There are certain moments that every Dodgers fan can remember like it was yesterday. How about game 1 of the 1988 world series? Gibson limps to the plate, stares Dennis Eckersley right in the eye, and pulls a backdoor slider over the right field wall. Then there was that amazing game where Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin, and Marlon Anderson all hit back to back home runs in one inning, only for Nomar to hit another in the following inning! Wow, five home runs in one game, let alone four in one inning, sure is something.
Well how about four home runs in one game by the same person? Ring a bell? That’s right, this week’s throwback is going to highlight the one and only, Shawn Green! However, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Lets go back to the beginning.
It is November 8th, 1999, and the Dodgers just traded Raul Mondesi, a fan favorite and 1994 NL rookie of the year, to Toronto for outfielder Shawn Green, a contender for the 1995 AL rookie of the year. Mondesi had been having internal problems with the club and Green wanted to move closer to home in Southern California, so why not make the two comparable slugging outfielders happy?
In 1999, according to baseball reference, Mondesi hit .253 with 33 home runs and 99 RBIs, whereas Green hit a phenomenal .309 with 42 home runs and 123 RBIs. We were giving up one of our most beloved for a player who was going to be the next big thing, and not at a cheap price either. At the time, Green was given one of the biggest contracts at roughly 14 million a year for six years. It was a heavy investment, but the 26-year old’s numbers were worth gambling on.
Unfortunately, Green didn’t become the hollywood star everybody was hoping for his first year with the boys in blue, having only hit .269 with 24 home runs and 99 RBIs. Things were looking down for the new Dodger, but he would have the year of his life in 2001. The year that would cement him into franchise history.
In 2001, Green produced just like we knew he would and lived up to his costly contract. The outfielder hit .297 with 49 home runs and 125 RBIs! The 49 home runs and 125 RBIs would be the most he would ever produce in his career in a single season. Not only that, the 49 home runs to this day is a franchise record for most home runs hit by a Dodger in a single season. This season was so good that he would finish 6th in National League MVP voting, finishing only behind players like Pujols, Sosa, and Bonds.
He’d go on to produce similar numbers the next year hitting .285 with 42 home runs and 114 RBIs. This season would also produce his second trip to the All-Star game and a 5th place spot this time around in the National League MVP voting. Not only did he have another star worthy year, but he would have a star worthy game that would become engrained into Dodger fan’s memories forever.
On May 23, 2002, against the Milwaukee Brewers, Shawn Green would go six for six with four home runs and seven RBIs. According to Baseball Almanac, Green’s four home runs ties the record for most home runs in a single game and his 19 total bases is the most total bases recorded in a single game! To top it off, the next game he would hit another home run and the game after that, he hit two more, setting the MLB record for most home runs hit in three consecutive games. It really doesn’t get more Hollywood than that!
Green went on to play for the Diamondbacks from 2005-2006 and the Mets from 2006-2007, which would be his final year in the MLB; However, he would never bounce back after his amazing 2001 and 2002 seasons, slowly declining in most statistics after that.
So why isn’t Green seen as one of the greats or, at the very least, repeatedly brought up in Dodgers discussions? The truth is, although Green hit a solid .280 with 162 home runs over five years with the Dodgers, he never truly lived up to expectations. This is the tragic truth behind Green’s entire career really: an exceptional player who is overlooked due to “unmet expectations.” To visualize this, look at this graph that compares his salary with his WAR.
From 1995 to 2002, excluding a rough 2000 season, Green produced well over his cost and showed why he was worth the big bucks. Sadly, after that his production was well under his cost, and when teams are dishing out big money for a player, they expect big numbers. This is why Green isn’t known as one of the better Dodgers to play the game. This is why he never truly reached that Hollywood status that players like Steve Garvey, Clayton Kershaw, and even Manny Ramirez did with the Dodgers. He was cursed with high expectations, so when he produced great numbers they were looked down upon for not being amazing numbers.
Regardless, what can’t be taken away from Green was his impeccable work ethic. Not only was he a hard worker, constantly practicing and looking to get better, but he was dependable. Green played over 155 games every season during his time with the Dodgers. He even made the switch to first base when the club was desperate to fill the spot. Shawn Green was such a standard when it came to work-ethic and mindset that he even hosted a Ted Talk on the very subject!
The early 2000s’ front office may have been disappointed with Green’s performance. Dodgers manager Jim Tracy may have been disappointed with his performance. Even Green himself might have been disappointed with his performance. To us fans, however, Green will always be one of our favorite players from the era. His determination, his success at the plate, and his historical moments have given him a spot in the hearts of fans for ages to come.
His presence is missed at Dodger Stadium, but never forgotten. Thanks for the memories, Shawn Green.