Commentary

Granderson's bat a blessing and a curse

The Yankees aren't built to have their center fielder lead the team in power numbers

Updated: May 22, 2011, 2:47 PM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Curtis Granderson doesn't look the part of top home run and RBI man on a New York Yankees team currently leading the majors in dingers. And even he agrees that if the rest of the Yankees were hitting like they can, he wouldn't, shouldn't, couldn't fill that role.

That's the good news/bad news about the terrific tear that Granderson has been on.

As long as Granderson tops the Yankees in both power hitting categories, something will continue to feel off about this team, even on nights like Saturday, when the Yankees rode a four-homer barrage to a 7-3 win over the New York Mets in Game 2 of their three-game Subway Series.

The Yankees were leading by only a run when Granderson turned on a hanging slider from Mets starter Chris Capuano in the sixth inning and sent it towering off toward the seats to keep his team lead in home runs (15) and RBIs (33) over Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, who also both homered. For Granderson, a left-handed hitter, it was also his eighth homer of the year against left-handed pitching, which also isn't supposed to happen.

The Yankees were not built for Granderson to lead them in home runs and RBIs.

But as long as he does rather than Rodriguez or Teixeira or even Robinson Cano -- who have all been battling all season to even hit .270 or .280 -- this Yankees offense will not be what it could be. Granderson knows it. Teixeira knows it. And A-Rod not only knows it -- he admitted Saturday night that he worries about the Yankees' overreliance on the home run and their offensive inconsistency so far among pretty much everyone in the lineup but Granderson.

"We've been good and bad," Rodriguez said when asked to rate the team's offense so far. "If you look at the [offensive] numbers, league-wise, they're OK. But I think there's a lot of room for improvement. It's important for us to think small ball … hit behind the runner, move guys over. In order to be a good team, we've got to get better. We all know that."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has said he doesn't care how the Yankees score runs -- just that they do. But Rodriguez says it matters to him. He says when a team official told him earlier in the day that the Yankees lead the league in runs scored, not just homers, "I couldn't believe that, because it doesn't feel like it."

"I'm a big believer in being able to score many different ways -- [that's the case] when you look at great teams in history," Rodriguez stressed.

Unlike Rodriguez, who has nine homers this year, or Teixeira, who has now hit three in three games and yet still trails Granderson by three home runs for the team lead, Granderson isn't bothering to dissect why he's hitting for more power beyond the obvious: It started after he and Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long instituted some changes in his swing in August of last season, with Granderson mired in a season-long slump.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Granderson
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIGranderson can't explain the new pop in his bat.

As Rodriguez put it, the results have been "magic" ever since.

Granderson's 28 home runs since Aug. 14 of last season are second most in the majors after Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, the only man Granderson trails in this year's AL home run race.

And yet, when asked Saturday if he considers himself a power hitter, Granderson quickly answered, "No. Not at all."

If he had to give a scouting report on himself, even now, Granderson said, "I would say, A little bit of everything. You know, gets hits. Can drive the baseball. Can potentially hit the ball out of the ballpark. Definitely a guy who can't do it by trying, though, like some guys I feel can -- like an Alex, like a Tex, even Robinson. Those guys have the ability to do it, because I've seen them do it in batting practice.

"It's never anything I'm trying to do. And whenever I'm in a situation [of] 'Let's see if I can try to do it' -- for example, at batting practice -- I never do it."

Granderson laughed. He shrugged. He said he's one of those guys who believe in the mysticism of the home run -- you never know when they're going to come. Or why.

"The home run thing -- that was never one of the reasons we made the [swing] change," Granderson insisted. "I never tried to add any power, increase power numbers, anything like that. It was just something that if it came, great …

"There's really no rhyme or reason to what's going on. Everything is really pretty similar. Bats are the same. Stance is the same. Weight is about the same.

"I'm really not too sure what's going on," he said, smiling again.

He just knows -- like A-Rod does -- that the good news/bad news is, it would be better for everyone involved if the current pecking order among the Yankees hitters doesn't last.

Johnette Howard is an award-winning writer and author who previously worked for Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and Newsday. She contributes general sports columns to ESPN.com and ESPNNewYork.com.

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