David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
Terry Collins first brought up the idea of hitting leadoff to Curtis Granderson on the dugout bench during Saturday's embarrassing two-hit loss to the Padres.
The manager described the chat as a conversation, a way to gauge Granderson's feelings on the subject, "to see if he had any problems" with the assignment.
In other words, a cry for help.
Collins basically told Granderson he had no one else. To which we say, "What the heck took you so long, Terry?"
Granderson batted leadoff for the first time as a Met in Sunday's game, a move that was inevitable. Nothing too radical here. With the Mets struggling at the plate, just stick the two best hitters -- Granderson and Daniel Murphy -- where they can get the most chances to do damage.
Murphy has been a fixture in the No. 2 spot, spending 59 of the first 69 games there. For Granderson's leadoff debut, all he did was go 2-for-3 with a home run and a pair of walks. The lone out? A rocket to the rightfielder.
Talk about instant gratification. Rarely is a manager rewarded so quickly for a decision. Granderson took Ian Kennedy's opening pitch of the game for a ball. He sent the next one halfway up the Pepsi Porch for his first leadoff homer since 2009.
Great call, Terry.
"Curtis getting us out of the gate was huge," Collins said.
Back when Granderson still wore pinstripes, Joe Girardi used to talk about the advantages of having a slugger batting first on the few occasions he used him there. One swing, one run. Not very complicated.
But after a bumpy start in Flushing, Granderson has become much more than simply a deep threat. Remember all that (well-deserved) booing at Citi early on? We can stop with the Jason Bay comparisons. In 13 games this month, he has a ridiculous slash line of .375/.471/.650.
Too small a sample size? Then we'll go back to May 1. During that 41-game span, Granderson's line is .288/.402/.518 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs.
While this makes the Mets feel a lot better about investing $60 million in Granderson, they need to capitalize on this current streak. And as Collins considers his lineup options, he has to realize history is on his side.
Granderson has hit leadoff (568 games) more than anywhere else in the lineup during his 11-year career, batting .270/.343/.483 and homering every 28.5 plate appearances entering Sunday's game. Even at No. 2, where he has spent 240 games, he's produced at a .258/.355/.531 clip, with a homer every 16.7 plate appearances.
Coincidence? Granderson, despite his two 40-homer seasons, has never really been a pure middle-of-the-order guy. The Yankees didn't need him in that role, but the Mets signed him specifically for that reason, to provide protection for David Wright from the cleanup spot. That hasn't gone according to plan.
While Granderson has pulled out of his April funk, Wright has not looked like himself. Since May 1, a stretch of 43 games, he is hitting .263/.333/.377 with three home runs and 18 RBIs.
On Sunday, as others did the heavy lifting, he went 0-for-3 and popped up with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning.
"We had opportunities to blow this game open," Collins said. "And we've got to start blowing some games open because it's going to take a lot of pressure off a lot of people."
Granderson seems to be handling it now, just as the Mets figured he would based on his time in the Bronx. They just need everyone else to catch up.
's series opener in St. Louis, so that will give him another leadoff option. Or he can keep riding Granderson, who reminded us not to make too much of where he winds up. "You can't get five runs on one swing," he said.
But the Mets, who entered Sunday last in the NL in slugging percentage (.344) and 10th in on-base percentage (.309), will settle for what Granderson gave them in the series-clinching win over the Padres. Why not leave him in the leadoff spot?
"Obviously, a lot of lineups haven't worked," Collins said. "I don't have to tell you that."