When Shawn Green was a Dodger, I was unquestionably one of his biggest fans. And though I will be the first to admit that I didn’t really follow his career until he arrived at Dodgers Stadium as a free agent in 2000, it didn’t take long for me to recognize just how good he really was. And as you might imagine, I was quite disappointed when the Dodgers didn’t offer Green a contract extension when his contract expired in 2004; but then, Dodger ownership was in transition from the incompetent Fox News Corp Group to the even more incompetent Frank McCourt at the time.
And of course it had to be New York Mets right fielder Shawn Green who played a Russell Martin double perfectly off the right field wall in the 2006 NLDS to throw out both Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew at home plate in one of the most bizarre plays in baseball history (not to mention that it was former Dodger catcher Paul LoDuca on the receiving end of former Dodger Shawn Green’s perfect throw).
Shawn Green was born on November 10, 1972 in Des Plaines, Illinois. His family moved to southern California where Green attended Tustin High School not far from Angel Stadium. Green was an outstanding high school baseball player where he tied the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) record with 147 hits during his high school career. He was a first-team selection to the 1991 All-USA high school team, while ranking 3rd academically in his high school class.
Green was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round (16th overall pick) of the 1991 MLB First Year Player Draft and signed with the Jays on September 21 that same year. He began his professional career in 1992 with the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League and was selected to the league’s all-star team. Green spent most of the 1993 and 1994 seasons in the minors, where he put up very impressive numbers. While with the Jays’ Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs in 1994, Green was third in runs, hits, and on-base percentage and hit 13 home runs with 61 RBIs. He was voted as the International League’s Rookie of the Year, Best Batting Prospect, Best Outfield Arm and Most Exciting Player in Baseball America’s ”Tools of the Trade” poll. He was also named the Chief’s MVP and the Blue Jays’ Minor League Player of the Year.
Shawn made his major league debut September 28, 1993 at 20 years and 10 months old, and though he did not play in the 1993 World Series for the Blue Jays, he was awarded a World Series ring. Strangely, he appeared in only 17 major league games during the 1993 and 1994 seasons.
In his full rookie season in 1995, Green started in 97 games and hit .288 with 15 home runs. That same year he set Blue Jays rookie records in doubles (31), hitting streak (14), extra base hits (50), and slugging percentage (.509), all of which led him to a 5th place finish for the American League Rookie of the Year title.
Green put up similar numbers in 1996 and 1997, but again Green was given only limited at bats because Blue Jays management didn’t trust him against left-handed pitching. As such, Green’s production was somewhat limited. He was, however, an aggressive base runner, stealing 14 bases in 1997 while being caught only three times.
In 1998 Green was finally given the everyday right field job and he flourished. He became the first Blue Jay to join the 30-30 club (home runs and steals) and became only the tenth player in MLB history with 35 or more home runs and 35 or more stolen bases, joining (among others) Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez (Matt Kemp did it in 2011). Green finished the 1998 season hitting .278 with 35 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 35 stolen bases (a career best).
In 1999, Green proved that his new-found power was no fluke. On April 22, he hit a 449-foot home run into the SkyDome’s fifth deck, joining Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Joe Carter as the only players to do so. By the All-Star break, Shawn had 25 home runs and 70 RBIs earning him his first All-Star appearance. He finished the season with a career best .309 batting average, 42 home runs (5th most in the AL), 134 runs (2nd), a career best 123 RBIs, and a .588 slugging percentage (5th best in the AL). Green also led the league in doubles (45), extra-base hits (87), and total bases (361). His home run per at-bat ratio was a phenomenal 14.6. Green won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards for his outstanding season and finished 5th in the AL MVP voting.
(Author’s note: When you are put in the same category with guys named Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds, and you are talking about 1999, it is [unfortunately] impossible not to suspect that Green may have used steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. However, there has never been any evidence or even the slightest suspicion whatsoever to suggest that Shawn Green ever used steroids or other performance enhancing drugs – and make no mistake about that).
Following the 1999 season, Green let Blue Jays management know that he wanted to become a free agent when his contract was to expire after the 2000 season because he had hopes of signing with a team closer to his southern California home. The Blue Jays knew that they would be unable to afford Green as a free agent and traded him to the Dodgers on November 8, 1999 for Raúl Mondesí and Pedro Borbón Jr. Upon arriving in L.A., Green quickly signed a contract extension with the Dodgers for a 6-year/$84 million deal that included a $4 million signing bonus.
After a great first season with the Dodgers in 2000, Green had an outstanding 2001 season hitting .297 with a .598 slugging percentage (a career best), 49 home runs (a career best and a new all-time Dodger record), 121 runs (7th in the NL), 125 RBIs (a career best), 370 total bases (5th in the NL), and 20 stolen bases. Although Green’s 49 home runs set a new Dodger record, he finished 4th in home runs in the NL behind Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa (I won’t even go there), and Luis Gonzalez. The 2001 season marked the 4th consecutive season in which Green stole 20 or more bases and he finished sixth in the NL MVP voting.
Green made headlines for another reason in 2001 when he made the decision not to play on September 26, 2001 to honor Yom Kippur, the highest of Jewish holidays. It was the first time that he sat out a game in 415 games. “I felt like it was the right thing to do… I didn’t do this to gain approval. I thought it was the right example to set for Jewish kids.” Green donated that day’s salary ($75,000) to survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Without question, Shawn Green’s single greatest career game occurred on May 23, 2002, when he hit four home runs, a double and a single (6 for 6) and collected a record-setting 19 total bases in a 9-inning game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. His 19 total bases eclipsed the previous record of 18 total bases set by Joe Adcock of the Milwaukee Braves in 1954 against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Green’s 19 total bases record still stands today and is one that very well may never fall – although Josh Hamilton came close last season with his 4 home run/18 total bases game on May 8 against the Orioles.
The bat that Green used to hit his four home runs that day (and an MLB record seven home runs in three game) is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
In 2004 Green hit .266 with 28 home runs and 86 RBIs leading the Dodgers into the 2004 playoffs. It was Shawn’s first trip to the post-season and in spite of hitting three home runs in only 16 at bats, the Dodgers were eliminated by the Cardinals in four games in the NLCS.
On June 10, 2005 Green waived his no-trade clause and was traded by the Dodgers to the Diamondbacks for Dioner Navarro and three minor leaguers (that trade didn’t work out so well, did it?). Green received a 3-year/$32 million contract extension from the D-backs. And while his batting average and OBP were near his career averages in his 398 total at bats with the D-backs, his .425 slugging percentage was a career low. On August 22, 2006 Green was dealt to the New York Mets for minor league pitcher Evan MacLane and $6.5 million in cash.
The 2006 season was Green’s worst offensive year in a decade, hitting only 15 home runs, with 66 RBIs, 4 stolen bases, a .432 slugging percentage, and a .277 batting average. Green’s 15 home runs matched his second lowest total since becoming a full-time player. His 73 runs scored was also a significant drop-off from the 134 runs that he had scored in 1999 with the Blue Jays. The one bright spot in his otherwise dismal 2006 season was his .799 OPS against lefties – 10th best in the NL for left-handed batters. When the regular season ended, Green was 18th among all active players in doubles (and the youngest) and in the top 30 of all active players in home runs, runs, total bases, and extra base hits. He also made it into the top 100 for career home runs.
The highlight of the 2006 season for Green was a trip to the aforementioned NLDS against the Dodgers. It was the second and final post-season appearance for Green and he made the best of it by hitting .313 and tying for the team lead with 3 doubles. Unfortunately, the Mets team batting average during the 2006 post-season was a meager .250 and they were eliminated by the eventual World Champion Cardinals in an exciting 7-game NLCS.
On February 13, 2007, the Mets declined a $10 million mutual option on Green’s contract which would have kept him in New York through the 2008 season. Instead he received a $2 million buyout. It is believed that the Mets declined the option because of rumors that Green might retire after the 2007 season, a rumor that Green adamantly denied. “There’s been no decision on the future at all as far as I’m concerned. I’m planning on playing and seeing how things go….”
During the 5th inning of the May 25, 2007 game against the Florida Marlins, Green suffered a chip fracture to his right foot when he fouled a ball off of it. At the time of the injury, Green was batting .314 – 10th-best in the NL. He had already collected 5 home runs, 22 RBIs, 12 doubles, and 4 stolen bases. Four days later, Green was placed on the 15-day disabled list; his first time on the DL in his entire career. The bone was expected to take 6 weeks to heal but Green was activated well before then and back in the line-up on June 11. Even though the bone was not completely healed, Green went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a stolen base. On September 25, 2007, Green notched his 2,000th career hit.
On February 28, 2008, at age 35, Shawn Green announced his retirement from baseball so that he could spend more time with his family.
Shawn Green holds or is tied for the following major league records: most home runs in a game (4), most extra base hits in a game (5), most total bases in a game (19), most runs scored in a game (6), most home runs in two consecutive games (5), most home runs in three consecutive games (7), and most consecutive home runs (4). At the time of his retirement, he was one of only four active players with at least 300 home runs, 1,000 runs and RBIs, 400 doubles, a .280 career batting average, and 150 stolen bases. The others were Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Gary Sheffield, each of whom was at least two years older than Green and with at least 1,400 more at bats. Green was always noted for his smooth swing and his strong and accurate throwing arm (he had 14 outfield assists in 1998). He was also known for tossing his batting gloves to youngsters in the stands after every home run in his home ballpark. Green joins Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax as the best known Jewish players in MLB history.
In September 2012, Green was invited to and proudly represented Team Israel in the qualifying rounds of the World Baseball Classic in Jupiter, Florida. Led by manager and former Dodger catcher Brad Ausmus, Team Israel won their first two games against Team South Africa and Team Spain respectively but fell to Team Spain in the final elimination game by a score of 9-7 in 10 innings. At 39 years old, Green went 3 for 9 (.333) with three singles and one RBI on a team that included 20-year-old top Dodger prospect Joc Pederson.
Green is still actively involved in several charities, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Special Olympics, the Parkinson’s Foundation, and the United Jewish Federation. He donated $250,000 of his salary each year to the Dodgers’ Dream Foundation ($1.5 million over 6 years), supporting the development of 4 Dodger Dream Fields throughout L.A. and for the purchase of books for local elementary schools and youth community programs. He also served as Spokesman for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to promote literacy. In 2011, Green authored a book entitled The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph.
And that, my friends, is why is Shawn Green was (wisely) brought back into the Dodger organization and why he is a hitting and outfield instructor at Dodgers spring training camp.