Mike Greenwell’s final game as the Red Sox left fielder came on September 28, 1996. He was not retiring: he said: “I’m not by any means saying I’m retiring because I’m not. If the right situation is out there, I’ll play. I’ll play with some enthusiasm and a new challenge.
“I’m not leaving upset and I’m not leaving disappointed. My emotions are mixed, but as far as being happy, I’m happy. I’m proud of what I’ve done here. I hope I’ve given a reason for people to talk and come to the ballpark. If I’ve done that, it was worth it.”
Instead, he and Roger Clemens were playing their final games for Boston. Things were rough at Fenway, as a Providence Journal article reported:
“Mike Greenwell, with no contract on the horizon, cleaned out his locker one alligator at a time last Tuesday, even though the Boston Red Sox were in a heated battle for the wild-card spot.
Manager Kevin Kennedy understood.
General manager Dan Duquette seethed.
Roger Clemens held court with the media that same afternoon, explaining how he might not pitch if asked on the final weekend of the season because he didn’t have a contract for next year.
Duquette’s blood pressure rose even higher.
Yesterday, it boiled over.
Duquette fired Kennedy, the man he selected to manage the Red Sox only two seasons ago; the man who led the team to an American League East Division title in 1995; the man who led this year’steam to an amazing second-half comeback that almost netted the team a post-season berth.
Kennedy was too close to his players, apparently, for Duquette’s liking, forgetting that, as manager, he has to be part of a “cohesive team” to run the ball club.”
Upon hearing news of the firing, Greenwell said: “It seems to me like Dan Duquette is making excuses. He’s putting the blame on the players?
“Kevin had nothing to do with (the press conferences by Greenwell and Clemens).
“He could not have stopped or started what I said or Roger said. Dan provoked that. He’s all about power. He wants to be the only voice.
“If he wants to fire Kevin, fine. That’s his decision. But to put the blame on me and Roger is bull.”
Duquette countered: “The management team has to be on the same page. If the manager is confused whether he’s a mediator or management team, that’s where the problem begins.
“The manager is an extension of the general manager, who is an extension of the owner.
“It didn’t help the way the season ended. It was just abominable for me to see players cleaning out their lockers before the most important game of our season.
“That is just not acceptable in any operation. We were playing for the pennant. We had unfinished business.”
Duquette said this about Greenwell and Clemens, and others, failing to play out the season: “That is their job. To play. They are part of a first-class organization. They are treated very well.
“We want to have an organization that contends year in and year out. We (management and the players) have a mutual interest here – to bring a World Championship to New England.
“The players have been in the trenches with their manager all summer. It’s natural they’d be supportive of their boss. But in the long term, what we didwas for the best interests of the ballclub.”
The departure of Greenwell and Clemens was the end of a certain time in Red Sox history: the guys from the ’80s were departing the stage, and the Yankees were on the rise. The report of Greenwell’s final game made that clear:
“As it turned out, he went 0-for-4. He was robbed of a hit by a diving Darryl Strawberry in the sixth, then came up again with the bases loaded in the eighth. Facing overpowering right-hander Mariano Rivera, Greenwell fisted a spinner to shortstop Derek Jeter, who mishandled the ball for an error.
Shortly after Greenwell crossed first base, he was replaced by pinch-runner Lee Tinsley. He will not be in the lineup today, though a pinch-hitting appearance should not be ruled out.”
In 1997, Greenwell had a herniated disc from a mishap in training camp with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan. He said this about being replaced in left by Wil Cordero:
“It’s weird. I still feel like I belong there. I still feel like I could put up numbers as good as the guy that’s out there now. It’s different if there’s some young, up-and-coming star, but when they bring in someone, I think that bothers you a little bit.
“That seemed to be in their plans from the day they got him and that kind of bothered me,” Greenwell said of the decision to move Cordero to left field. “I didn’t realize it until the end of the year that no matter what I did, I wasn’t going to be back because I had the ear of the players and the ear of the media. That bothered some people.”
“(Cordero is) a good athlete, but it ain’t as easy as it looks and the fans will let him know that. I used to always hear (from the fans), ‘Jimmy would have had it,’ or ‘Yaz would have had it,’ or ‘Ted would have had it.’ Maybe over the course of the year, he’ll hear ‘Mike would have had it.”‘