Exactly one year ago today, Curtis Granderson was benched.
He didn't start on the 10th of August, or the 11th.
Granderson's batting average was .239, his on-base percentage .306. He'd hit 10 home runs in 87 games.
He was a mess, and asked Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long to help him revamp his swing. Players fool around with their swings all the time, and Granderson said, "I wouldn't necessarily call it big changes. It's just trying to simplify everything... It's not as drastic as it seems."
Meanwhile, Long called the work "a total reformation of the swing."
Here are two swings, one from before (July 25, 2010) and one after (May 11, this season).
You've got that dialed in?
Now here's a home run earlier this season:
I see a small difference, but then again I'm neither a hitting coach nor a scout. And if the baseball people tell me Granderson's swing is significantly different, different enough to radically improve his performance, who am I to say it's not?
And make no mistake, Granderson's performance has radically improved. After two days off, Granderson returned to the lineup on August 12; from then through the end of the season he batted .261/.356/.564, with 14 home runs in 48 games. And this season he's picked up almost exactly where he left off.
Wednesday night, Granderson hit his 30th and 31st home run. Here's Jack O'Connell:
Chants of "MVP" could not be detected both times Curtis Granderson circled the bases on home runs Wednesday night, but it shouldn’t be long now before the chorus becomes a regular feature at Yankee Stadium.
Granderson surely belongs in the conversation for American League Most Valuable Player. Some media types seem ready to just hand the trophy over to Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who is the favorite at this point, but after watching them last weekend at Fenway Park it seems to me that center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury may take a few votes away from his teammate. After all, you have to be the MVP of your team to be considered MVP of your league, and right now in Boston that is looking like a jump ball.
Ellsbury might well take some votes from Adrian Gonzalez. Pedroia might, too. And it's a fact that Granderson has hit 13 more homers than Gonzalez, and scored 20 more runs than Ellsbury.
If we're going just by the hitting numbers, Granderson's right up there with anyone except Jose Bautista, which means he's right up there with anyone at all in the minds of the MVP voters who can't get excited about a player on a fourth-place team.
Granderson doesn't fare quite as well we if we consider Advanced Defensive Metrics, because ADM don't like Granderson's performance in center field.
Still, whether he wins the MVP Award or not and whatever you think of his defense, Granderson's performance over the last calendar year is a great testament to his eagerness to improve and to the Yankees' ability to help him do exactly that.