With a set starting rotation, bullpen, and starting lineup, the Milwaukee Brewers’ 2011 Spring Training should be relatively quiet on the position controversy front. So naturally, when the Brewers’ biggest offseason acquisition expresses unorthodox honesty in his first camp interview, fans start talking.
By Jake McCormick
It’s been close to two days since new Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke opened up to reporters about his disdain for autograph-seeking fans, schmoozing reporters, and general distractions from his life as an MLB pitcher. None of his comments came across as malicious in any way, especially given his well-documented social anxiety disorder.
If anything, Greinke’s comments were a refreshing mix of humbled honesty and insight rare in a modern sports world. All too often athlete quotes center around generic, blanket statements that purposely reflect a high school-level comprehension of the game, and Zack Greinke seems to be anything but a stereotypical quote.
Greinke has never been afraid to tell the truth as he sees it. His anxiety disorder has put him through so much off the field that Greinke understands the only way he’s going to survive in the constantly spotlight of being a supremely talented MLB pitcher is if he’s honest about how he attempts to control his sometimes uncontrollable condition.
Most fans understand that and respect it, especially if Greinke is consistently honest about his feelings and intentions (paging politicians everywhere…). And if everything he said is in fact true, the Brewers may be in an advantageous position to persuade Greinke to stick around past 2012.
Greinke reveal things about his personality that mesh better in Milwaukee than a bigger city where his hot wife is sure to turn up on the back page of a daily tabloid paper. He said he hates undue pressure from media and fans, prefers to live in obscurity off the mound, and would play baseball for cents on the dollar; the Brewers can offer all three accommodations.
Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith wasn’t afraid to voice his displeasure for Milwaukee’s apparent lack of a “night life” (beyond a bunch of bars and clubs with clothing requirements). But that small-town big city atmosphere suits Greinke’s personality perfectly.
With the exception of the hashish smoking fandom pervasive in San Francisco, the Milwaukee Brewers fan base is one of the most laid back in the MLB. Madison, Milwaukee, and Green Bay are small enough that people get used to seeing famous athletes in public. Plus, the Wisconsin media waters are nearly void of sharks, and Greinke wouldn’t have much of a problem hiding out in a Milwaukee suburb.
In addition to finding common traits of big market fans and media personally troublesome, Greinke admitted he would be happy pitching for cents on the dollar. That’s not to say other players are just in it for the cash, but quite a few have claimed their free agency choices were not about money when it was a clear factor.
Considering Greinke’s history of personal honesty, even in a questionable situation, at this point you have to think that he isn’t going to put his bank account above a good team and city atmosphere. He’ll most likely field big money offers from smaller market teams with some cash to spend in 2013, but the Brewers will have a two year advantage in the recruiting process.
The product on the field is what ultimately will determine the feasibility of Zack Greinke being more than a two-year rental ace. Much like with Prince Fielder, it’s best to just sit back and enjoy Zack Greinke for the 2011 season.
Jake is also The Sports Bank’s resident Milwaukee Bucks writer. Follow him on Twitter.Follow paulmbanks