ever looks as satisfied by a base on balls as Granderson. You can feel him thinking, “I get to go to first now. This could be useful in so many ways.” He long ago deduced that a walk can be as good as a hit. For all we know, he might have been the one to have coined the expression.

How good was the walk Granderson took from Locke? Good enough to be exchanged for a run when Asdrubal Cabrera [4], hitting directly behind him, belted a ball out of sight to give Steven Matz [5] a 2-0 lead that would grow into an 8-0 win [6]. Matz nurtured his advantage for seven smooth innings. Jose Reyes [7], finally passing Ed Kranepool [8] for second near the head of the all-time Mets hit parade (I would have preferred the leapfrogging take place in 2012), contributed two singles and a double. Brandon Nimmo [9] was Le Grand Wyomingan, adding a couple of RBIs off the bench. And Grandy, who walked to first in the first, went deep to right in the seventh. It was his twelfth home run of the year, his eighth home run of the month, his fifth home run of the current road trip. He also long ago deduced that a homer is four times as good a walk.

Curtis got the Mets going the night before last with a leadoff home run. That the Mets didn’t keep going wasn’t his doing. He can’t always wrangle a minyan of Mets and lead them toward a happy recap. One Met can do only so much. Curtis has, however, done one thing remarkable on a remarkably consistent basis since becoming a Met in 2014, something nobody else in a Mets uniform has done in ages.

He stays active. Active in the baseball sense, not active in the “…and he takes Geritol” sense. Maybe he does take Geritol or calcium supplements or some other elixir that counteracts the effects of aging. In real life, Curtis is a young man of 36. In baseball terms, we call that old. When Curtis is in a funk, which usually coincides with months beginning with “A” and ending in “L,” we call him old. When Curtis unfunks, we see experience and don’t notice how long it took to compile it. Curtis doesn’t look any particular age these days. He just looks good.

More important, we don’t have to comb a chart other than the 25-man roster to find him. Four seasons, no DL. Now I understand merely writing the preceding sentence is the moral equivalent of tempting the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing. Don’t worry, I’m going outside, turning around three times and spitting to ward off Ray Ramirez’s evil spirits as soon as I post. Superstition ain’t the way, except in baseball and a few other endeavors [10], but definitely baseball.

Nevertheless, I really do have to share a little insight I’ve gained through my Mets-fan compulsiveness. For many years, I’ve maintained a chart of every Met, which at the moment measures Richie Ashburn [11] to Chase Bradford [12]. It encompasses three vital statistics for each fellow to have worn the orange and blue in what Art Howe [13] would call battle: when he was born; when he debuted as a Met; and when he played his last game as a Met. The last column is tricky for those still in our immediate midst, so I’ve developed a policy. At the beginning of a season, I mark as last game played the first game a player entered in the new year. If he goes on the disabled list, is sent to the minors or is otherwise provisionally removed from the 25-man roster (bereavement, family leave, suspension), I list his most recent game played as his last game played. Upon return, his first game back becomes his new “last game” and stays as such unless circumstances dictate otherwise. Vegas-shuttlers like Matt Reynolds [14] and Rafael Montero [15] have played a slew of last games this year. Once the season is over, when not staring out the window alongside Rogers Hornsby [16], I update the list with everybody’s most recent game as their last game. Winter bestows finality, no matter how temporary.

Richie Ashburn’s last game as a Met was 09/30/1962. That won’t change. Ed Kranepool’s last game (featuring his 1,418th and final hit) was 09/30/1979. That also won’t change, though if Tim Tebow can make it to Port St. Lucie, we shouldn’t rule anybody out. Robert Gsellman [17]’s last game as a Met was 06/27/2017. Knock wood, that will change, but once Ray Ramirez got his hands on Robert’s left hamstring, Gsellman’s info required revision. Same for Neil Walker [18] (06/14/2017) when he was assigned to the DL, same for Noah Syndergaard [19] (04/30/2017), same for Jeurys Familia [20] (05/10/2017), same for Tommy Milone [21], even (05/21/2017). When/if they come back, their next game will become their “last game”.

Curtis Granderson defies this granular level of bookkeeping. For Curtis, I type the date of Opening Day in the last-game column and I leave it until Closing Day because he stays. He doesn’t fall away in the fashion of his inevitably Ramirezized colleagues. Once, in his first year as a Met, he had to sit for a few games with some ache or pain, and I reflexively changed his “last game” notation. I just assumed he, à la every modern Met, was about to be officially disabled. Nope, he just needed a few days and then he was good to go.

The good going has continued uninterrupted ever since. There are gaps in Grandy’s production, but not his presence. You can’t say that about everybody. Actually, you can hardly say that about anybody. It’s to be admired when you see it, seeing as how you don’t see it all that much.

I spent twenty-some minutes talking about my book Piazza [22] with Chris McShane for Amazin’ Avenue Audio. I hope you’ll listen in here [23].