Ladies and Gentlemen, the Shawn Green show is apparently over.
Now, as someone who said all along that Green would not keep up anything like the production he posted in April and early May, I could take this opportunity to toot my own horn, but I've got more important things to focus on. For starters, Green is still getting regular playing time in right field.
Now I appreciate Green's veteran stature and clubhouse leadership and anything else people point to while arguing why a player so clearly past his prime should still be prowling a baseball diamond, but the Mets right fielder's recent struggles at the plate transcend any argument that could be made for his continued presence in the batting order.
For example: Green posted a stellar .412 on-base percentage in April, but his mark for the season has spiraled down to .319. Why? Maybe it has something to do with his miserable last two months, in which he's gotten on base only 42 times in 163 plate appearances for an awful .257 mark. As a point of comparison, Rey Ordonez's career OBP was .289. Joe McEwing's was .302. It doesn't help that Green lacks Rey's flair with the leather and Super Joe's doggedness and versatility.
Green's power numbers have fallen off, too. He will close out July without a single home run in the month, and has compiled a puny .321 slugging percentage since the All-Star Break. Even more disconcerting are Green's numbers against lefties on the season: .194 batting average, .255 OBP, .257 slugging percentage.
It's always sad when aging players aren't really good enough to stay in a Major League lineup anymore, and even more pathetic in Green's case because his skills have diminished so quickly and thoroughly since his stellar seasons in 2001 and 2002. But as painful as Green's struggles are too watch, Mets fans shouldn't have to watch them nearly so often.
I know what you're asking: What's the point? With Carlos Beltran probably headed to the DL, Lastings Milledge gainfully occupied in the center fielder's stead, Moises Alou getting back in the saddle in left and few other outfielders on the roster to speak of, who should play right field instead of Green?
Pretty much anybody, that's who. Willie Randolph started Damion Easley in right on Sunday -- not the best solution, for sure, but likely still a better option than Green at this point. Marlon Anderson and David Newhan could compete for playing time as well. When Beltran returns, there's no question that Milledge should take the reins in right, but until that point, it's quite likely that Willie will keep trotting out Green for further embarrassment.
To make matters worse, the recently dispatched Chip Ambres might have actually been the man best suited to play right while Beltran is hurt. Sure, Ambres has proven little at the big-league level in his short career, but he had reasonable numbers -- .272 / .370 / .492 -- in Triple-A and can almost certainly field the position better than the cement-footed Green. At the very least, Ambres clearly should have been taking at-bats away from Green against left-handers starting quite a while back. At New Orleans this year -- I kid you not -- Ambres hit .373 with a .490 OBP and nine home runs in 83 at-bats against lefties.
I'd call Green an albatross in the Mets batting order, but I honestly don't think that's fair to albatrosses everywhere. Albatrosses can fly, for one thing. Green seems like a really nice guy and perhaps he could be useful as a left-handed bat off the bench, but he has made it quite clear this year that he's no longer a suitable Major League right fielder.
I'll grant that all this might seem like a whole heap of sound and fury that signifies very little, at least if Willie does the reasonable thing and allows Milledge to start every day in right once Beltran returns. What the Green situation demonstrates, though, is another example of Randolph sticking with veterans instead of allowing untested rookies and bench players to show their merits.
A similar situation is unfolding behind the plate. Paul Lo Duca has done nothing this season to show he's a better hitter than Ramon Castro, yet Duke still starts four out of every five games. It's easy to say that it's all immaterial because the Mets are in first place and have been for a long time, but who knows how much more comfortable their cushion atop the standings could be if Willie wasn't costing the team by stubbornly adhering to his veterans.