As bad as the early part of September was for Dodgers outfielder Curtis Granderson — he was batting .127 for the month until he got six hits in his last 16 at-bats — it wasn’t the worst stretch of his career.
“I remember in the minor leagues I had seven straight at-bats, seven straight strikeouts. It was to the point where teammates had put Band-Aids on my bats and put glasses in my locker,” he said. “It was funny, and the only thing you could do was laugh at it because I was getting fastballs right down the middle of the plate and was not touching them.”
No one has put eyeglasses in his Dodger Stadium locker. “Not yet,” he said, adding the warm smile that has been a constant throughout his career.
The Dodgers acquired Granderson from the New York Mets on Aug. 18 for depth, versatility, his left-handed bat and his value as one of those players considered a good guy in the clubhouse. That can mean anything from being the resident DJ — as he was with the Mets while devising daily themed playlists — to offering tips to young players and lifting the mood by exuding optimism during dark times.
The 14-year veteran said recently he was still settling in, learning what it takes to make certain players laugh, still trying to figure out who the clubhouse DJ is, though he has no complaints about the music. He’s also still seeking greater success at the plate, but he didn’t think he had to change anything.
“I haven’t looked at it as being down,” said Granderson, who batted .183 in September and .212 this season with the Mets and Dodgers. “Everybody looks at it as, ‘We want you to do this,’ but what would that definition be? If I was hitting this, would that be considered a success? If I had done this, would that be considered a success?
“Success is going out there and putting your team in an opportunity to win as many ballgames as possible, no matter how that happens to be. You can do a lot of great things out there and never touch the ball, never put the ball in play but end up putting your team in a situation to win, just by how you communicate with somebody, how you position somebody. Maybe you happen to be in a position to do something to help somebody else be successful, all things that don’t get put in the paper.”
He has made an impact in those intangible areas, and his manager and teammates have faith he will have a big impact at the plate, too, when it matters.
Reliever Kenley Jansen had always heard Granderson was a good guy, and Jansen was glad to confirm that first-hand. Jansen also remembers that Granderson was a devastating force in the Mets’ elimination of the Dodgers in a 2015 National League division series, especially Granderson’s three-run double in Game 3. In that series Granderson batted .389 Dodgers with two doubles and five runs batted in.
“I’ve always believed he’s an October guy. It doesn’t matter what he might have this year. If you see in 2015 how he owned us, you just want him to bring that to us and we know he can do that,” Jansen said. “He’s hitting the ball pretty good even though stuff doesn’t go his way. I think it all might come back together for him when he gets back to the postseason. It’s going to come back.”
Prized Dodgers rookie Alex Verdugo, Granderson’s next-locker neighbor in September, sees Granderson as kind calm, and reassuringly upbeat.
“When I first got called up we talked a lot, mainly about defense and our communication out there,” Verdugo said. “Here and there he’ll share some pointers and tell me about what pitchers are doing, and things like that.
“He’s really positive. Even when there’s not a lot of things going right, if you’re struggling he always finds a positive out of everything and just makes sure he takes care of all the guys.”
Manager Dave Roberts, recently asked to define what a good teammate is, said Granderson meets every benchmark.
“The success that he has doesn’t factor into how he treats his teammates and how he prepares each day. So I think that’s what has led to his career,” Roberts said. “He’s very streaky but his attitude has never wavered, and for me, those are guys that you bet on. You really do. And this game is so unpredictable, but a guy that prepares and is trying, is so focused to win baseball games, those are the guys that you want to go into a series with.”
Oh, and that seven-strikeout streak Granderson had in the minors? He ended it by nearly hitting for the cycle.
“That’s how quick it changed,” he said. “You have to realize that stuff like that happens and all it takes is one swing of the bat to get you back right on track — and also take you the other way as well.”
The track he takes will soon become evident. When the Dodgers face a right-handed starter during the playoffs that begin Friday, Granderson will be a starting outfielder.
“There’s no reason not to be positive,” he said. “First and foremost, if you’re not going to have faith and believe in yourself, who else will?”