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Happy Birthday Shawn Green

Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Shawn Green turns 50 today.

Shawn was the Blue Jays’ pick in the 1st round of the 1991 amateur draft out of high school in Tustin, California. Manny Ramirez was picked up two spots before him. We got the pick from San Francisco as compensation for their signing of our free agent, Bud Black. Shawn received a $725,000 signing bonus.

Shawn quickly rose through the Jays’ minor league system, instantly becoming the top prospect (well, it was a tossup between him and Carlos Delgado) from the moment he signed. In 1992 he made the Florida State league’s All-Star team, his first full season in the minors playing A-ball. The following season, playing in Double-A, he broke his right thumb in June. After recovering, he was called near the end of September, was hitless in 6 at-bats, and sat on the bench during our World Series win. In 1994 Green won the team MVP award for Triple-A Syracuse, and he led the International League in batting at .344. He was called up to the Jays in early June and sent back down in early July after 33 at-bats.

1995, Shawn’s rookie season was terrific, hitting .288/.326/.509 with 15 home runs in 379 at-bats over 121 games. He came in 5th in Rookie of the Year voting, but he didn’t get to play full-time in right field as Cito Gaston used him in a platoon with Candy Maldonado. In 1996 he didn’t hit quite as well, .280/.342/.448 in 422 at-bats. That season Shawn platooned in right field, with the great (yeah, that’s sarcasm) Jacob Brumfield. In 1997 the right-field job went to an incredibly adequate Orlando Merced. Green played part-time in left and DH until they fired Cito. Then, Mel Queen put him in as an everyday right fielder. Again he had a good season, .287/.340/.469.

Cito did not like Green for some reason. Well, the reason was that Cito preferred veteran players. Cito needed help to trust young players, no matter how talented they were. Green, Carlos Delgado, and Shannon Stewart were prime examples. Green, in particular, seemed to take the brunt of Cito’s mistrust. Green was a fine outfielder with a strong arm, but, under Cito, any mistake or slump was a reason to bench him. They even replaced him with a washed-up Ruben Sierra for a bit. With a player of Green’s potential, all that was inexcusable.

With Cito gone and the legendary (we had a string of less than terrific managers), Tim Johnson in as manager for the 1998 season Shawn (and Delgado and Stewart) finally won the full-time role. And boy, did he show he deserved it. He hit .278/.334/.510 with 100 RBI, 106 runs, 35 homers, and 35 steals, becoming the Blue Jays’ first-ever 30/30 man. As well as hitting amazingly, Green played great outfield, including 31 games in center. He came in 4th in the AL with 14 outfield assists.

In 1999 Green had one of the best seasons by a Blue Jay, hitting .309/.384/.588, with 45 doubles, 42 homers, 134 runs, 123 RBI, and 20 steals. He was 9th in the AL MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger award and a Gold Glove. He finished 2nd in the AL in runs, 1st in doubles and total bases, 5th in home runs, and 6th in RBI. He set the Jays’ franchise records in extra-base hits and runs scored and set a team record with a 28-game hitting streak. His season would have been even better had he not been hit by an Andy Pettitte pitch that fractured a bone in his wrist. That cost him a handful of starts, and after returning from injury, it took a few games to get hitting with power again.

After the season, the Jays announced that Cito Gaston would return as a hitting coach for the 2000 season. Green wasn’t thrilled, as they hadn’t gotten along before, and he decided to ask for a trade closer to his home in California. Our brilliant GM, Gord Ash, traded him with Jorge Nunez to the Dodgers for Raul Mondesi and Pedro Borbon. Mondesi wasn’t a bad player, but he didn’t have the work ethic to become the star we hoped he would (that sounds a bit judgemental, Tom). He had two decent seasons for us, and in the middle of his third season, when he was batting .224, we were fortunate when the Yankees took him off our hands, saving us the rest of his salary.

Shawn was terrific for the Dodgers for five seasons, hitting 49 homers in 2001 and 42 in 2002 though his power numbers declined at the end of his time in LA. In 2005 the Dodgers traded Green to the Diamondbacks. He split his last three seasons between the Diamondbacks and the Mets.

He had a heck of a career, hitting 328 home runs over 15 seasons. His career hitting line was .283/.355/.494. His career numbers could have been much better had Cito realized what he had in Green and given him a full-time job when he should have. But then the world is full of ‘what ifs?’. He was a terrific player; I wish he had stayed longer with the Jays. He was a favourite of mine because he seemed like a very likable person. A left-handed, slugging outfielder with a good glove and strong arm, what’s not to like? Rob Neyer has him as our 2nd best right fielder. I’d imagine he’d drop to third by now.

Shawn is Jewish, likely the best Jewish major leaguer since Sandy Koufax, and is only 2nd to Hank Greenberg in home runs and RBI. And, of course, he is in the Jewish Baseball Hall of Fame. He is married and has two daughters.

He has a (pretty short) autobiography, The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph.

Happy Birthday, Shawn. I hope it is a good one.

Eric Thames turns 36 today.

Eric was our 7th-round draft pick in 2008.

He had a pretty quick run up our minor league ladder. He came up to the Blue Jays in mid-May of 2011. The team featured Juan Rivera (playing mostly DH), hitting .203/.295/.266, Corey Patterson in left .276/.315/.438 and Rajai Davis in center .244/.284/.311 (all lines at the time of promotion), so there was room for improvement. Thames played in 95 games and hit .262/.313/.456 with 12 home runs.

Eric started the 2012 season as our full-time right fielder. At the end of May, he was hitting .23/.288/.365. That and a fielding style that gave us more laughs than catches got him demoted to the minors.

Then, at the trade deadline, he was shipped off the Seattle for Steve Delabar. The same day Travis Snider went to Pittsburgh for Brad Lincoln. Alex Anthopoulos was tired of our underachieving outfield prospects and figured we needed a couple of relievers.

Thames finished the 2012 season hitting the same for the Mariners as for the Jays. He spent 2013 in the minors, bouncing from Seattle to Baltimore to Houston.

He spent 2014 to 2016 playing in the Korean Baseball league. He hit .349/.451/.721 with 124 home runs in 390 games for the NC Dinos.

Numbers like that get you noticed by MLB teams. The Brewers signed him. Eric played in Milwaukee for three seasons, hitting .241/.343/.504, with 72 home runs in 383 games.

In 2020 he was a National, hitting .203/.300/.317 in 41 games. Not surprisingly, the Nationals declined his option for 2021. He played in the A’s minor league system in 2022.

Happy Birthday, Eric.