At one point in human history, it was 2011. By June 6, the Phillies were 36-24, sitting on a four game divisional lead in the NL East. Placido Polanco was converting everything he saw into a single of some kind, Domonic Brown was hitting .300, and Wilson Valdez was enthusiastically grounding into double plays to the delight of the home crowd. What a time to be alive.
It was also the time of the MLB Draft, one in which the Phillies would pull in several names that would actually still have meaning four years into the future in Cody Asche, Roman Quinn, Adam Morgan, and Ken Giles.
But the first name the Phillies pulled off the board - in the supplemental first round, with the 39th overall pick given as compensation for the loss of Jayson Werth (sob) - was that of Larry Greene, Jr., an 18-year-old outfielder from Berrien High School in Georgia. There wasn't really a mystery as to Greene's appeal: the young slugger was being raised to hit home runs.
And he had been as a senior at Berrien, hitting 19 home runs and 52 RBI with a .536 BA that got him on the All-American squad. Colleges were banging on his door, begging him to play baseball or football, but he said, "Shut up! I'm going to play for the Phillies, and there's nothing you scheming college-types can do to stop me!"*
Sadly, much like the original Big Bopper, the story did not end happily for Greene, either. Perhaps it was his fluctuating weight, helped along perhaps by an anecdotal signing bonus gift of a bunch of fudge from the Phillies (hence his nom de guerre, Fudgie Greene). Or perhaps, like Billy Beane before him, he had all the talent and skill in the world but froze up in the box, unable to decide. This would coincide with walk rates hovering from around 10 percent at low and 13 percent at high, as well as strikeout rates from 25-35 percent. These are slugger percentages, but without the decisive smacks that make slugging so fun and productive in the first place. And so it went.
After last year's 183/265/279 line, it was arguable that Greene had actually dipped out of the warm light of prospect-hood, even with his first round pedigree. Thus, while it's sad, the news that Greene has apparently retired comes as not a huge shock. And yes, it's sad to see from a fan perspective, given that he was taken just before real live major leaguer Jackie Bradley, Jr and legit prospects like Kyle Crick and Trevor Story, I think that's probably the wrong sentiment to highlight here. Drafting is a natural boom/bust proposition -- my pick (Trev not Justin) for breakout star of that draft, Tyler Green, has been out of baseball for like two years now -- and I think the team's approach to the first round may have been unwise. But it's certainly not incredible for a 39th overall pick to bust out.
What I think is most sad is the human factor. Yes, Greene made a million dollars and got to play baseball for a living for a while, and that's great. But baseball and football and being insanely good at both were what defined this kid, and now, at 22 years old, he has to admit that his central dream doesn't actually work for him: he's actually not good at baseball. At least not in the way he thought he was. That's a big blow, money or otherwise, so you'll forgive me if I feel more sadness for Greene than anger at Amaro, et al.
Godspeed, Larry "Fudgie" Greene, Jr! You've at least impacted us, here, at The Good Phight.
*This is likely not how this happened.