MIAMI — Curtis Granderson is baseball’s equivalent of Jason, the machete-wielding villain from the Friday the 13th movies. Just when you think he’s been eliminated for good, another rampage is about to begin.
Mets hitting coach Kevin Long certainly gets the analogy.
“Friday the 13th, what is this No. 6 or 7 for Granderson?” Long said. “I guess I’m so used to it. Like him, I don’t panic. I always think he is going to come out of it. I know things are going to go his way.”
The 36-year-old outfielder has been among the NL’s best hitters in June, after an atrocious start to 2017 that brought into question whether the club might consider releasing him.
Instead he will take a whopping 1.122 OPS over his last 37 games into Tuesday against the Marlins, as he again resembles the Granderson the Mets have come to know and appreciate.
Along the way he is creating a daily dilemma for manager Terry Collins, who has four outfielders for three spots, and lately that has meant a seat on the bench for Michael Conforto.
Granderson had maybe his best game of the season Sunday, when against the Giants he reached base five times, which included hitting a homer into McCovey Cove beyond AT&T Park’s right-field wall and drawing three walks. His slash line is a season’s best .235/.328/.457 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I am locked in, because nothing has really changed,” Granderson said. “The approach is still the same, the chase rate that we keep track of is still all the same. The walks are attributed to the opposition missing. I’m not necessarily doing anything in that situation. If my chase rates have changed I am doing something different, but they haven’t.”
Said Long: “His attitude is never going to change. I couldn’t tell you if he’s hot or cold, and I think that truly helps him at the end of the day.”
Granderson had a .122/.175/.211 slash line on May 3, but with Yoenis Cespedes on the disabled list, Granderson was needed in the lineup. And by the time Cespedes returned, on June 10, Granderson had become too consistent to bury on the bench. Now, the Mets are relying on him.
“If I told you the number of times I have seen people count him out and count him dead, he was literally crawling to his grave,” said Long, who was also Granderson’s hitting coach with the Yankees. “I have seen it. I guess what I have learned through my years, with Curtis especially, is we have just got to stay patient, and if we stay patient he’s going to be the type of player we know he can be.”
Granderson was asked if he takes any pleasure in proving wrong the naysayers who are ready to bury him each year.
“There’s always people that are going to feel a certain situation is equipped for other players, and there’s going to be some people that are on your side,” Granderson said. “No matter what, you can’t make everybody happy. Even the guys that are hitting great, people say, ‘He’s slow,’ or they say, ‘He’s older. He can’t play this position.’ Even the best guys always have some negative stuff said about them.”
With the Mets teetering in the NL East — even with their three-game sweep of the Giants, they are 34-41 and 11 games behind the Nationals (the deficit in the wild-card race was 11 ½ games entering Monday) — Granderson could emerge as trade bait as he finishes his four-year contract worth $60 million.
But don’t expect any trade buzz to distract Granderson.
“I have dealt with rumors before, so it wouldn’t be anything new on that side of things,” Granderson said, noting that in 2007 he thought the Tigers would deal him to the Braves at midseason. “Nothing happened. Experiencing that, I said I wasn’t going to let that happen again.”