Sarah's Take: Shawn Green
Shawn Green inked a six-year contract worth $84 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers last November. After the acquisition of Green many Dodger fans and the Dodger management believed the Dodgers would have a playoff berth. This expectation was unrealistic and unfair to Green. The first two months of the regular season Green excelled both offensively and defensively. Then the National League pitchers discovered Greenís weaknesses and began to exploit them causing him to slump. Though the presence of Green did not accomplish what the Dodgers wanted, Green was and will be an asset to the Dodgers for many years.
Shawn Green has given the Dodgers quiet elegance, and the Dodgers have missed it since Orel Hershiser left in 1994. As a fellow Jewish American, Green admires Sandy Koufax who has the same quiet elegance. During his struggles Green never made excuses or complained. After June the Dodger clubhouse must have been unpleasant with the Dodger management criticizing Davey Johnson. Green has been reported as saying Davey Johnson was the best manager that he ever had. Being a sensitive individual, Green was bothered by the criticism of Johnson. After June he slumped.
Offensively Green did not contribute as much as the Dodgers had hoped or wanted, but he did offer balance to a right-hand dominated lineup. Coming off a specular 1999 season when he batted .309 with 42 home runs, 123 RBI, and 20 stolen bases, the Dodgers believed Green would spearhead their offensive attack. In April he batted .309 with five home runs and fifteen RBI, and in May he batted .367 with five home runs and 24 RBI. At one stretch he reached base for about fifty odd straight games. The National League pitchers started changing their patterns to him. They threw a curve ball or changeup as their first pitch, so Green would be frozen at the plate when a fastball came. Greenís swing lengthened making it difficult to make solid contact with the ball. He thought lengthening his swing would increase his power, but it only increased his strikeouts. In June he hit .260 with two home runs and 18 RBI. The month of July was a disaster for him when he hit .192, had five home runs, and drove in 13 RBI. He rebounded from July, but his production never equaled what it was in April and May. His seasonal totals of a .269 batting average, 24 home runs, 99 RBI, and 24 stolen bases were completely acceptable but did not meet the lofty Dodger expectations. Unlike most Dodgers, Green had a decent on-base percentage of .367 even with 121 strikeouts and 90 walks.
The defense was a problem for the 2000 Dodgers, but Green provided a steady presence in right field. Because he had not played in most National League stadiums before, he had to learn the territory everywhere. He played with four different center fielders. These factors decreased his range, but he still covered an adequate area. It seemed he was always in the correct spot when a fly ball was hit to right field. Green has an incredible throwing arm that made low accurate throws. He had nine assists. Unlike other Dodger outfielders, he gave it his all. In 161 games he committed six errors resulting in a .980 fielding percentage. Coming off his first gold glove season, he probably will not earn his second in 2000, but it is conceivable he might earn many during his career.
Though Shawn Green did not meet lofty expectations, he played a crucial role in the Dodger success in 2000. He provided good offense from the left side and steady defense in right field. He was the only Dodger to play 162 games this season, so fatigue might have affected his performance. At 27 Green is entering his prime, so he should have many good years to come.