Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson, the Detroit Tigers and "the trade" three years later
Granderson was a third-round draft pick of the Tigers. He was just entering the prime years of his career. Although his batting average dropped in 2009, he still hit 30 home runs and made the American League All Star team. And they just handed him over to the Yankees...
The Tigers could only hope the main player they were getting back in the trade, the one replacing Granderson in center field, Austin Jackson, a minor league prospect at the time, would some day turn into a player remotely the caliber of Granderson.
Some fans agreed with me, but many fans loved the trade, not because of the players the Tigers were getting in return, whom they seemed to know little about, but just because they wanted Granderson run out of town. If it wasn't because he couldn't hit left-handers, it was because he suddenly wasn't a good center fielder and a poor leadoff hitter. If it wasn't because of those two issues, he was too active in the community and didn't work hard enough on his game.
It was ridiculous, even the part about not hitting left-handers from the standpoint, if you understand Granderson's background, it's that he always ends up turning a weakness into a strength. When the Tigers drafted him, he was a college batting champ, who was too considered too slow to be anything but a corner outfielder, and his power was supposed limited. He proved the scouts wrong on both fronts, and emphatically.
There was also the reason why the Tigers were trading him. They collapsed on the field, blowing the division to the Twins in '09. And the economy was in full meltdown. They unloaded Granderson and Placido Polanco to trim $10 million off their payroll for the 2010 season to fit in under a reduced budget. Then, later in the off season, on the whim of owner Mike Ilitch, they signed Johnny Damon to a one-year, $8 million contract anyway. It was ridiculous.
After one struggling, injury-plagued season, Granderson has become an MVP-caliber player with the Yankees. He hit 41 home runs last season. He will likely hit that many again this season, although his other numbers are flagging a bit in comparison.
But I stopped screaming at the top of my lungs about the deal long ago. Austin Jackson is a very good player, who showing signs he may be a great one.
He has adjusted the leg kick to his swing, and it's given him much better timing. He has gained strength and subsequently power. He is driving the ball, has better speed than Granderson, and is a better outfielder, although I do still feel Granderson is underrated in this regard (most Sabermetrics fielding stats regarding range are well-intentioned, but decidedly flawed).
The Tigers are four games above .500 with Jackson in the lineup this season, six games below .500 when he's been out. He hasn't been caught stealing. He has 30 RBI in 46 games as a leadoff hitter for a club with little zip at the bottom of its order is outstanding. His on base percentage is over .400. And although I don't necessarily believe Jackson will maintain that pace all season, but I doubt he will not fade that much, either.
Best of all, is the way Jackson grinded through a tough start last season, and made the adjustment to his swing. Major League pitchers like hitters with a high leg kick. They feel much more confident they can disrupt their timing. It's not an easy adjustment to stop for hitters. To many, it's only way they were able to generate power as young players when they lacked strength. But Jackson nonetheless made it, and has actually gained power.
Jackson has a similar modus operandi to Granderson in that regard. They are different type players, but the work ethic is the same.
Jackson has a .963 OPS. Granderson's is .872. They both should be teammates some day soon.
July 10 on the American League squad at the All Star Game.