Is Craig Gentry The New Rusty Greer?

During the Rangers’ original rise to prominence in the mid-to-late-’90s, a previously-unheralded, overachieving outfielder became a true fan favorite, thanks to his relentless hustle and unassuming country boy demeanor.  His name was Rusty Greer, and his exciting brand of play provided a real spark to a Rangers team that made the playoffs in three out of four seasons. 
Roughly a decade-and-a-half later, we may be seeing an all-new version of Rusty Greer in the form of another previously-unheralded overachieving fan favorite outfielder with relentless hustle and an unassuming country boy demeanor: Craig Gentry.

Both were drafted by the Rangers in the 10th round after playing high school and college baseball in a southern state starting with the letter “A” (Greer in Alabama, Gentry in Arkansas).  The officially-listed playing weight for each is 190.  And both played their first game as a Ranger at age 25.  Of course, most of these are merely esoteric similarities.  A closer look at the numbers is needed to really determine whether or not this is a valid comparison.

First and foremost, Greer was an everyday player throughout the Rangers’ aforementioned 1996-99 run.  And while Gentry’s playing time has definitely increased of late (he’s played in just over 80% of this season’s games), he’s yet to play regularly over as long a period as did Greer.  But, Gentry’s definitely trending upward in terms of becoming a mainstay in the lineup, so time will tell on that front.

Greer batted .305 over his career, whereas Gentry’s career batting average is only .279; however, he’s batting .340 so far this season.  It’s too small of a sample size as of now, but does seem to indicate that Gentry shows signs of potentially becoming a Greer-level hitter.  Gentry’s batting average has risen year-to-year in each of his big league seasons to date, which means he’s continuing to improve as he gains experience and playing time.

Probably the biggest difference between Greer and Gentry, and one that’s unlikely to significantly change, is their ability to hit for power.  Greer was never a Josh Hamilton-level basher, but he did put up some decent power numbers, averaging 20 HR and 99 RBI during the Rangers’ 1996-99 run.  Gentry may not end his career with even a total of 20 HR, but he does have Greer beat in terms of pure speed and stolen base potential.

So, in conclusion, while the comparison between Greer and Gentry isn’t completely invalid, Greer was clearly a more complete all-around player with a more potent offensive game than Gentry.  That being said, the two do possess many similarities, including the ability to turn in defensive gems from the outfield.  Ranger fans are starting to show as much love for Gentry as they once did for Greer, and it’s not out of the question to think that Gentry might continue to develop into a player who eventually could at least be mentioned in the same breath as Greer in terms of his overall performance. 

Bob Bland is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Bob.Bland@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @SDIBob.
Bob Bland

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