Sarah's Take: Green Exceeds Expectations
It seems every Dodger fan is a Shawn Green fan now, but it was not that way a year ago.
After having an excellent start to the 2000 season, Green had a difficult second half. Many people began to criticize him and question if the Dodgers made another mistake in signing him to a six-year, $84 million contract. I think the way Shawn has carried himself and the team this season has shown everybody that he deserved the contract.
When the Dodgers obtained Shawn Green from the Toronto Blue Jays for Raul Mondesi, the expectations, in my opinion, were unreal. The Dodgers made us believe that if they had a good left-handed power hitter such as Green, they would win the World Series. This was ridiculous because no single player can turn a team with a losing record into a world champion. The Dodgers had many holes to fill before they would be a serious contender in the Western Division. Getting Green filled one of their holes. I didn't like the pressure that they were putting on Green. I thought they were setting up Green for failure and to be disliked by Dodger fans.
When Green came to Los Angeles, most people expected that he would have statistics similar to those he had in Toronto in 1999. I truly believe this was unfair to him. I think the American League has smaller stadiums, and the pitchers don't rely on fastballs as much as they do in the National League. I've come to believe that every player who switches leagues must make adjustments as a person who moves to a new town does.
When I moved from California to Texas, I had to make adjustments and it took a while. I had to learn where to get food and medical care. I left some friends in California, so I had to make new friends from whom I could get advice.The culture of a small town in Texas is different from urban California, and it took getting used to.
Though Green had grown up in Southern California, he had not played there regularly. He had spent his career with the Toronto Blue Jays. Although he sometimes disagreed with the coaches' philosophies, the coaches knew what he could do and knew what to look for when Green was struggling. He had friends who had come through the minor league system with him and he could confide in them about his dreams, fears, and hopes. Green knew most of the opposing pitchers, so he knew what was coming.
Shawn, obviously, was excited to return home to Los Angeles, but he still had many adjustments to make. He didn't know any of the Dodger players before he signed with the team, so he didn't feel comfortable confiding in them. The coaching staff did not know him so if he developed a problem with his swing, it took longer to detect it and fix it. Since he had not faced many of the pitchers before, every game was a learning experience. I also think being from the Southern California area, he had demands for tickets for his family and friends and demands on his time making it difficult to focus on baseball.
Though Green had a satisfactory 2000 season (.269 with 24 home runs and 99 RBIs), he received criticism for not playing up to his potential. This upset me because I knew Green was trying his best. I know how I feel when I cannot meet expectations. It is the worst feeling in the world. This year Green has said that last year he was pressing to justify his large contract. "Potential" is a dangerous word in baseball.
When a player is labeled with potential, the expectations get incredibly high. If the player does not perform at the expected level, he gets much criticism from the team and in the media. Green got an incredible amount of criticism, but to his credit, Green never made excuses for his sub standard performance. This made him popular with his teammates and made a big impression on me.
This spring training, Green was looking to impress the Dodgers. The first game of the exhibition schedule Green tore ligaments in his thumb, which made him miss most of spring training. Green was a bit slow out of the gate when the season started. It was understandable, but many Dodger fans grew impatient with him. Even I wrote in May about Green "the most disappointing Dodger."
When the Dodgers had to place Gary Sheffield and Eric Karros on the disabled list, Shawn stepped up his game. He has been amazing. Since the All-Star break Green has tied for the most home runs hit in the Major Leagues. This week he has established the franchise record for the most home runs in a season.
Shawn is the Dodgers' best left-handed power hitter since Duke Snider. Though I never saw Snider play, I have heard about him since I became a Dodger fan. Snider was in a song that named all of the great center fielders who played in New York during the early the 1950s and all of them have been immortalized in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
I am excited about witnessing Shawn's magnificent season. Unlike Sheffield, who tied Snider's single season record for most home runs in a single season by a Dodger last year, I believe Green knows who Duke Snider is.
As most Dodger fans do, I hope Shawn Green hits fifty home runs this year. Since he has become a Dodger, he has played every regular season game, but this streak will end on September 26 because the right fielder wants to observe Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish religion.
The media is making much more out of this than they should. Some papers have claimed Green should put the divisional race ahead of his religious beliefs. To me, Shawn should not be criticized for observing his religious holiday. If the Dodgers cannot win without him, they do not deserve a playoff berth.
Every Dodger fan should respect Green's decision and support him.
This year Shawn Green has surpassed everyone's expectations, except maybe his own.