By In Baseball

A Zack Greinke Story


So, I wrote about Zack Greinke for like the 11 millionth time. Whew, I’ve been writing about Greinke for a dozen years, going back to when he was 19 years old. I relate the first time I ever interviewed him. Fun stuff.

There is another Greinke story I wasn’t able to get into the piece, one I think I’ve told before but I’m not sure. It doesn’t really have much to do with anything except, well, it’s just a perfect little Greinke story. In 2007, the Kansas City Royals called up Alex Gordon. At the time, you might remember, Gordon was a serious phenom that year, in the same category as, say, Kris Bryant before this season began. In fact, I’m pretty sure Gordon was the first player in Baseball America history to be named minor league player of the year just one year after being named amateur player of the year.

In any case, Gordon came up to the most extreme expectations and he struggled. Man, did he struggle. Gordon has always had this detached nature which suggests he doesn’t feel pressure, and he carried himself quietly through the worst of it. But underneath it all, I think it was just too much for him. His swing even now has a hole in it — it’s something he simply has to overcome and it’s a daily struggle –and in those early days pitchers just ate him up. The poor guy was hitting .173 in early June, and he’d struck out 55 times in 53 games, and he was taking it out to the field, and even though he still carried himself in that placid and even-tempered way that now marks him as one of the better players in baseball, you could tell: He was seriously lost.

And then, at his low point, Zack Greinke came up to him.

“Alex,” he said, and he pointed to the video room. “Follow me. I want to show you something.”

Greinke’s teammates will tell you: The guy’s kind of a baseball savant. He is known for calling just how hard he will throw his curveball the next inning (“I’m going to try for 50 mph”). He sees things nobody else seems to see. Not too long ago, I was talking with Brandon McCarthy, who is one of the smartest guys in baseball himself, and he said that the coolest thing he can imagine doing is sitting next to Greinke during a game and just picking his mind, view the game through Zack’s eyes.  Others have said the same. He will probably stay in baseball after he’s done.

So Gordon was pretty excited when Greinke called him into the video room. He figured that Greinke must have found something in his swing, something small, some little flaw that he could fix and it would turn his entire season around. He followed Greinke to to the monitor. Greinke turned it on.

The video was … yep: Zack Greinke hitting a home run. Greinke watched it lovingly and then turned back to Gordon.

“Do more of that,” Zack said.

The Growing Legend of Zack Greinke 

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26 Responses to A Zack Greinke Story

  1. Kyle says:

    I don’t know if this has ever crossed your mind but a Zack Greinke book chock full of these stories would be phenomenal. Post-retirement and pre HOF (hopefully) would probably be the ideal time for this. But, I would probably read this book as bedtime stories to my kids if you, and only you, wrote this book.

  2. rsn says:

    Man, I did not see that ending coming… just a great story

  3. Kelly says:

    OK, that’s officially my favorite story ever.

  4. I watched a Greinke interview recently and it was very space-cadetish. My first thought was, hmmmm, that’s one weird dude. My second thought was, hmmmmm, I’d take a room full of weird dudes like that I could fill a rotation with them.

    Noting that all the pitchers with the scoreless innings streaks were Dodgers, I think the Dodgers are a good team for him. The problem with the Royals, is that he was ‘the guy’. That generates a lot of attention. It will be hard to be that guy on a team with Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Don Mattingly. He’s ‘a guy’ but not ‘the guy’. Plus, I think LA is more comfortable with weird characters, in general. Ron Artest got along beautifully there. The attitude was generally “that’s just Artest being Artest”. I’m sure it’s the same with Greinke. Fans will really only get grumpy at him if he pitches crappy. I don’t think that’s a big worry for him.

    • Kevin A says:

      Just to be clear, he won a Cy Young when he was “the guy” with the Royals.

      • Trigger says:

        I remain forever pleased that the Royals recognized a good person beyond baseball and when Zach prematurely called it quits. returning to FL, they went after him and the rest is fitting history for him and baseball, a story which Posanski knows well!

    • I remember when he was a free agent and people were afraid that he would get abused by the big city media, and he couldn’t handle the pressure. So I think trying to push Zack’s personality into a big market / small market question doesn’t actually reveal anything about Zack. I mean, Kansas City loved/still loves Greinke. I think every town enjoys a character if they win, and we will never know if his road would have been smoother in a place like LA (I seriously doubt he would have enjoyed more questions from the media), but he did end up doing ok in Kansas City.

  5. I need Vin to tell this story on air.

  6. sanford943 says:

    People say Maddux was like Grienke when it comes to being a baseball savant

    • I think you meant Grienke is like Maddux… 🙂 No offense to Zach, who’s been great, but lets see him do this for another ten years.

      I remember reading an SI story where Maddux basically called every pitch the opposing pitcher was going to throw and had the entire dugout shaking their heads.

  7. Michael Green says:

    I remember reading that when his agent was negotiating with the Dodgers, Greinke insisted on meeting with the general manager to learn about the organization, and that in LA and in Milwaukee, he sat in on draft meetings. The idea of someone being that into the game today is something to cherish.

    I wonder who his girlfriend was then. He certainly married well.

  8. grayston says:

    this is funny, but Grienke is also kind of an ass

  9. Sarah says:

    Greinke is a good kind of weird…yeah, he’s a Dodger all right, and a perfect LA athlete. We like ’email odd.

  10. dshorwich says:

    In the article, you wrote that during Greinke’s stint in Wichita in 2006, “The Royals put him in the bullpen so he could get on the field more often and he liked that too.” According to his bb-ref page, Greinke made 17 starts for Wichita, and only 1 relief appearance.

  11. I seem to recall another Pos Greinke story about how Zach’s High School Sweetheart/GF (who then became his wife) read him a long Pos piece about him. Apparently it took like 15 or 20 minutes, and Zach got home with 1 or 2 minutes of story to be read, but he waited them out in the driveway.

    In any case, I think we’re all lucky (and this includes Mr. Greinke) that Joe Posnanski got to know him from when he was very young. His quirkiness almost surely would not have been appreciated by other baseball scribes.

  12. jfore1 says:

    ❤️ Greinke’s weirdness!

  13. KHAZAD says:

    Actually this is the second time Greinke has had six consecutive starts without an earned run, though the last time was over two seasons. The last two starts of 2008 and the first four of 2009, 43 consecutive innings.

  14. Michelle says:

    I’d like to hear Alex Gordon’s side of that story.

  15. Luke says:

    We should get some program going where Joe Posnanski stories are read by Morgan Freeman

  16. […] can show Zack Greinke what a good hitting pitcher actually looks […]

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