Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Today in People You Probably Aren’t Talking About: Shawn Green

It’s quite fitting that Shawn Green’s first year of Hall of Fame eligibility coincided with a veritable poop-storm of rancorous Twitterbrawling and controversy over performance-enhancing drugs that allowed his candidacy to go virtually unnoticed.  The svelte outfielder played the bulk of his career during the nadir of the steroid era, when men the size of tractor-trailers abounded in Major League Baseball.  So flying under the radar is kind of a recurring theme for him.

When the ballots were finally tallied and the results revealed -- spoiler: nobody with a pulse got the requisite 75% -- Green received precisely two votes from the 569 chartered members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.  And it makes sense.  By no stretch of the imagination does Green deserve to be enshrined in Cooperstown among the pantheon of baseball legends.  Like countless others, he was a really, really good player who wasn’t quite good enough for the Hall of Fame.  According to Jay Jaffe’s proprietary system, Green’s 30.4 JAWS ranks 60th all-time among right fielders, and well below the threshold of those already inducted at the position.

Since news of the collective snubbery broke, Twitter has erupted with throngs of people calling for election reform, lambasting anyone who didn’t vote for Craig Biggio,  and engaging in sanctimonious nose-thumbing (or is it thumb-nosing?).  But I’m above all that*.  Instead of participating in the virtual pissing-contest, I’m going to take advantage of an opportunity to craft a concise, sentimental tribute to Green, a player who had the misfortune of playing against a backdrop of steroids that effectively dwarfed his career numbers -- numbers that would elicit a heck of a lot of giddiness these days.

*Note: I am, in no way, above all that.

Disclaimer: I’m going to use arbitrary endpoints and pick the stats I like because, darn it, Shawn Green deserves some love from someone!
  • Over 15 major league seasons, Green -- the most accomplished Jewish batsmen since Hank Greenberg -- compiled 42.1 WARP, an impressive figure fueled by 328 homeruns and a .290 True Average.  
  • From 1999-2002, Green slugged 157 homeruns, which accounted for the eighth-most over that span.  When you consider that five of the seven players who precede him on that list (Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Jeff Bagwell) have all either tested positive, admitted to, or been heavily implicated for using performance-enhancing drugs, Green’s power numbers assume even more weight.   
  • Green is one of just 16 players to hit four homeruns in one game, accomplishing the feat on May 23, 2002 as his Los Angeles Dodgers trounced the Milwaukee Brewers 16-3.  Oh, he also added a single and a double to set the major league record for total bases in a game, with 19.
  • Green collected exactly 2,003 career base hits.  The movie Old School was released in 2003, and that’s a kick-ass movie.
  • In 1998, as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, Green hit 35 homeruns and stole 35 bases, making him one of the 38 members of the illustrious 30-30 club.
  • From 1995-2005, Green was one of just ten players with at least 6,500 plate appearances who posted an on-base percentage above .350 and an isolated power greater than .200.  Other names on that list include: Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell, Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez, and Rafael Palmeiro.
  • Over 53 career postseason plate appearances, Green had a .900 OPS.
  • Green was featured on the cover of MLB 2004, making him the last Los Angeles Dodger to grace a video game cover.  Suck it, Matt Kemp.
  • Over 1,951 career games, Green had just one stint on the disabled list, when he fractured the first metatarsal in his right foot back in 2007.  Wimp. 
Green will not appear on any subsequent Hall of Fame ballots as he did not receive the mandatory 5% in this year’s election.  In that case, I guess this serves as something of a eulogy to one of the steroid era’s more unheralded stars (at least, outside of Toronto). 

And while I don’t agree with Chris’s assessment, I applaud his ardor: