Curtis Granderson will be standing in center field when the first pitch is thrown at the New Yankee Stadium in 2010. Joe Girardi announced on Thursday that instead of moving the former Tigers' center fielder to left — as had been rumored throughout spring training — Grandy will maintain his usual position while Brett Gardner will make the shift across the field.
According to Girardi there was "no wrong decision." The Yankees' manager said that he felt that both players "did a very nice job at both spots. Grandy has played a lot of center field in his career, and so has Gardy … but we just decided that we were going to go with Grandy in center. Try not to move him around and put him in one spot."
There are very few cases in which a manager is faced with a situation that literally has "no wrong decision." But this may just be that anamoly.
Both players have seen limited time in left field (Granderson has 23 games in six seasons to Garnder's 17 in two seasons). They had identical fielding percentages of .993 in 2009, both had a range factors of 2.62 (putouts + assists / innings played) and Granderson had one more error (three) than Gardner's two. In the field, they are essentially the same player. And together they give the Yankees incredible range and speed defensively in the outfield that will highly complement their phenomenal pitching staff. With Nick Swisher in right and the combo of the switch-hitting Randy Winn and the right-handed Marcus Thames filling in as needed, the Yankees have potentially one of the most skilled and deep outfields in all of baseball.
As is always the case when taking over as the Yankees' center fielder, the position will come with demanding expectations. From the greats like Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle to the very good like Bobby Murcer, Mickey Rivers, and Bernie Williams, the tolerance for failure is always very slim when it comes to the individual who follows in the oft-cited prestigious lineage of the position. But from an offensive standpoint, Curtis Granderson appears to fit the "mold" for the position far more accurately than the speedy but offensively limited Gardner.
In the field the 2010 version of the Yankees will be far more proficient than the 2009 Championship squad that saw Johnny Damon limping around left field — totally unthreatening to advancing baserunners — for the majority of the season. What the team lost offensively in the transition from Damon to Gardner in left they will likely more than be compensated for by the increase in offensive output that results from Granderson taking over for Melky Cabrera in center. So beyond the inherent pressure that Granderson will be saddled with to succeed — based largely on the profile of his position — Girardi made a call that, for the first time in his short time as Yankees' skipper, literally can't go wrong.