1997: Once again it was not to be an easy season for Shawn although personally I think a lot of his earlier problems were not of his own doing, but as I say this is a personal feeling with no proof to collaborate it.
Spring training was the best so far for Green. He had worked hard over the winter to gain muscle because as anyone who has met him will tell you he is not by any means a big guy apart from his 6 foot 4 frame. He also came into spring training with a new confidence. He knew that this could be his year and had the determination to make it just that. He was not trying to hit home run every time he went up to bat as he had to start the previous season but was waiting on pitches and pulling the ball more. He was without doubt one of the best hitters in spring with only Delgado coming anywhere close.
He ended the spring with the highest on base percentage and he also in one game achieved something he had not done since he was twelve years old. He hit two home runs in one game. In that one game he had 4 hits and 5 RBIs. As for the rest of the team well they could not hit the broad side of a barn and this would continue all through the season but it was Shawn who ended up paying the ultimate price by loosing his job for a month in mid May and early June.
As usual he started the season slowly but so did the rest of the team. In fact his less than stellar work at the plate was right in line with everyone else, but it was him as usual who took all the blame. Who cared if the rest of the team was hitting mostly in the low .230s, lets make an example of Green (Who was hitting in the high .220s)
Ruben Sierra was signed to a short Minor League contract after being released from the Cincinnati Reds. It was clear though that he would not stay in the Minors long and he was going to take Greens job that was at the time playing in left field.
Being the gentleman that he is Green did nothing or say anything to show the hurt and humiliation he had to be feeling, although each time I saw him after he had stopped playing for that month the hurt showed more in his eyes. There was always a smile and how you doin but the sadness could not be hidden.
As I had known Shawn for quite a long time at this point I felt that hurt for him too. He was my favorite player who had always treated me with the greatest respect but once he stopped playing and I could see him getting more and more down with each game that I saw him and I started to hope for his sake that Gord Ash would be successful in his efforts to trade him. There was no way that he deserved to be treated the way he was. It would hurt a lot to see him go but I didnt want his career to be totally ruined. He deserved much better and to lose his job to someone who was basically washed up as a player must have been somewhat of the ultimate insult.
When I saw him on May 29 just before the Jays left for Oakland I thought this may well be good bye as there were so many rumors about trades (at the time a big one was Shawn in a package for Mark McGwire). It seemed that he would not be back. I said good-bye to him and that was the worst game I had ever been to. Dont even remember if the Jays won. I just wanted Shawn to be back in the line up where he belonged, be it with the Jays or another team. I waited for the team bus to leave that day with a deep sadness. I saw Shawn looking out of the window and then I headed home with a heavy heart.
Shawn only got to start one game on that road trip on June 1st. He did himself no favors by not getting a hit, but I can understand why. He had not played in close to three weeks and with the lack of playing time and surly some emotional problems too the pressure must have been enormous to get out there and hit home run after home run. The Jays returned to Toronto on June 5th and Shawn was still a part of the team although he was still not playing.
June 6th must have been a great day for Shawn. The Jays released Sierra and Green was back in the line up. He would share left field and DH duties with Joe Carter until Orlando Merced was out of the line up with shoulder injuries but the real smile returned, and did he make an impact.
On June 7th against Seattle he repeated his what he had done in spring training. He hit two home runs in one game. The first time in his Major League career. The smile I received after that game (I was lucky enough to be sitting right beside the dugout) was worth a million bucks! As he went back to the dugout after the game I called to him and the wave and the smile said it all. He was so happy and so was I. He knew that I had faith in him when so many others condemned him and that smile was more than enough thanks for all the extra money that I had spent going to games that I could not really afford to attend just to give him some much needed support. He had always been good to me and I felt that if a few kind words would help him get through then I would do my best to be there to give them. It was my way of saying thank you to him.
June 17 was also another big day for Green. Once again he hit two home runs in that game, the first coming off the great Greg Maddox of the Atlanta Braves who until that point had only given up one home run that season. Surly a few people must have been feeling a little silly at that point for bring about the Sierra Fiasco. There were players who should not have been playing on an every day bases but continued to do so, but Shawn was soon to become an every day player too. At last he would get the chance to hit against lefties as well as righties and yeah, he did pretty good. In fact his average for a while was better against the lefties and at the end of the season was still more than respectable.
He ended the season with the highest batting average of the regular players .287. He may not have been the big name of the AL but surly someone apart from his family and friends must have saw that he was one of the best of a once again sub .500 team.
The only team members that did anything in this sloppy season were of course Roger Clemens who as we all know went on to win the second Cy Young in a row for the Jays. Carlos Delgado who hit for power as usual but had a nasty strike out rate. Pat Hentgen and the addition of Jose Cruz Jr made an impact too but as a regular at the Dome it was more than apparent that this was not a happy team. They did not enjoy playing together and they did not care if they won or lost. They just wanted it to be over.
I was at the Dome on the day that Cito Gaston was fired and you could tell there was a whole new atmosphere there. I do not wish to bash Cito as he did help bring Toronto two world series championships but he made it more than obvious in the past season he really did not care too much about his team and it was just a thing to make him look hard done by. He made it clear he did not like Green right from the time he came to the majors and it is my belief that he did all he could to ruin his career. Why I guess only the two of them will ever know but thankfully at least for Green the Gaston era was over. Even after all the put downs he received from Gaston once again Green never said a word. He knew the truth and surly that was all that mattered.
The last game of the season though there was an air of expectancy. If Roger could pitch as he had that season, Pat pitch like he did in 96 Shawn (who had the game winning double in that final game) hit all season like he had after his return to the line up and Cruz continue the way he had in his rookie season then the 98 Jays may just be in with a chance.
The 97 season ended on a positive note for him with high hopes for the future.