LOS ANGELES — Curtis Granderson spent Tuesday afternoon playing catch in the outfield, doing his usual warm-up sprints and then taking batting practice, the typical routine before Game 1 of the World Series.
Only with one notable, heartbreaking difference. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told Granderson the previous night that he was being left off the World Series roster, replaced by pitcher Brandon McCarthy. At age 36, potentially on the brink of retirement, Granderson had what could be his final chance to play in baseball’s premier event swiped away from him.
That’s tough to stomach, even for someone like Granderson, who has built a reputation as the ultimate team player, including highly productive stops with the Yankees and Mets. But the Dodgers couldn’t justify using a roster spot on him, not after he went 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and looked even worse at the plate than those numbers suggest.
“Curtis handled it like the pro that he is,” Roberts said before Game 1. “And this is his third time being a part of a World Series team. Who doesn’t want to see it through? I think that the decisions that we have to make aren’t always easy. But I think that a lot of conversations are trying to figure out what’s our best 25-man roster to beat the Houston Astros, and we made that decision. It’s just a credit to him and his character that he was supportive.”
Granderson is known for that, as well as his super-streaky nature at the plate, and the latter did him in this time. Here in late October, the Dodgers couldn’t take another leap of faith in the hope that maybe Granderson might snap out of his funk.
“Hey, I would love to be in there playing,” Granderson said before Game 1. “But obviously, they went with the [roster] that they feel like gives them the best opportunity to win. I’ll be here helping the guys as best I can mentally and provide as much information as I can.”
[/DROPCAP]Compare that perspective with that of Granderson’s teammate, Adrian Gonzalez, who is not expected to be with the Dodgers for the World Series. Gonzalez has spent the past 5 1⁄2 seasons in Los Angeles, but he wound up on the disabled list during the last week of September because of a recurring back injury that made him unavailable for the postseason.
“We totally respect his decision,” Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi told the Los Angeles Times. “He’s meant a lot to this organization. He’s been in constant contact with the front office, the players, the coaching staff, and Doc [Roberts], expressing his support. Everybody here knows he’s fully behind us.”
He has a curious way of showing it. And Gonzalez still is under contract for next season, due another $21.5 million, so this is not a situation where the Dodgers could just FedEx him a ring and a farewell note. Even if Gonzalez isn’t physically fit to play, he still can provide insight or help in some other fashion,
That’s going to be Granderson’s mind-set for the Series, now that his 2015 trip with the Mets might turn out to be his lasting memory of the Fall Classic. It was his most productive, too, as Granderson belted three home runs in the five-game loss to the Royals. His other World Series was 2006 with the Tigers, when Granderson batted .095 (2-for-21) as the Cardinals prevailed in five games.
Of course, if the Dodgers beat the Astros, Granderson still gets his long-awaited World Series ring. That’s a decent consolation prize. And Granderson wasn’t about to voice any displeasure a few hours before first pitch when asked if that news was hard to hear.
“Not at all,” Granderson said. “[Roberts] makes the decision. I’ve got to listen to what he has to say.”
As painful as that may be.