Can you picture Zack Greinke in a Royals uniform again? (Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE)

The Case for the Royals to Bring Zack Greinke Back


Every family has a weird cousin that doesn’t fit in with the other relatives.  No one wants to sit next to him at the kids’ table during Thanksgiving dinner or get stuck alone with him after everyone else has gone home.  We make fun of him behind his back, but as soon as he’s gone, we sorta miss him.

Zack Greinke was the weird cousin, a square-peg-in-a-round-hole, the guy that never quite fit in for the Royals after they drafted him with the 6th overall pick of the 2002 draft.  Zack was a pitcher, the best pitcher in the majors (said Sports Illustrated in May 2009), but his career was unsatisfying to him because he longed to hit and play shortstop, and due to his love/hate relationship with the game of baseball.

Many would say Zack has led a charmed life.  He was the Gatorade National High School Baseball Player of the Year, he married his high school sweetheart / Miss Daytona Beach beauty queen / Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, he won a Cy Young award, and he’s a multi-millionaire with the prospect of life changing riches in his future when he reaches free agency at the end of the coming season.  But if you think all this makes Greinke happy, then you don’t know Zack.

I won’t rehash the details here again, but it’s well known that Zack has suffered from severe bouts of anxiety and depression.  This illness has interfered with his life so dramatically that he once considered giving up baseball and mowing lawns for a living.  We’re talking about an individual so socially withdrawn that when he was in school he hated to sit with other kids at lunchtime because he didn’t want to feel forced to fit in, who has grown up to work in a profession that requires him to stand on a pitcher’s mound in front of 35,000 screaming fans.  Imagine the angst you would suffer if you were asked to speak in front of a business group, in your underwear and forgot what you planned to say, multiplied by 100 – that’s the fear and dread Greinke experiences every time he delivers a pitch.  Zack doesn’t play baseball because he wants to, he does it because the expectations of his God-given talent demand it.

Yogi Berra once said that 90% of the game is half mental, and this statement has never been more true than when referring to Zack Greinke.  Among fans I’ve spoken with he’s been called an enigma, a clubhouse cancer, a prima donna whose talent doesn’t make up for his poor attitude, and much worse.  He pinch hits while wearing the wrong uniformHe tells other pitchers they have a phony attitude.  He argued with his coach over which side of the rubber to pitch from.  Even Greinke apologists must admit that Zack is a strange guy.  There are thousands of fans who believe Zack’s gifts could take their team to the next level, and an equal number who are certain his addition to the clubhouse would destroy their team’s chemistry.

There is also strong disagreement about Zack’s value on the field.  On the one hand, ESPN’s fantasy baseball rankings has Zack listed as the 14th best starting pitcher in the major leagues (above players such as Gio Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Mat Latos, Stephen Strasburg, Jeremy Hellickson, C. J. Wilson, Chris Carpenter, and many more coveted names), and on the other hand there is a vocal group of naysayers who observe that Zack is only as good as he wants to be and no one really knows how to motivate him to reach his full potential.

Zack will become a free agent at the end of the 2012 season and regardless of his baggage, there will be a bidding war for his services.  Our sister site “Reviewing the Brew” has already contemplated what it would cost to sign Greinke after next season.   They estimate about $18-20 million per year (I expect possibly for 5 years), unless the market changes significantly in the next few months.

Greinke recently dumped his agent (second time in the past couple years) and Brewer fans are hopeful they can use this opportunity to approach Zack directly and ask for a hometown discount at a more club-friendly $16 million per year.  The Brewers were one step away from the World Series last year and they know Zack would like to continue playing for a winner.  A couple problems with this plan for Milwaukee fans – the Brewers aren’t his home team and their future doesn’t look bright.

The Brewers could still potentially reach the playoffs next year in a weakened division that saw the Cardinals lose Albert Pujols this offseason, but they won’t be the same team without Prince Fielder.  In addition, the suspension of reigning MVP Ryan Braun for performance enhancing drugs doesn’t leave fans with lots of feel good optimism for the future of the franchise.  The Brewers traded away much of their high potential minor league talent to the Royals to obtain Greinke in a big push to make the Series last season.  Now that several of their key pieces are either gone or in limbo, and their future mortgaged for a present that didn’t materialize, I don’t see Greinke returning to Milwaukee at the end of his current contract.

Brewer fans were all a twitter this week when it was reported by the MLB Brew Beat blog (and then repeated by several more) that Greinke was asked about the possibility of an extension with Milwaukee.  Greinke’s polite response was, “I’ll talk to them about it.”  If I was a Brew Crew fan, I wouldn’t hang my hat on that comment and assume Zack was going to return in 2013.

Greinke has played all or part of eight major league seasons.  Seven of those seasons have been with the Royals, the team that drafted him, the team that was patient with him both before and after he was diagnosed, the team he won a Cy Young with, the team whose fans showed up in force just to cheer for him on nights when he was pitching.  At a time when the Royals desperately needed him and their pitching ranks were in shambles (can you say Runelvys Hernandez?), the Royals allowed Greinke to take time away from baseball, to put his life back together.  If anyone has a question about this, let me answer it – the Royals are Zack’s home town team.

You may remember Jim Eisenreich who played with the Twins, Royals, Phillies, Marlins, and Dodgers in the 80’s and 90’s.  Jim suffered from Tourette Syndrome (TS) and was forced to take about three years away from baseball to receive treatment for his disease.  TS is misunderstood by many, and often misinterpreted as an attitude problem which can result in the victim becoming isolated and outcast.  You may also recall it was the Royals who welcomed Eisenreich back into the major league family following his treatment and I clearly remember fans embracing him and rooting for him to succeed.  Jim was so accepted by the community that he made Kansas City his permanent home.  I see similarities between his story and Zack’s.

Zack’s gorgeous and outspoken wife Emily enjoyed her time in Kansas City, and the Greinke’s still own a home in town.  They both grew up in a suburb of Orlando (Apoka = Overland Park), which aside from the palm trees and gigantic amusement parks, and the fact Orlando doesn’t have a professional baseball team, it isn’t really all that different from Kansas City.  There is little doubt the couple feel at home in KC.

Based on what we know about Zack and his condition, it seems reasonable to assume that his family and advisors would encourage him to stay away from the bright lights of the major markets when determining where he’ll play next.  It doesn’t fit with Zack’s personality to be the center of attention, and he’d be constantly hounded in New York, Boston, LA, or even Chicago and Atlanta.

My guess is that Zack has enjoyed playing in the National League which gives him an opportunity to hit and run the bases, so I could see him signing with a “smaller market” team on the senior circuit like St. Louis or the Miami Marlins.  Hopefully, his .143 batting average last season helped to put his dream of being the next Miguel Cabrera to bed, forcing him to focus on the one thing he does better than almost anyone else – pitch.  If so, then an American League team should be on equal footing with a National League team in any bidding war.

You’ve probably figured out by now that I’d like to see Zack wearing a Royals uniform again in 2013.  I realize that many people disagree with my perspective, including some of my fellow writers here at Kings of Kauffman and many of the people who comment below our stories who think it would be a mistake to pursue Zack next year.

If you believe it might be farfetched for the underfunded Royals to afford Greinke, or that he wouldn’t want to return, it might interest you to know that the hosts of the MLB Networks’ Hot Stove Live don’t think it’s a stretch.  On their January 20, 2012 program, they boldly predicted Greinke would return to KC in 2013.  Their reasoning was that Zack and the Glass family have a strong relationship, he and his wife enjoy Kansas City, and the Royals will be poised to field a competitive team in 2013, which would make them attractive to Zack.

I’d like to re-sign Greinke, partially because I like his story.  I almost always root for the guy who overcomes adversity, in whatever form, to succeed.  I’ve personally known people who suffer from the same afflictions as Zack and I discovered that you can’t take this ailment lightly.  It’s real, it impacts lives, and it causes outsiders to question the victim’s judgment and sanity.  But when treated properly and supported by patient friends, family, and coworkers, this sickness can be overcome.

I also know the Royals are two front-line starting pitchers away from having the talent to compete with the best teams in the American League.  With a stable of young and strong pitching arms like Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, John Lamb, Noel Arguelles, Aaron Crow, and others, I’m relatively confident the Royals can develop one of these starters in-house.  My best guess is that the other will need to come from a trade or free agency.  Who better to fill this gap than with the one that got away, our crazy cousin Zack.

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Tags: Aaron Crow Emily Kuchar Free Agent Jake Odorizzi Jim Eisenreich John Lamb Kansas City Kansas City Royals KC Royals Mike Montgomery Noel Arguelles Royals Zack Greinke

  • mmeade17

    Great look at Greinke! But since you already know you’re going to get opposition, allow me to be the first to problem pose your argument. I’ll start by saying that the Royals should certainly look at Greinke next off season. They should look at a lot of options. And I don’t think that anxiety or depression or the unique way he sees the world should keep him out of KC. Greinke’s never going to be Jeff Francoeur (clubhouse wise), and there’s nothing wrong with that. That said the idea of him ending up back in KC seems too far fetched. 1) The Royals really can’t afford him. That’s the big issue. They can’t spend even $16 million a year on anyone not named Eric Hosmer, and they probably can’t even spend that on him. That’s like 30% of their current payroll. The Royals can’t outbid someone for him, and I don’t think he love KC enough to take a big discount (if he did he probably wouldn’t have demanded a trade in the first place). I think the idea is intriguing, but I can’t see it happening. (I do think it would be a ton of fun to see happen though).

    GREAT POST! VERY THOUGHT PROVOKING

  • mmeade17

    Great look at Greinke! But since you already know you’re going to get opposition, allow me to be the first to problem pose your argument. I’ll start by saying that the Royals should certainly look at Greinke next off season. They should look at a lot of options. And I don’t think that anxiety or depression or the unique way he sees the world should keep him out of KC. Greinke’s never going to be Jeff Francoeur (clubhouse wise), and there’s nothing wrong with that. That said the idea of him ending up back in KC seems too far fetched. 1) The Royals really can’t afford him. That’s the big issue. They can’t spend even $16 million a year on anyone not named Eric Hosmer, and they probably can’t even spend that on him. That’s like 30% of their current payroll. The Royals can’t outbid someone for him, and I don’t think he love KC enough to take a big discount (if he did he probably wouldn’t have demanded a trade in the first place). I think the idea is intriguing, but I can’t see it happening. (I do think it would be a ton of fun to see happen though).

    GREAT POST! VERY THOUGHT PROVOKING

  • benjammin9287

    You obviously know nothing about Anxiety Disorder. Grienke has no problem at all pitching in front of 35,000 fans. He has always felt very comfortable on the mound and yes he enjoys baseball. What he hates, is being attacked by reporters afterwards in the lockerroom. Having to be available and answer the all the endless stupid fucking questions is what he hates the most.

    The actual playing of the game, he has no problem with at all. So many writers and “bloggers” (big difference) have tried to write about Zack by just imagining what it must be like, and making assumptions based on cliche and the mundane circumstances of their own lives.

    Stop trying to predict what he is going to do. You have no idea what is good for him and he certainly isn’t going to tell you. He also doesn’t give a shit if your a fan of his or not.

  • benjammin9287

    Oh, and Arguellas is not a legit prospect anymore. He probably isn’t even in our top 40. Yordano Ventura, Brian Brickhouse, Jason Adam, Everett Teaford, Will Smith, Kevin Smith or even Tim Melville would have been more appropriate inclusions with the other pitchers mentioned.

    Its pretty clear you don’t know much about current Royals baseball.

  • benjammin9287

    You obviously know nothing about Anxiety Disorder. Grienke has no problem at all pitching in front of 35,000 fans. He has always felt very comfortable on the mound and yes he enjoys baseball. What he hates, is being attacked by reporters afterwards in the lockerroom. Having to be available and answer the all the endless stupid fucking questions is what he hates the most.

    The actual playing of the game, he has no problem with at all. So many writers and “bloggers” (big difference) have tried to write about Zack by just imagining what it must be like, and making assumptions based on cliche and the mundane circumstances of their own lives.

    Stop trying to predict what he is going to do. You have no idea what is good for him and he certainly isn’t going to tell you. He also doesn’t give a shit if your a fan of his or not.

  • benjammin9287

    Oh, and Arguellas is not a legit prospect anymore. He probably isn’t even in our top 40. Yordano Ventura, Brian Brickhouse, Jason Adam, Everett Teaford, Will Smith, Kevin Smith or even Tim Melville would have been more appropriate inclusions with the other pitchers mentioned.

    Its pretty clear you don’t know much about current Royals baseball.

  • milo999

    Might be a good idea to change the color of the font used on your post……People can’t read what you are writing!

  • michael.allen.engel

    @benjammin9287 Why is Arguelles not a legit prospect after one year of American baseball? He has more upside than Teaford or Will Smith in my opinion – though yeah, he could top out at Double A and never be heard from again. He wouldn’t be the first and he wouldn’t be the last.

    I would consider Ventura, Brickhouse, and Adam over Arguelles. Did you mean Kyle Smith or Kevin Chapman instead of “Kevin Smith”? I’d probably slot them fairly close together off the top of my head in the same tier as Arguelles.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @milo999 What browser are you on milo? I’m on Chrome and see no issues. There should be a blue background behind everything, then a white background behind the text.

  • milo999

    Might be a good idea to change the color of the font used on your post……People can’t read what you are writing!

  • michael.allen.engel

    @benjammin9287 Why is Arguelles not a legit prospect after one year of American baseball? He has more upside than Teaford or Will Smith in my opinion – though yeah, he could top out at Double A and never be heard from again. He wouldn’t be the first and he wouldn’t be the last.

    I would consider Ventura, Brickhouse, and Adam over Arguelles. Did you mean Kyle Smith or Kevin Chapman instead of “Kevin Smith”? I’d probably slot them fairly close together off the top of my head in the same tier as Arguelles.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @milo999 What browser are you on milo? I’m on Chrome and see no issues. There should be a blue background behind everything, then a white background behind the text.

  • dlow

    @benjammin9287 hard to take your post seriously when you use that kind of language throughout it. If you actually want to make a point, you should really try and write a more level headed argument.

    A large part of blogger articles are to try and have fun with the world of baseball and play with possibilities that won’t be written about in a newspaper or magazine. If you just want to deal with cold hard facts please feel free to stick to the KC Star, they have an excellent sports page. Otherwise please take an blog articles with an imaginative grain of salt.

    Since you seem to be Zack’s best friend, I would really appreciate you asking him to resign with the Royals for a hometown discount. I’m sure he takes your advice very seriously. Thanks!

  • dlow

    @benjammin9287 hard to take your post seriously when you use that kind of language throughout it. If you actually want to make a point, you should really try and write a more level headed argument.

    A large part of blogger articles are to try and have fun with the world of baseball and play with possibilities that won’t be written about in a newspaper or magazine. If you just want to deal with cold hard facts please feel free to stick to the KC Star, they have an excellent sports page. Otherwise please take an blog articles with an imaginative grain of salt.

    Since you seem to be Zack’s best friend, I would really appreciate you asking him to resign with the Royals for a hometown discount. I’m sure he takes your advice very seriously. Thanks!

  • jim fetterolf

    I agree that Zack should be considered and that if the Royals win 85 games this year he won’t be that hard to sign and relatively reasonably. I would suggest, though, that we see what we have this year with Monty, Duffy, Paulino, and Hoch before thinking too much about breaking the bank for a five year contract that would prevent us from keeping a couple of our other home grown young studs.

  • jim fetterolf

    I agree that Zack should be considered and that if the Royals win 85 games this year he won’t be that hard to sign and relatively reasonably. I would suggest, though, that we see what we have this year with Monty, Duffy, Paulino, and Hoch before thinking too much about breaking the bank for a five year contract that would prevent us from keeping a couple of our other home grown young studs.

  • Alan_Barrington

    @jim fetterolf Thanks for your post Jim and your positive contribution to our comment sections. I have great respect for your opinion and I agree with you that I would strongly prefer to see Monty, Duffy, Paulino and/or Hoch come through for us this year before breaking the bank on a free agent. Let’s hope we have the luxury of picking a 2013 starting rotation from an entire stable of successful young studs.

  • Alan_Barrington

    @jim fetterolf Thanks for your post Jim and your positive contribution to our comment sections. I have great respect for your opinion and I agree with you that I would strongly prefer to see Monty, Duffy, Paulino and/or Hoch come through for us this year before breaking the bank on a free agent. Let’s hope we have the luxury of picking a 2013 starting rotation from an entire stable of successful young studs.

  • davidlee19

    Let’s see if I can make some of the same points made below that weren’t taken seriously because they were accompanied by some questionable language. The gentleman was right. Zack Greinke has no problems during the game of baseball. His social anxiety only comes into play when he has to deal with media hoopla or to some degree when dealing with people every day away from the ball park. He doesn’t like talking to people unless he is interested in the subject matter.

    It’s also funny for folks to talk as if they know what Zack Greinke is thinking or what his actions are saying about his mindset. Let me put it this way. No one knows Zack unless he wants them to. Period. I don’t know him well, but I know he’s his own man and doesn’t open up to just anybody.

  • newsman1964

    I realize I am in the minority, but I too would love to see Zack back in 2013 when the Royals make a run at not only the division title, but the pennant and series! And I think he just might come back for much less than the $18 million. I also think he understands that there is only so much money a person needs (maybe that’s why he’s dumped agents, who we know most all see only dollar signs). He wants to win, and he liked being a Royal. Therefore, perfect match, or should I say “rematch.” Great article!

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