Curtis Granderson hasn't forgotten.
Without hesitation, the Yankees centerfielder rattles off the criticisms and the culprits one by one, exposing his underlying determination to prove the masses wrong.
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"Baseball America said it, ESPN has said it, Sporting News has said it: I was too slow to play centerfield in the big leagues, I didn't hit for enough power to play in the corners in the big leagues, I didn't have a strong enough arm to play rightfield in the big leagues," he said.
The chip on his shoulder has been there for as long as he can remember. Even before he was drafted in the third round by Detroit in 2002.
"There was never anything positive said, it was always this negative stuff," Granderson said. "I was always able to play at the level, but for some reason, the negative stuff was always talked about."
That's why the 29-year-old wasn't fazed when some baseball pundits criticized the Yankees for shipping top prospect Austin Jackson to Detroit for him. Jackson was hitting .371 May 9 while Granderson was at .225 and on the disabled list. Granderson was still hitting .225 as late as July 7, plus his paltry numbers against lefties, only fueled the notion that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had made a mistake.
"People were ripping me," Cashman told Newsday. "But we're a better team with Curtis Granderson regardless. I think his body of work this year has proven that and what he's done in the postseason obviously is just reinforcing it."
With the help of hitting coach Kevin Long, the centerfielder tweaked his swing and improved his average. His resurgence came full circle in Game 1 of the ALDS against Minnesota, when manager Joe Girardi left Granderson in to face lefty ace Francisco Liriano. And with two outs and two on and his team trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning, Granderson connected on a high, deep drive that ricocheted off the right-centerfield wall for a two-run triple. Granderson went 5-for-11 (.455) against the Twins with three RBIs.
"I just told him to just keep working," said designated hitter Marcus Thames, a former Tiger who has played with Granderson the past six seasons. "I was telling people, 'It's gonna come.' It wasn't happening right away, but I know he has the talent and he has the confidence and he's always positive. Once he starts coming around the corner, I told K-Long he would be just fine. He kept working with Kevin and tweaked one little thing and he's been rolling."
Many players can't handle the transition to New York, Thames said. But Granderson always remained optimistic.
"He's a strong individual," Thames said. "He never lets it get to him. He was the same every single day, he wasn't down on himself, he wasn't pouting because he wasn't doing what he wanted to do."
Despite his statistical slump that lasted until mid-August, Granderson said he remained "in a good place."
"The numbers are kind of one of those things I don't pay too much attention to, good or bad," the centerfielder said. "Day to day, there's always things you can do to help your teammates out. And the numbers may not show it. I felt comfortable all year long, it's been one of those things where you continue to work and go through the ups and downs. One of my big pet peeves are people that complain. If you don't like it, go ahead and try to change it."