Happy 39th birthday to former Padres shortstop, Khalil Greene.
Greene was certainly a fan favorite during his six seasons in San Diego. The Padres drafted him 13th overall in 2002 out of Clemson.
He made his debut in 2003. He then played at least 121 games in four straight years from 2004-2007. The 2004 season was his official rookie season. Greene made quite the splash, batting .273 with 15 home runs and a .795 OPS. He was top five among shortstops in most offensive categories.
It didn’t end there. Greene was spectacular with the leather on the field. He posted a +4 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) at the most critical infield position. He also sprinkled in some highlight-reel plays every now and then.
He was a crucial part of those back-to-back division title years in 2005 and 2006. In the 2005 Division Series against his future team, the Cardinals, he hit .400 with a 1.017 OPS in those three games.
His best season as a Padre certainly was in 2007. He swatted 27 home runs, which was third only to Hanley Ramirez and MVP Jimmy Rollins among shortstops. He added 97 RBI. Defensively, that was also one of his better seasons with +8 Defensive Runs Saved. For a three to four-year stretch, Greene was among the best shortstops in the game. And he was a Padre.
He began battling injuries in 2008, playing in 105 games, with his offensive numbers way down (10 HR, .213 average). Then, unfortunately, after the 2008 season, the Friars traded the beloved shortstop to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later, which ended up being the solid reliever, Luke Gregerson.
He only lasted one season in St. Louis. He played just 77 games in the 2009 season, batting .200 with six homers. His defense started to suffer as well, as he fell into the negatives in Defensive Runs Saved. He tried to make a comeback with the Texas Rangers, but didn’t even make it through spring training before being released.
Sadly, news came out that Greene was struggling with a social anxiety disorder. Baseball is a really tough game at which to sustain success. The pressure mounts with the talent. He seems to have all but disappeared into a quiet life, living somewhere in South Carolina. He certainly had the talent to be one of the best shortstops of that generation. He surely was the most talented shortstop the Padres have ever had. He holds a few of the offensive franchise records for shortstops, including home runs and OPS. Who knows what would have happened had he been able to overcome those challenges? Perhaps one of the better pure shortstops in the modern game.