Dodgers Dugout: How a Vin Scully comment led to Shawn Green giving away his batting gloves
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and isn’t it amazing how the Fourth of July holiday happened exactly on July 4. What are the odds?
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I asked you to send in questions for Shawn Green, and you certainly responded, with a couple hundred. Guessing that he did not want to spend 24 hours on the phone with me so I chose the ones that were asked most frequently. The person’s name is the one who sent in the question first. Thanks to Shawn for taking time out from his day to answer your questions.
Benjamin King of Hollywood asks: Did you experience antisemitism as a player in the minors or majors?
Green: Only a few times did I experience anything like that, a couple times in the minor leagues. Teammates made comments not knowing I was Jewish. One teammate, who I got along with well was just kind of egging me on with some derogatory comments. Whenever I was like, “OK.” And then, from a fan perspective, there was much more support and love but every city I went to I had Jewish fans that would come to me and say things in Hebrew or Yiddish. But one time a guy looked at me and gave the “Heil Hitler” salute. That was pretty disturbing. I just get more upset that some people kind of have that much anger that they feel like they need to get it out. It just didn’t make any sense to me. So yeah, not many times, but there’s certain ones that strike a nerve, and that one definitely did.
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Don Mattert asks: Who were some of your favorite teammates and why?
Green: I had a lot of great teammates. Focusing on my time in L.A., Dave Roberts was an awesome teammate and we were really close. Dave Ross, Adrián Beltré, too. Eric Karros is a great guy. If I started rattling them off, I don’t want to leave people out. But I enjoyed Jose Lima for the year he was there. He was just a really fun guy in the clubhouse. Paul Lo Duca and I played cards together a lot. Eric Gagné was a good teammate. Matt Herges was always a good friend. So yeah, there’s a lot more good guys. Good friends. Darren Dreifort. Dave Hansen.
David Black asks: I’ve always wondered what players are thinking about in the on-deck circle?
Green: It just depends on the situation. For the most part, it was, what the game situation was, what the pitcher was going to try to do. So for example, if there’s a guy on third base, a lot of pitchers will try to throw fastballs up and in to get you to pop it up. So things like that. Guy on first base, it will be sinkers away to try to get me to ground into a double play. So I’m kind of envisioning the different scenarios in my mind and where I want to see the ball when he releases and how I want to use what he’s trying to get me to do.
Follow up question: In your four-home-run game, when you were on deck, and you’ve hit three homers, are you thinking about a fourth home run? Or are you just treating it like any normal at-bat?
Green: Yeah, of course. So I went up there and I wanted to get a pitch I could drive in the air. ... I think now people are trying to teach launch and all that. I wasn’t thinking any of that, I was just trying to get a pitch that I could square up. That’s what I was trying to do. I got a pitch pretty low. And I hit it really hard. I couldn’t get any lift and it was just a single up the middle. And then [manager] Jim Tracy was gonna pull me out. And I wanted another crack at it. So he let me stay in. So I faced that same pitcher and fortunately, I got a ball a little higher in the zone and I was able to hit it out.
Logan Grindley asks: How did you start giving away your batting gloves to a kid in the stands after a home run?
Green: So I had just gotten to L.A. and I was on deck and noticed that my batting glove had a big rip in it. And I figured “after this at-bat I’ll give them to a kid and get a new pair” because as a kid, I collected baseball cards and balls. And I never wanted to just throw something away if I could give it to a kid. So I hit the home run with the torn glove and after I crossed home I tossed them to a kid in the stands. And then Vin Scully said, “I wonder if that’s something the new guy does after a home run, giving the gloves to the kids.” And whatever Vin says is gospel so I said, “Hey, that’s a great idea.” And from then on, I started doing it. I would forget sometimes in the beginning, and then Mitch Poole, who ran the clubhouse, would come over with a pair of gloves say, “Hey, don’t forget.” And it just became a habit.
David Lehman of New York asks: You played for the Dodgers and the Mets. How would you compare the two fan bases?
Green: I think it’s hard to imagine two better fan bases. Boston’s up there as well. When Eric Gagné was in his heyday, the Dodgers crowd got even louder near the end of games, hoping to see him. Playoff-like atmosphere. And the Dodgers fans are very supportive. In New York, it’s a different type of intensity. And there was something about how Shea Stadium was built that when the crowd got really loud, you could feel the vibrations. And I’m out in the field thinking, “Is this old stadium going to come apart?” You can’t say one is better than the other. They are both great and I was privileged to be able to play in front of both of them.
Larry Gagliardi asks: Which pitchers did you love facing and which did you hate?
Green: I was kind of strange in that I hit better pitchers well, but the hardest pitcher I ever faced was Mariano Rivera, who was almost impossible. Cutters always gave me trouble. But John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, I hit those those guys pretty well. Jason Schmidt, too. I had success against Mike Hampton even though that was lefty vs. lefty. The stars seemed to line up when I faced him. When we’d go to Arizona, I’d do better against Schilling and Johnson than Miguel Batista, because he had that mid-to-high 90s cutter. I had long arms, so guys who could throw the ball hard and into me gave me trouble.
J. Peter Rich asks: You had a really good final season in 2007 with the Mets. Do you ever regret retiring so early? Did you ever consider making a comeback?
Green: I think yes to both. I was pretty burnt out on the lifestyle and all that travel. At the time, I had two young girls who are now in college and the latter part of high school. I don’t regret being home all the time for them. I felt like I still had a lot left in the tank. But as you get to the end of your career, you know, you have a bad week or two it’s like, “Oh, he’s over the hill” or “He’s getting slower.” So it gets a little more exhausting. I think it’s almost like you have to prove yourself all the time in the beginning and then prove yourself all the time again at the end. But the driving force more than anything was just being away from home. So I don’t regret that side of it. Every time spring training came around, your body and mind are so in tune to that rhythm until the holidays are over and then it’s let’s get ramped up for spring training. And that’s when it would cross my mind.
Greg Mockry asks: What is Shawn Green doing these days?
Green: Family is first and foremost for me, so I get to be around for everything my family’s doing. My girls, both are dancers. So all that type of stuff. And I co-founded a company called Greenfly software. We work with most leagues and teams around the world to automate and loop their short form content. So photos and videos, all run through our platform, the players have access to everything immediately when they get off the field, or the court or whatever it is. Yes, I co-founded it. And we’re based in Santa Monica, we have about 40 employees now. And so I spend quite a bit of time on that as well. And I like to golf, too.
After talking to Shawn, I looked up what he did against some of the pitchers he mentioned. The memory of a baseball player is amazing.
Mike Hampton: .621, 18 for 29, 2 doubles, 5 homers, 17 RBIs
John Smoltz: .543, 19 for 35, 3 doubles, 1 homer, 3 RBIs
Greg Maddux: .429, 15 for 35, 3 doubles, 3 homers, 10 RBIs
Tom Glavine: 382, 13 for 34, 4 doubles, 3 homers, 8 RBIs
Curt Schilling: .302, 13 for 43, 1 double, 2 homers, 2 RBIs
Randy Johnson: .281, 16 for 57, 4 doubles, 2 homers, 2 RBIs
Miguel Batista: .167, 6 for 36, 1 homer, 6 RBIs
Mariano Rivera: .154, 2 for 13
The perils of the online world
On Friday, Freddie Freeman returned to Atlanta for the first time since he signed with the Dodgers. He was very emotional, as you would expect anyone would be if they returned to the place they played for 13 seasons. Add in the fact he signed with the Braves out of high school and won a World Series with them last season, then left in unhappy circumstances, and you’d expect there to be a lot of emotions.
Some fans on social media didn’t like it.
Then Clayton Kershaw made the following comment to the Atlanta Journal Constitution: “It was very cool [to see Freeman’s reception Friday night]. He’s obviously been a big contributor for our team. And I hope we’re not second fiddle. It’s a pretty special team over here, too. I think whenever he gets comfortable over here, he’ll really enjoy it. It was a good night for him [Friday].”
The “second fiddle” and “gets comfortable over here” lines made more Dodgers fans hop aboard the “Freddie Freeman hates being in L.A. and would rather be with the Braves” bandwagon.
Then someone online found a photo of Freeman sitting alone in the Dodgers dugout, with the rest of the team up on the railing. This was used as proof that Freeman was unhappy here, despite there being no context for the photo and despite: 1. Isolating a player on the bench is a favored prank pulled by a lot of teams on new teammates and 2. I could search the Times archives and find a photo of pretty much any Dodger sitting alone in the dugout while his teammates are elsewhere.
Then, Freeman has already or is about to dismiss the agent who handled his negotiations with the Braves (who, if you believe reports Wednesday, neglected to inform Freeman of the Braves’ final offer, a report the agent vehemently denies), and social media pronounced Freeman as miserable with the Dodgers.
It got so bad, Freeman had to talk about it Tuesday, saying “If you were in a relationship for 15 years, and it ended, you’re going to have feelings. And I’ve had feelings. I’ve been going through this process of grieving and now I’m in the healing process and the moving-on process. … There needs to be closure. It’s time. I’m a Dodger. I’m a Dodger for the next six years and that’s where my focus lies.”
And for those who think he’d rather be with the Braves?
“Everyone’s gonna perceive how they want to perceive it. I spent 15 years with the Atlanta Braves. I wasn’t gonna try to be a macho man about my feelings, about how I had a great time with the Atlanta Braves. That time is over. I’m a Los Angeles Dodger now. If they want to perceive me, how I feel about an organization I spent half my life with, then that’s how they want to perceive me. That’s fine. I’m OK with that. But I’ve had three months. I’ve had time to grieve and do all my research and gather information. It’s time to move on and focus on the Dodgers. And that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
And Kershaw spoke to Freeman and told him he meant no disrespect. Freeman says the original comment didn’t bother him.
Since mind reading isn’t a specialty of mine (and isn’t for anyone who says any of this is proof Freeman doesn’t want to be a Dodger), all Dodgers fans need to know about Freeman’s love of playing for the Dodgers is this: He’s hitting .308/.391/.497 overall and .348/.464/.652 against the Braves. The rest doesn’t really matter.
Padres come to town
The San Diego Padres, who apparently will be battling for the NL West crown all season with the Dodgers, come to town for the first time this season. The Dodgers won two of three in San Diego back in April. The teams don’t play each other again until August. The Padres are without Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado because of injuries. Machado, who sprained an ankle, could be back as a pinch-hitter or DH against the Dodgers. Tatis, who broke his wrist in the offseason, won’t be back until sometime after the All-Star break.
In like a lamb
The Dodgers added Jake Lamb to the active roster on Tuesday and put Zack McKinstry on the IL because of a stiff neck. Lamb is a former All-Star with Arizona who was hitting .290 with 15 home runs at triple-A Oklahoma City. He’ll be used most often at DH for the Dodgers, according to Roberts.
Obscure Dodger stat of the week
Who are the best and worst pinch-hitters in L.A. Dodgers history (the further back you go, the more incomplete the records are, so to be fair, we limit this to L.A. Dodgers only). Here’s the top and bottom 10, minimum 50 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.
Jeff Treadway, .349, 15 for 43, 1 double, 1 triple, 5 RBIs
Pedro Guerrero, .344, 21 for 61, 3 doubles, 2 homers, 13 RBIs
Manny Mota, .321, 106 for 330, 12 doubles, 1 triple, 1 homer, 81 RBIs
Tom Haller, .313, 15 for 48, 1 double, 2 homers, 14 RBIs
Justin Turner, .302, 26 for 86, 6 doubles, 7 homers, 27 RBIs
Steve Garvey, .302, 19 for 63, 2 doubles, 2 triples, 11 RBIs
Chris Taylor, .301, 22 for 73, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homers, 15 RBIs
Mike Kinkade, .298, 17 for 57, 6 doubles, 8 RBIs
Juan Pierre, .296, 21 for 71, 1 double, 2 triples, 1 RBI
Lee Lacy, .291, 34 for 117, 6 doubles, 8 homers, 19 RBIs
Len Matuszek, .109, 6 for 55, 2 doubles, 1 homer, 8 RBIs
Danny Heep, .114, 9 for 79, 2 doubles, 7 RBIs
Nelson Liriano, .146, 7 for 48, 3 doubles, 5 RBIs
Rick Dempsey, .146, 7 for 48, 2 doubles, 5 RBIs
Jorge Orta, .150, 9 for 60, 2 doubles, 1 homer, 5 RBIs
Gil Hodges, .153, 9 for 59, 1 double, 6 RBIs
Greg Brock, .153, 9 for 59, 3 doubles, 3 RBIs
Jason Grabowski, .167, 16 for 96, 5 doubles, 2 homers, 8 RBIs
Hee-Seop Choi, .167, 8 for 48, 2 doubles, 1 homer, 4 RBIs
Stan Javier, .168, 17 for 101, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 homer, 8 RBIs
Most pinch hits as an L.A. Dodger
Dave Hansen, 110
Manny Mota, 106
Chris Gwynn, 52
Olmedo Saenz, 49
Mitch Webster, 49
Andre Ethier, 40
Mike Sharperson, 39
Mickey Hatcher, 38
Rick Monday, 34
Lee Lacy, 34
I’m off next week, so no newsletter until the week of July 10. Now, you may be asking yourself “What kind of lazy person takes off during the season when he has all offseason to rest?” Well, the young ones are off during the summer, so I take time off to do things with them. Plus, you get a break from my ramblings for a week. It’s win-win.
Tonight: San Diego (Joe Musgrove, 8-1, 2.12 ERA) at Dodgers (Mitch White, 1-1, 4.25 ERA), 7 p.m., SportsNet LA, FS1, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Friday: San Diego (*Blake Snell, 0-5, 5.60 ERA) at Dodgers (Tony Gonsolin, 9-0, 1.58 ERA), 7 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Saturday: San Diego (Yu Darvish, 7-3, 3.26 ERA) at Dodgers (*Tyler Anderson, 8-1, 3.23 ERA), 4:15 p.m., Fox, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Sunday: San Diego (*Mackenzie Gore, 4-3, 3.34 ERA) at Dodgers (*Clayton Kershaw, 5-2, 2.94 ERA), 1 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
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Vin Scully with a story about Ernie Harwell. Watch and listen here.
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