When New York Mets fans think back to the integral components of the dominant 2006 team, names like David Wright, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran are usually among the first to come to mind. The Mets also had one of the best catchers in recent memory on their team that year in Paul Lo Duca, and some outstanding relievers in Chad Bradford, Pedro Feliciano, and Billy Wagner.
However, one of my favorite 2006 Mets that I had not thought about in a long time until recently was Shawn Green. He mostly played right field for the Mets, appearing in 31 games in ’06 before ending his career with the orange and blue the following year in ’07. The Mets acquired Green via trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 22, 2006, in exchange for Evan MacLane, a left-handed pitcher who only appeared in two games in his MLB career.
“That was something I had the ability to block, but I was excited about the opportunity,” said Green in a 2020 interview with Metsmerized Online. “When I left [the Los Angeles Dodgers] at the end of ’04 they asked me to waive my no-trade. . . After a year and a half [playing for the Diamondbacks], when I knew that the Mets were looking to make a trade, I was pretty excited about the opportunity to. . . be on a good team with a chance to win a World Series and play in the biggest market. I had a lot of guys that I felt comfortable with as soon as I walked in the clubhouse and everyone was very welcoming when I got there.”
Besides his outstanding walkup song, “Song 2” by Blur, one specific play from Green’s Mets tenure stands out to me.
During Game 1 of the 2006 NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the top of the second inning, John Maine was on the mound for the Amazins. He delivered a pitch to Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who shot it way past Green into right field for a hit.
As Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew were muscling their way around the bases, Green played the carom off the wall perfectly and delivered a strong relay throw to the cutoff man Jose Valentin, who fired it home to Lo Duca. Inexplicably, he tagged both Kent and Drew out at the plate for a rare “home plate double play.” This was one of the oddest plays on a baseball field that I’ve ever had the fortune to witness in real time, and our old friend Green was right in the middle of it.
In that memorable 2006 Mets postseason, Green was right in the thick of things at the plate as well as in the field. He hit .333 in the NLDS and .304 in the NLCS in 32 combined at-bats, tying for the team lead with three doubles. Of course, we all know that his efforts were for naught as the Mets did not advance past the NLCS, but Green, along with the rest of us, remembers that year very fondly.
“There were two things that made that team really good. One was the bullpen,” said Green in an interview with Scott Rogowsky discussing the ’06 Mets. “If I was building a team, I’d start with the bullpen [to] shorten the game to six innings. A lot of teams do that now, right?
“And I think the other area that made that team really good was the left side of the infield. Having two young, energetic superstars just coming into their own, David Wright and Jose Reyes. And there were a lot of good veteran guys around, guys like Beltran, Delgado, Lo Duca. But I think having that youthful energy was a good mix [with] that rock-solid bullpen.”
During that afore-mentioned NLDS, Green was facing off against his former team. From 2000 through 2004, Green played for the Dodgers and had a number of outstanding seasons in Los Angeles. His tenure there included two consecutive top-six finishes in NL MVP voting, two years of 40+ home runs, and over 155 games played every year. In fact, his 49 home runs in 2001 is still the all-time single-season record for a Dodgers player.
Green also achieved one of the rarest feats in baseball as a Dodger when he hit four home runs in a game on May 23, 2002. He went 6-for-6, scoring six runs to tie another single-game record. Green is one of just 18 players in Major League history to hit four home runs in a game (no one in a Mets uniform has ever done it), and set a new Major League record by accumulating 19 total bases in that one game. This game is regarded by some baseball experts as the single-greatest offensive game in MLB history.
Several years prior, Green became the first member of the Toronto Blue Jays ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season, which he did in 1998, and set many Blue Jays rookie records in his first full debut season there in 1995, in which he finished 5th in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Though Green was at the tail end of his baseball tenure when he was with the Mets, he was concluding a remarkable career that I don’t think gets talked about enough in the general baseball world. Green retired with 2,003 hits, 328 home runs, over 1,000 RBIs and runs scored, and a career .283 batting average. When he retired, he was one of just four active players to have 300 homers, 1,000 RBIs and runs scored, 150 stolen bases, 400 doubles, and a .280 average. The elite company he kept? Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., and Gary Sheffield.
Since his retirement after the 2007 season, Green has embarked on a number of interesting projects. In 2011, he published a book called The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph, which detailed how he approached the mental side of the game and how the intricacies of baseball informed other aspects of his life. He discussed these themes of his book in a wonderful 2012 TED Talk, which is well worth a watch.
Green has also branched out into the tech world. In 2014, he founded a company called Greenfly, which creates technology that many MLB teams are using today.
“At first, it was a way to. . . capture content in all the games and have it all fall back to the league and the teams,” Green told MMO in 2020. “It was sort of a back-end infrastructure for the movement of content around each game, and then they added the players to the mix and allowed them to get access to their own personal galleries.
“In baseball, I think over 600 players now have our app on their phone and all the photo content and a lot of video content run through our platform. When players get off the field, they’ll have their photos and highlights and things from the games.”
When Green played baseball, he was a jack-of-all-trades, winning a Gold Glove, hitting 20+ homers in seven different seasons, and stealing 20+ bases four straight years. Clearly in his retirement from playing the game itself, he has sought a similarly balanced life.
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Every baseball fan has those players that capture their attention without necessarily being a star for their favorite team. Back in 2006 and 2007, Shawn Green was that Mets player for me. Though his many exceptional years came before he debuted in Queens, he will always be one of my sentimental favorites from those Amazin’ Mets teams.