All The Tools
By George Valencia
Photo's By Jon SooHoo Photography
If five-tool players in baseball are rare, six-tool guys might be virtually non-existent. Five-tool guys have the unique ability to hit for average, hit for power, run with above average speed, throw well and handle their position with deft precision. Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Alex Rodrodiguez and Nomar Garciaparra come to mind.
Six-tool players? They possess all of the above and a great attitude, which makes them stand alone.
The Dodgers have such a player in right fielder, Shawn Green, who returned to his Southern California roots in December when he came came to Los Angles as part of a four player trade with the Toronto Blue Jays.
His employers love his baseball skills, and his teammates marvel at his attitude.
"He's a five-tool player, but all I call him is a six-tool player because of his attitude," said Dodger left fielder Gary Sheffield. " I think his attitude is the best weapon he has because that is something you can't really teach a guy."
"Shawn is a winner. He comes in early every day and does everything possible to make himself better and make people around him better. As a teammate, you see that eventually starts to rub off on other guys."
With his five tools and exemplary attitude in tow, Green came to the Dodgers amid a torrent of fanfare and huge expectations. He had just come off his best season as a major leaguer, hitting .309 with 42 home runs and 123 RBI to solidify his status as as one of baseballs top young players. And he was coming home, which has proven to be a difficult transition for many players because of the demands of friends and family.
But Green, who grew up in nearby Tustin and graduated from Tustin High School, has given all the Dodgers expected and more.
"We knew we were getting a special player when we traded for Shawn and he hasn't disappointed," Dodger executive Vice President and General Manager, Kevin Malone said of the left handed Green. "He gives us such a solid presence in the everyday lineup and he does so many other things as well. He can hit the ball out of the park one minute, and then he can turn around and throw a guy out at the plate. Or, he can steal a base when the situation calls for it."
"And he's always got such a great attitude about
Graceful yet powerful, Green got off to a fast start in his first season with the Dodgers. His batting average soared to a first half high of .341after 46 games with nine home runs and 33 RBI. During that stretch, he smacked 18 doubles, and had 18 multi hit games and did not go more than two consecutive without a hit. This while handling an onslaught of interview requests from local and national media outlets and adjusting to life in the National League following parts of seven campaigns in the American League.
"It's definitely been a big adjustment," said Green, who last season among the top 10 A.L., batters in nine of 15 offensive categories, including total bases, doubles, and extra base hits. "It's been harder in some aspects than I thought it would be, but it has been easier in other aspects. So far, though I think things have gone well."
Green has proven to be the missing link in a lineup that for sometime had been laden with right-handed hitters. His presence gives the order balance while providing added protection for sluggers Eric Karros, Todd Hundley, and Sheffield.
"His bat gives up protection all the way through the lineup," Dodger hitting coach Rick Down, said. "Guys are saying, "if I don't get a pitch to hit, I'll take a walk and let the next guy get his pitch." Without that protection, guys start to pitch around the heavy hitters. But if you have a lineup stacked the way you want it, a pitcher eventually has to throw to somebody.
Green typically has batted fourth behind Sheffield, one of the reasons the Dodger left fielder has put together the best first half of his career and has earned his sixth All-Star selection. In 84 games before the All-Star break, Sheffield batted .334 with 27 home runs and 71 RBI, all team highs.
"You're seeing less guys pitching around Gary because they know they have to deal with Shawn if they do," Malone said. "And that's one of the reasons Sheff has had the kind of season he has had."
"You can see what Shawn has meant to us simply by looking at
What makes Green such a dangerous hitter?
He uses a combination of bat speed, the ability to spray the ball to all fields and a knack of recognizing the need for an adjustment and then making it. He also employs a disciplined approach that allows him to make the most of every at-bat.
"He tries to make every trip to the plate count,"
"And that is such a big key in being a good hitter. If you throw one at bat-away every game that is 162 at-bats over the course of the season that you've thrown away."
"That's a great hurdle to have to overcome, and he does it. You need the mental capacity to be able to grind and push yourself through the tough times and make those at-bats count when you'd rather not because you are tired of struggling.."
Green, a refined hitter is just as proficient in the field.
He lead the American League right fielders in fielding percentage at .997 during his All-Star campaign last season, committing just one error in 347 total chances, and earned his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award. He also displayed a strong throwing arm as he registered five outfield assists after throwing out a career-high 14 runners the previous season.
"I alwyas had a pretty strong arm," Green said. "It' s the other stuff I've had to work on."
After 86 games this season, Green has already matched his 1999 campaign with five. And it didn't take too long before the 6-foot-four 200-pound former Stanford student to show the Dodgers and the rest of the National League that he can turn a game with his arm.
In his 17th game with the Dodgers he recorded his first assist when he threw out Cincinnati Reds' Dante Bichette, who was tagged out for the final out of the fifth inning, was trying to score from second on a single to right field by Sean Casey. Buoyed by Green's stand out play, the Dodgers scored a season-high eight runs the following inning en route to a 11-3 victory.
Green's performance that day against the Reds proved to be one of his best during the first half of the season. In addition to cutting down Bichette at the plate, he went 3-4 with a double, home run and two RBI.
"That's the kind of all-around player that he is," Malone said. "He can put his stamp all over a game."
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