In the sports world, talent can take an athlete a long way. Talent alone, however, never can equate to desire and intangibles. Tyler Greene is the latest example of that observation.
When Greene was traded by the Cardinals on August 9 to the Houston Astros for cash or a player to be named later, the book was closed here on another top draft choice whose potential wasn’t realized in a Cardinals uniform. The truth is, though, the Redbirds aren’t alone in failing to reap the benefits of a highly touted prospect. It happens all the time in all types of sports.
In Greene’s case, the Cards’ top choice in the 2005 draft simply couldn’t translate last season’s .323 batting average and .579 slugging percentage at the Triple A level into comparable major league statistics. Throughout his professional career, Greene was on a shuttle between the Redbirds’ Triple A franchise in Memphis and Busch Stadium. By all appearances, Greene is a pleasant young player, but at nearly age 29 he is no longer a green youth.
The truth is that, up until now, Greene simply hasn’t realized his potential often enough to warrant inclusion on the Cardinals’ major league roster. Out of options, he ran out of possibilities with the team despite a change in managers that many thought would elevate Greene out of his trepidation in the presence of former skipper Tony LaRussa.
Instead, despite being heavily touted by new manager Mike Matheny as the Cards’ leading candidate for starting second baseman during the winter and throughout spring training, Greene quickly fell behind colleagues Daniel Descalso and Skip Schumaker. While the latter two have been instrumental in Cardinal victories with their offensive and defensive abilities (even if Descalso’s average is unspectacular), Greene could never seem to get out of first gear for any sustained period of time, something that has plagued him throughout his career.
Undoubtedly his inconsistency frustrated Matheny, general manager John Mozeliak, hitting coach Mark McGwire and others. Greene was the fastest player on the team and could ignite a plodding Cardinals team with his quickness. An old saying in baseball, though, says “You can’t steal first base,” which has haunted Greene whenever he’s played in the majors.
Now, he says he’s excited about a chance to play regularly with the Astros. All the Cardinal executives quoted are making nice comments, too, about Greene’s potential and how getting to a new environment might be the best thing that has ever happened to him in his career. We’ll see how true that turns out to be.
One hopes that Greene doesn’t eventually complain that he was never given a proper chance to blossom as a Cardinal. That simply wouldn’t be honest. What he really needs to do is find a way to latch onto those intangibles -- instinct, baseball smarts, adapting to the major leagues -- and turn himself into a valuable professional commodity.
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