Where Are They Now: Zack Grienke

Greinke’s Legacy: Good Memories or Sour Grapes?

The fable of the fox and the grapes goes that when the fox couldn’t reach the grapes that hung just out of his reach, he responded by saying “I didn’t want those grapes anyway. They are too sour.”

Often the response by fans when a player rejects their team is “If he doesn’t want to be here, then we don’t want him here.”

As I read Zack Greinke’s comments from spring training with his new team, I am tempted to apply some of the fox’s rationale – if Zack is so much happier elsewhere, then I’m glad he’s gone.

Call it sour grapes, but looking at the situation now, my opinion is this: we KC fans tried to love Zack, but the truth is he’s not that easy of a guy to love.

In his typically mystifying way, Greinke missed some time in Milwaukee’s camp last week due to bruised ribs suffered off the field in an incident about which the team, and Greinke, has refused to comment.

Greinke was less than sharp in his spring training debut on Tuesday, possibly due to the injury. He loaded the bases in the first on a leadoff single and two walks. He exhibited his ability to wriggle off the hook by getting two strikeouts, however.

With one out in the second, Greinke surrendered another walk and was pulled. His line: 1.1 innings, one hit, three walks, two Ks, 39 pitches.

We all know Zack will knock off the rust and pitch really well in Milwaukee. And we didn’t exactly come up empty in the deal that sent him to the Brewers. KC has plenty to show for the trade and a lot to look forward to.

But what will KC fans do with Greinke? Will Royals fans cheer for him as a favorite player who moved due to the harsh realities of the business? Or will they root against him as a petulant prodigy who we’re glad to be rid of?

His comments to reporters in the Brewers’ training camp won’t endear him to Royals fans. He’s a little too frank about how happy he is to be gone for my taste.

“It’s more fun to win games,” Greinke told the Associated Press last Tuesday. “Not saying we’re guaranteed to win every game we play, just it’ll be a better chance and more than likely we’ll win more games than I’ve won in any of my seasons prior, so it should be a fun season.”

Those are true statements, obviously. It is more fun to win, and KC didn’t win much. But evidently Zack found the Royals camps too stressful.

“It has been fun so far, just a real relaxed camp,” Greinke told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s been easy to fit in so far. It’s just more relaxed here.”

I guess Zack didn’t like the stress of trying to build and improve the Kansas City franchise. It’s more fun, evidently, to relax and enjoy being everyone’s favorite to win the NL central. I’m glad you get to really kick back and take it easy, Zack. (For that matter, I bet Cardinal fans hope you really take it easy this spring, too.)

We could all tell something wasn’t quite right with Zack last year, and he admitted last week that he wasn’t really that into it.

“When the games started, I pitched 100 percent every time, but going in, I probably did what most people do. Usually, I feel like I do a lot more than most people in between starts and the second half I felt like I kind of did what was asked and nothing more,” Greinke said.

In cryptic Greinke-speak, he’s saying I didn’t really give it my all every day, every chance I had to prepare, practice and improve. We can assume he wasn’t exactly setting a great example, leading the clubhouse, pumping his teammates to give their all as well.

Zack obviously is a different guy. Not necessarily a nice, friendly guy. I bet there weren’t a lot of tears shed by teammates when the deal was made in December.

But now Greinke is taking an unexpected tack with the media, playing the “cruel to be kind” card on why he made his discontent with Royals’ management fodder for reporters. He told MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy Tuesday that he played the villain so that the team could save face.

“I kind of had to play the bad guy in order to do it. It would be nice if that didn’t happen, but the way things were in Kansas City, if I just kept on being the sweet person, the fans would have been outraged if I got traded. I kind of had to be the bad guy. It isn’t always your No. 1 choice.”

McCalvy wrote Tueday: He realized he was a fan favorite — “I don’t know why,” Greinke said — and by making his trade requests public, he feels he helped avoid “backlash on the organization.”

Greinke’s relationship with the media has always been odd. He’d rather not talk to reporters, but when he does you never know what he’ll say. He basically told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week that he considers talking to them a waste of his time.

“Probably 99% of the time I (don’t want to talk to the media) is because every day I come to the park and want to get focused on my start, and then random people come and waste my time talking every day. It takes eight minutes to get a real question out because they’re like buttering me up. Then they get to the question and it’s a stupid question. So it’s a waste of 10 minutes, and in that 10-minute time I don’t get to do what I needed to do.”

So he forces his way out of KC, talks about how happy he is to be somewhere else, admits he didn’t give it his all last season, then says he was playing bad cop so the Royals could play good cop, all the while making condescending remarks to reporters in the town trying to embrace him. How are we to feel about him now?

Greinke did compliment the KC management and fans in comments he made last week, and admitted he understood the decision of the organization to fully invest in the current crop of prospects.

“The organization was really good to me, the fans have always been amazing, but it just seemed like we were going in different directions,” he said to the AP. “Like I said before, I know young guys are very, very valuable, but there comes a point where it has to take the next step.”

So he got what he wanted, which was out. We got Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi, who all, hopefully, want to be in. And we got to get rid of Yuniesky Betancourt too?

The fox would say that was a pretty good deal. If I root against Zack Greinke from this point on, call it a case of sour grapes if you want. It’s not like he’s making it that hard to dislike him.

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