One of the other cards that I snagged from the blaster of '09 O-Pee-Chee was my very first non-Padre card of Khalil Greene. There are so many players that, being a Padre fan, I know very well, but I often wonder how much non-Padre fans really know about them.
Who was Khalil Greene? And why was he there? Why was he lifted and taken somewhere? On the far edge of the country, where the Gateway Arch stands, the Padres traded him for a top set-up man.
- not Dr. Seuss
KG was the Padres first round pick (13th overall) in the 2002 amateur draft. He made his MLB debut at the end of the 2003 season, making short work of his time in the minor leagues. He was the Dad's Opening Day starter from 2004-2008, and has the distinction of scoring the first ever major league run at Petco Park (on the first ever double at Petco Park, by Sean Burroughs).
Khalil is unquestionably the most power-hitting shortstop in Padres history with 84 homers, almost double the amount of runner-up Garry Templeton, who had almost twice as many at-bats. For a guy who seemed pretty slender and was less than six feet tall, the dude had some pop in his bat, and was the first player to hit a home run into the third level of the Western Metal Supply building in the left field of Petco Park.
His .248 career batting average in San Diego isn't great by any stretch, but he became a fan favorite for the incredible plays he would make with his glove. I would say that he was comparable to the Ranger's Elvis Andrus - able to make stellar plays with his glove, but would still make errors in routine situations.
He was also on some pretty good baseball cards. I have about 25 or so KG cards in my Padres binder, and here are my top five, in no particular order...
That "Max Action" card looks pretty great in my opinion, despite the solid sand uniform and a camera angle that leaves a little to be desired. The "All-Star Rookie" card from 2005 looks pretty classy as well.
Greene was known for giving it all he had on the field and being extremely serious about the game. He let his playing do the talking for him, as he was pretty reserved and rarely smiled. After playing a big part in the Padres back to back Division Championship run from 2005-2006, he had a career year in 2007, hitting 27 homers, 44 doubles, and driving in 97 RBI. This warranted a contract extension before the 2008 season.
However, 2008 proved to be a rough one for Khalil, as he batted just .213 and struck out 100 times in just 423 plate appearances. His 100th "K" came on July 30th, after which he lost a fight with an inanimate object, breaking a bone in his hand as he punched a storage locker. He would miss the rest of the season, and the Padres went from winning the division to losing 99 games.
After the dismal 2008, the Padres traded him to the Cardinals for Mark Worrell and one of those "players to be named later", who turned out to be present Padre 8th inning specialist Luke Gregerson. Luke would turn out to have much success in San Diego (2.92 ERA and 288 K's in 280 innings during his four year run with the team so far), while Khalil would be granted free agency after posting a career low .200 average for the Redbirds.
He is perhaps best known outside of San Diego for having Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD, similar to Zack Grienke and Dontrelle Willis) to such a degree that he was placed on the disabled list by St. Louis multiple times during the '09 season. After being let go by the Cards, he signed with the Rangers, but never made it to Spring Training, due to his continued struggles with SAD.
Found this highlight video of Khalil's to remember all the great things he was able to do for the Friars during his tenure in San Diego. Before I moved away from SD in 2006, I had a co-worker at the leaded-glass window shop that I worked at who would always talk about how awesome Khalil was, so my memories of KG are tied to my old work buddy. Anyways, here's hoping that Khalil has gotten the help that he needs, and is able to enjoy his life in whatever he is doing now.