Candid Greinke provides value with ace form
Some team is going to get a top-notch pitcher when it signs Zack Greinke. And the reporters who cover that team are going to get a lot of straight-ahead, dead-honest answers from Greinke.
Greinke will be good for a team. He will be good for the media. What a wonderful combination.
Of all the frontline free agents this offseason, Greinke was the one who left years and money on the table. He had three years and $71 million remaining on his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers when he exercised his contractual opt-out.
It will soon become obvious that this was a highly intelligent move. Greinke is going to emerge as a big winner in the free-agent sweepstakes.
Looking at the clubs that are reportedly interested in Greinke, all are highly motivated and all have the ability to pay. The Dodgers want him to return. What a daily-double it would be for the Giants to bring him to San Francisco. The Red Sox are in need of a top-of-the-rotation starter and they have the resources to obtain Greinke. The Cardinals are proven winners with a built-in regard for proven ability. And there may be other completely viable suitors.
What is the downside with Greinke? At this point, you get a lot of mentions of his age, which is 32. This may weigh against him in terms of length of contract, but his is not a career in which a decline seems imminent.
Greinke just put up a season in which he led the Major Leagues with a 1.66 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP, and he recorded a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.0. And for the traditionalists in the crowd, Greinke went 19-3, leading the Majors in winning percentage (.864). This is a man on top of his game, and his game still seems to be getting better.
Even after he had pitched successfully in Kansas City -- where Greinke won the 2009 American League Cy Young Award -- and in Milwaukee, where he helped the Brewers win the National League Central in 2011, there was one knock on him. That was that he might not do well in a larger market with more media demands because of a social anxiety disorder.
Three straight years of superior performance with the Dodgers, in Los Angeles, completely dismiss that notion. What stands out about Greinke as an interview subject is not some sense of unease, but his all-around candor.
For example, there was the 2011 NL Championship Series between the Brewers and the Cardinals. There had been bad blood between the two teams for several seasons. Greinke, a starter in the next night's game, was doing his turn in the interview room at Miller Park. He was asked if the Brewers really hated the Cardinals.
No, Greinke said, the Brewers certainly didn't hate the Cardinals. But, he then added: "Nobody likes [Chris] Carpenter. He's a phony."
The next several Brewers in the interview room were all moved to say that they considered Carpenter to be one of the game's best, a real credit to baseball, and, come to think of it, to all America, as well.
But that was Greinke. He has certain rules for dealing with the media that are not all that unreasonable. For instance, he does not like to answer the same question twice, so he doesn't.
And you get a lot of that, postgame, as reporters move in and out of the crowds around the lockers of individual players. So the same questions do get asked repeatedly, and on a regular basis. When that happens to Greinke, he says, not impolitely: "I only answer a question once."
So, if you're going to ask Greinke a question, get to that locker on time. It is actually a good way to do business in this business. When you're there, you'll get "good stuff," as quotable material is often termed in the trade.
"Zack Greinke is incapable of telling a lie," said one beat reporter who covered him.
"I really miss Zack Greinke," said another beat reporter, after Greinke was traded from the team he covered to another team.
It is not that Greinke is lighting up controversies with every quote. It is that he automatically goes to the honest answer, even when it may not be the politically correct answer.
I don't think this trait will earn him one additional dime on the free-agent market. But it will be deeply appreciated by the people who report on baseball. And Greinke will be just fine without that one additional dime.