MLB Waiver Trade Deadline

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

100 Greatest Red Sox: #34 Mike Greenwell

Here is my fourth article for the fine web site "Top 100 Red Sox," all about the greatest Red Sox players of all-time. I have previously done profiles on Johnny Damon, Bill Monbouquette and Tex Hughson. This article is about Mike Greenwell. http://top100redsox.blogspot.com.

Mike Greenwell, LF, #39 (1985-1996)
1269 G, 1400 H, 657 R, 575 2B, 130 HR, 726 RBI, 80 SB, .303 Avg, .366 OBP, .528 SLG, All-Star (1988-89)

His nickname during his playing days was "The Gator." It was said he got the nickname because he liked to wrestle alligators during the offseason in his native Florida.

But the Boston Red Sox fans at Fenway Park knew Mike Greenwell as a dependable hitter and left fielder for a decade, from 1987-1996.

Michael Lewis Greenwell was born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 18, 1963. He grew up in Florida and attended North Ft. Myers High School, which also produced football stars Jevon Kearse and Deion Sanders. He was drafted by the Red Sox in the third round of the 1982 Amateur Draft and signed with the club.

Greenwell was brought up from Pawtucket in September 1985, and made his debut as a pinch-runner for Jim Rice in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians. That fall, the Red Sox were playing out the schedule and not in the pennant race, and Greenwell played in 17 games, went 10-for-31 and hit four homers and drove in eight runs. Greenwell spent most of 1986 back at Pawtucket, as Rice was still the left-fielder. Greenwell hit 18 HRs and batted .300 at AAA. He was brought up again in August and saw action mostly as a pinch-hitter that year.

But the Red Sox had a terrific team in '86, and Greenwell made the postseason roster. He played in both the ALCS and World Series, mostly as a pinch-hitter. He went 1-for-5 in that memorable postseason, but is best remembered for pinch-hitting for Roger Clemens in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the World Series. (This was the scenario that became controversial once the Series was over, as Clemens claimed he didn't want to come out, but manager John McNamara claims he did, because of a blister.) Greenwell struck out in that appearance.

1987 was a year to forget for the Red Sox and their fans, as the hangover from the 1986 World Series loss hung over the team all year, and they finished under .500. But it was a breakout year for Mike Greenwell. Jim Rice was moved to designated hitter and Greenwell was put in left field on a permanent basis. Greenwell responded with 19 HRs, 89 RBIs and a .328 batting average in 125 games. He finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year Award balloting (which was won by Mark McGwire).

1988 would prove to be Greenwell's best offensive season. He hit 22 HRs, 119 RBI and a .325 BA. He finished second behind Jose Canseco in the AL MVP Award voting (another loss to a "Bash Brother") and was a big part of the Red Sox comeback to winning the AL Eastern Division that season. Greenwell was also selected for the AL All-Star team for the first time, and hit for the cycle on September 14. He also won the Silver Slugger Award. But it was a disappointing postseason for the Sox and for Greenwell. They swept out of the ALCS by Canseco and the Oakland A's, and Greenwell hit .214 in that series with 1 HR and 3 RBI.

Greenwell would make the All-Star team again in 1989, hitting 14 HRs, 95 RBI and a BA of .308. He would have the longest hitting streak of his career that year, 21 games. His power numbers would continue to decline in 1990 and 1991, to 14 and 9, respectively. He also drove in just 73 and 83 runs, but his batting average was still around the .300 mark. Many of the Sox faithful thought Greenwell was a disappointment, as they thought he was next logical successor in that "golden position" of Red Sox leftfielder. He was a solid hitter, but not in the mold of the previous Red Sox leftfielders like Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice. Greenwell was like Yaz was early in his career, a line drive hitter who wasn't a big home run hitter. Greenwell was also just an average outfielder at best, and wouldn't win any Gold Gloves in his career.

1992 was a year to forget for Greenwell, as he battled injuries that year and played in just 49 games and hit .233. His offensive numbers would continue to slide in his final four years with the Sox, although he had a nice bounceback year for the Red Sox in 1995, as they won the AL East that year. He hit 15 HRs, 76 RBIs and hit .297. But the Red Sox were swept out of the playoffs for the third straight time, this time in the ALDS by Cleveland. Greenwell, who went 0-14 in the 1990 ALCS, went just 3-for-15 in the three-game sweep in '95.

Greenwell basically became a part-time player in 1996, hitting .295 in 77 games. He was a free agent after the season, and it looked like the Red Sox were going to let him go. But just before his Bosox career concluded, he had one final night of glory. On September 2, 1996, in a game against the Mariners in Seattle, Greenwell drove in 9 runs, which was all of his team's runs, in a 9-8, 10-inning win at the Kingdome. It was a MLB record for most RBIs by one player driving in all of his team's runs. It was also a Red Sox record for one game, a record that still stands.

Greenwell's final game in a Red Sox uniform was overshadowed by what would be the last game by another Red Sox star player: Roger Clemens. As it would turn out, both Clemens and Greenwell would both depart Boston, and for teams based outside the United States: Clemens to Toronto, and Greenwell would head for Japan, to play for the Hansin Tigers.

It would be a disasterous move for Greenwell. It was a much-heralded transaction in Japan, but Greenwell would see action in just seven games, due to injuries. He would announce his retirement from baseball soon afterward.He would turn his attention in his post-baseball career to another love of his: stock car racing. In May 2006, he made his Craftsman Truck Series debut at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway for Green Light Racing, starting 20th and finishing 26th. He also runs "Mike Greenwell's Family Fun Park" in Cape Coral, Florida, which includes a lot of activities like go-cart racing, miniature golf and batting cages. Greenwell is also a real-estate developer and an assistant baseball coach with Riverdale High School in Ft. Myers.

But Greenwell would get back in the sports headlines in 2005. When Jose Canseco released "Juiced," all about how his career was built on the use of illegal steroids, Greenwell went as far as demanding the he should be awarded the 1988 AL MVP Award away from Canseco.

He would tell the Ft. Myers News Press: "He's an admitted steroid user," Greenwell said of Canseco. "I was clean. If they're going to start putting asterisks by things, let's put one by the MVP. I do have a problem with losing the MVP to an admitted steroids user."

John Quinn is a writer who lives in New York City and runs the web site, "The Mighty Quinn Media Machine," and writes for the Red Sox fan site, Bornintoit.com, as "Brooklyn Sox Fan."

3 comments:

Ken K. said...

Did Rogelio Moret make the list?

I always had a soft spot for him, based on his baseball cards. He looked like he was about six ten and weighed a buck nineteen.

The Omnipotent Q said...

He didn't make the list, Ken. I remember him well. A tall, skinny drink of water was Moret. He was a good pitcher in the early 1970s...

MattySox said...

Great bio, but you left out a detail that's often forgotten relating to that pinch hit appearance in game 6: the fact that Johnny Mac chose him to pinch hit instead of Don Baylor, who never got in that game. Apparently, Baylor had to be restrained from going after Mac on that one; after all, Greenwell struck out looking on three pitches, the bat never leaving his shoulder. A bad spot for a super-green not-quite rookie...