With Khalil Greene fighting to save his career in St. Louis, some of his ex-teammates say that the social-anxiety disorder that appears to be devouring him was evident only in very small doses when he played in San Diego.
"Maybe it was evident here and there but, in my opinion, no more than any other player," Padres starter Chris Young said Monday. "That doesn't mean it hasn't been eating him up inside."
Greene, batting .200 with seven errors, was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Cardinals on Friday with stress-related issues that have only worsened during his first year in St. Louis.
Joe Strauss, in Sunday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, writes "Greene's condition causes incessant anxiety based on a fear of failure that feeds his self-consciousness. Unable to channel his emotions, the resulting frustration makes him prone to physical and verbal outbursts in front of teammates. ... The self-punishment and the screams from within the dugout tunnel brought him only passing relief while jarring those around him."
"We all saw bits and pieces of that when he was here," Padres ace Jake Peavy said. "Khalil was a great teammate and is a great friend. He's as talented as anybody I've ever played with. The guy hit (27) home runs two years ago, and he's as good as any player I've ever seen play shortstop."
Greene, 29, always has been a streaky hitter but still knocked out four seasons ranging from fairly productive to exceptional with the Padres between 2004 and 2008. He peaked in '07, when he slammed 27 homers and collected 97 RBI. He also committed only 11 errors in 690 total chances that summer.
He never could get untracked in 2008, however, and the frustration boiled over when he suffered a broken left hand while slamming an equipment trunk in late July. He finished with the lowest batting average of his career, .213, and eight errors in 443 total chances.
"That thing that happened last year can happen to anybody in this game," Padres outfielder Brian Giles said of Greene's broken hand. "It happens. That's what makes this game so unique. It's a game of failure. And it's all about trying to control the mental side of failing."
Always exceptionally quiet, Greene, whose long, blonde hair reminded many of the surfer character Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was a fan favorite early in his career in San Diego. By the time he was traded to St. Louis last winter, though, he seemed more misunderstood than anything.
"He's so quiet," Giles said. "You feel for him. Baseball is just a game. It's just a piece of your life. He's such a good guy. You hope he can find a way to deal with it and get back on the field.
"I feel for him. I'll probably give him a call. The guys that played here with him, we've got his back."
Said Young: "Khalil is a great guy and and I hate to see him going through this. Every player comes up the tunnel every now and then and lets off steam. I didn't see Khalil doing that more than anybody else.
"I've had some of my best conversations in baseball with him, just sitting in the sauna or clubhouse, about life in general. He's an extremely smart guy. I wish him the best."
Things went especially sour for Greene with the Padres when the club late last season attempted to dock him two months' salary for the time he missed in August and September because his injury was self-induced. The club has filed a grievance attempting to recoup up to $1.47 million in salary. A hearing is expected to be held sometime in August when the Cardinals and Padres play (so that officials from the Padres and Greene can attend).
"I just hope those guys over there support him and are good teammates," Peavy said of the Cardinals. "I think we all would love for him to get past this thing so that the game of baseball can get the Khalil that everyone knows back."
Likes: Hitting streaks. What a hoot it would be to see someone seriously chasing Joe DiMaggio's record 56-gamer. Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki jacked his up to 25 games Monday night. But you know what? They all seem to die right around the 30-game mark. ... The excitement Matt Wieters has brought to Baltimore. ... Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown rocks. ... Henry Poole Is Here is very quirky, very interesting and worth renting. ... The Girlfriend Experience? It's OK, but I wouldn't rush out to see it. Interesting concept. Could have been painful if it didn't get the job done in a Greg Maddux-like 77 minutes. ... Kemo Sabe, an Asian-Southwestern-fusion restaurant in San Diego's Hillcrest area. The blackened jerk chicken with plantains over the weekend was tremendous, as was my wife's Ahi tuna/calamari/salmon sampler dish.
Dislikes: Khalil Greene is a good dude, and I hope the Cardinals are patient and helpful with him and that the poor guy figures things out. ... Cleveland's Grady Sizemore and Texas' Josh Hamilton on the sidelines. The game is better when they're in the lineup. ... The Mets' J.J. Putz in the eighth inning. It seemed like a no-brainer. ...
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Back in the days of shock and awe
"We came to liberate them all
"History was the cruel judge of overconfidence
"Back in the days of shock and awe"
-- Neil Young, Shock and Awe