photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
Today was a big fat ugly loss (Bondo’s elbow appears to be so bad that it’s making him “scared and nervous”. whee), and yesterday was an equally ugly ping-ponging win that I am trying to forget because I am, once again, trying to purge the existence of all sports on Saturday from my mind. So instead of dwelling on these terrible, hateful things, let us instead concentrate on Curtis Granderson, and why his achievements are so truly glorious.
With a stolen base in today’s game Granderson got himself the Slightly Arbitrary Yet Awesome Foursome: at least 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Of course he’s got more than 20 of most of those things. As of today he’s actually got 36 doubles, 22 triples, 21 home runs, and the newly-acquired 20 stolen bases.
We all know that this is remarkable and awesome and awesomely remarkable. We also know that Curtis Granderson is the immediate answer to the ubiquitous “WHO’S YOUR TIGER??” question for at least half of all Tigers fans for a variety of excellent and compelling reasons. But why is this particular Slightly Arbitrary Yet Awesome Foursome so very amazing?
It’s rare. There are only two other players who have ever done this: Frank Schulte and Willie Mays. Schulte and Granderson are the ONLY TWO PLAYERS to ever hit at least 30 doubles in addition to at least 20 of everything else. The history of baseball is long and encompasses a great many players; for this to have only happened so few times that a chicken could count it on its chicken feet is remarkable.
It happens to great players. I’m pretty sure you all know who Willie Mays is, and the thought of Granderson being compared to him in any meaningful way should be enough to make us all salivate. If you want to know who Frank Schulte is I suggest you check out this SABR biography of him, because the SABR knows all, and if they don’t know something yet, they’re in the process of finding it out. Suffice it to say that Mr. Schulte (nicknamed Wildfire) was a heckuva player in his prime, although that prime was pretty short.
It eliminates the flake. Not necessarily the ballplayer with a flaky personality (that’s a whole other debate– a fascinating and fun one, but not one that pertains here), but the ballplayer with the flaky approach to baseball. You can be a lackadaisical ballplayer and still hit 20 home runs or 20 doubles. But it’s damn hard to come at baseball with that sort of mindset and consistently hit doubles, triples, and home runs, AND steal 20 bases on top of all that.
Not that we need the Slightly Arbitrary Yet Awesome Foursome to appreciate the quality and depth of Granderson’s work ethic, but it just reinforces the point.
It indicates a well-rounded player. Some guys have a lot of power. Some guys have a lot of speed. Some guys have a great eye at the plate. Some guys have excellent bat control. Some guys have a strong understanding of pitchers’ moves and what to do when they get on base. To hit 20 home runs, you need power. To hit 20 doubles, you need bat control (since doubles are, often, about placement of the hit). To hit 20 triples, you need a mix of power, bat control, speed, and a big ballpark (although lots of Granderson’s triples come on roadtrips). To steal 20 bases, you need speed and base-running intelligence.
In order to achieve the Slightly Arbitrary Yet Awesome Foursome you need, in effect, to be the toolsiest hitter that you can possibly be. Of course this doesn’t say anything about defense (although we all know perfectly well that Granderson’s speed helps him cover Comerica’s sizeable outfield), but it indicates a definite completeness of hitting ability.
Curtis Granderson is awesome. We all know this. But now, if someone is foolish enough to try to argue with you about it (some uncouth creature, like a Wrong Sox fan, maybe), you can show them the extreme error of their ways.