Wednesday, December 15, 2004
8 Days of Jewish Baseball
Number 15; First Base/Right Field (moved to 1B in 2004 following shoulder surgery)
Los Angeles Dodgers
Sorry this is so late. Between final projects and final tests I haven't had a spare second. I'm not done yet, mind, but I have a couple of days between this afternoon's lab practical (urgh) and Monday's biology final test (uuurgh) and I won't be studying the entire time, so hopefully I'll be able to catch up on here.
Anyways. Shawn Green.
If you were to ask 100 baseball fans from all over the country to name one current Jewish baseball player, 90 of them would name Shawn Green. The other 10 would be Red Sox fans and would name either Youkilis or Kapler, but the point is that, so far as almost everyone outside of Boston is concerned, Shawn Green is the Jewish ballplayer of the modern era.
This is not without reason. Green was very highly anticipated when he was traded to the Dodgers in 1999, both by the Dodgers themselves and the LA Jewish community. He didn't really break out until 2001 however, when he had career-highs in homeruns, RBI and total bases. He hit 49 homeruns that season, which set a Dodger single-season record. He appeared in more games that year than any other Dodger, playing in 161 of 162. The only game he missed was on Yom Kippur, when he famously refused to play, even though the holiday fell during the playoffs.
In 2002 he became the 14th player ever to hit four homeruns in one game. The bat that he used to hit the 4 homers was on display in the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of a 2002 Highlights exhibit. He went to the 2002 All-Star game as well.
Green's 2003 season is generally regarded as being weaker than it ought to have been, with him hitting .280 with 19 homeruns. Despite this, he still led the team in hits, RBI, runs scored, doubles, total bases, at-bats, and walks. It eventually came to light that Green had been playing with a shoulder injury all season, and in the off-season he had surgery on it. This was what prompted his shift from the outfield to first base, as the Dodgers decided that the infield would put less strain on the recovering right shoulder.
Something that worries Dodgers fans is that Green seems prone to batting slumps. This is in part because he has a long and sort of complicated swing, which either is working or isn't. When it is working, Green can churn out a 2002 season. When it isn't really working, he'll struggle for a while until he gets back on line.
One of the first things Green did when he got to LA was to meet with the legendary Jewish player and former Dodger Sandy Koufax, who is a bit of a hero to him. In fact, one of the reasons Green came to LA in the first place, rather than signing to a multi-year deal with Toronto (where he had had his breakout season) was that he wanted to play in "a major league city with a large Jewish population".
He has been active in the Jewish community of LA, taking part in various Jewish charities and the like. Still, he is most famous and most beloved by Jews for his much-publicized refusal to play on Yom Kippur, both in 2001 and again in 2004, despite the fact that in 2004 the Dodgers were in a close race with the Giants for the playoffs (a race that the Dodgers would eventually lose).
And, as if you needed any more reason to like the guy: Dave Roberts. Shawn Green. Imminent butt pat. Glee.
Tomorrow's Jewish Baseball Player of the Day is (was?) number 19. And if you don't know who that is (and can't guess, tomorrow being the last day), I am verily ashamed of you.