- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

An Elder Statesman Exits

The Mets’ flaccid, meaningless loss to the Marlins [1] was prelude to the real news of the day: the trade of Curtis Granderson [2] and cash to the Dodgers for the curious return of a player to be named later … or cash.

The sheer Wilponitude of that transaction is irritating — to my admittedly inexpert eye this looks like a fancy way of not being willing to say “salary dump,” but we can vent about that another day. Granderson immediately leaps up 33 games in the standings and joins a clubhouse making October plans. I wish him the best in those endeavors — as, I suspect, do all his teammates and every other Mets fan.

Granderson wasn’t an MVP or a transformative player, arriving in Flushing with his best years behind him. But his on-field performance repeatedly surprised you, and the surprises were invariably to the upside. As for his off-field performance, “MVP” would indeed be the word — Granderson showed everyone what a fundamentally good person he was, whether it was raising money for charity, taking young teammates aside for conversations, or showing up with ice cream for Mets employees whose workplaces were desks instead of warning tracks and basepaths.

Granderson’s arrival on a four-year deal was something of a head-scratcher, with the prevailing wisdom that the Mets could expect two decent years and expect to swallow two lousy ones, then say farewell to a 36-year-old player. But Granderson was … well, “consistently inconsistent” might approximate it. The man would spent April and May looking like he had a giant fork in his back, then rouse himself in the warmth and prove impossible to get out. He alternated amazing funks with runs of excellence, and when each campaign was over you were surprised to find him having turned in much the same performance, and a pretty good one at that. While the batting average was never particularly robust, his early exit robs him of the certainty of hitting 20 homers in each of his four Met seasons. He helped carry the Mets to last year’s unlikely play-in game (and kept them alive with a tremendous catch in dead center) and was superb in the World Series the year before that. In the field, he played right when his arm dictated he should have been playing left, which wasn’t his fault; asked to switch to center, he acquitted himself better than anyone expected.

And hey, his final act as a Met was a grand slam against the Yankees. That’s got to count for something, right?

* * *

While pondering a departure, spare a moment for a non-arrival. The Mets called up Kevin McGowan [3] and then sent him down without a pitch thrown in anger, making McGowan — provisionally — the 10th ghost in club history and the third to never play a big-league game for another franchise.

That “provisionally” is important here. McGowan is just 25 and might well return in September, or sooner if more veterans depart the club and payroll. Two years ago, Matt Reynolds [4] was the Mets’ first postseason ghost, waiting until 2016 to escape baseball ectoplasm. But escape he did.

Still, funny things happen in baseball, and there are all number of ways for the likelihood of another shot to curdle into possibility, non-impossibility and then nothing. Just ask Terrel Hansen, who went back to Tidewater as a 25-year-old in 1992 and retired in 1999 after playing for three more organizations, in the Mexican League and in independent ball. Or there’s Billy Cotton, who was called up in September ’72 and — according to legend — got as far as the on-deck circle only to see the batter in front of him hit into an inning-ending double play. I’ve never been able to verify that story and hope it isn’t true, but what’s indisputable is that Cotton retired after ’74, never having returned to the big leagues.

Here’s hoping McGowan avoids such a fate. We’re Mets fans — we’ve got enough things that go bump in the night as it is.