Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Curious Case of Zack Greinke

The curious case of Zack Greinke continues. Greinke was drafted out of Apopka (FL) High School in the first round in 2002. Even though the common school of thought was already turning against drafting high school pitchers, Greinke seemed to be a special case that was worth the risk.

Greinke was quickly identified as a pitching phenom. He moved quickly through the minors, pitching very well at each level.

In 2004, Greinke was pitching in AAA Omaha to start the season. When the Royals got off to a slow start, many people were pushing the Royals to call up Greinke to give the team a boost. At the time, the Royals stated that they were not interested in rushing Greinke to the major leagues; not based on ability, but rather, based on his maturity.

Finally, Zack Greinke made his major league debut on May 22, 2004 at the age of 20. He pitched fairly well considering his age, ending the season 8-11 with a 3.97 ERA in 145.0 innings pitched.

In the offseason following 2004, the Royals hired pitching coach Guy Hansen. In their 2005 Spring Training, it became apparent that Greinke and Hansen were not going to get along. It became public that Hansen wanted Greinke to move over on the rubber, and Greinke was refusing. Greinke went on to have a miserable season, leading the majors in losses with a 5-17 record.

When Greinke arrived at Spring Training this year, he made the comment that the 2005 season was the most fun he’s ever had playing baseball. He finally learned to not let baseball consume his time, and he took time away from baseball to enjoy other things. It seemed curious that Greinke would say that he had fun while having such a terrible season.

Just a week after reporting to Spring Training, Greinke left camp to return home. The Royals are saying that he returned to Florida to take care of personal matters. No other explanation has been given.

Now the speculation has begun. Greinke has always seemed a bit eccentric. He’s stated in the past that he loves to hit, and would like to play short stop. He’s always seemed somewhat bored with baseball. Not that it’s true, but that has always been the impression he’s given.

I wonder if perhaps Greinke is starting to think that he isn’t interested in baseball anymore. I also wonder if his difficulties with Hansen last season somehow contributed to this. Perhaps his frustrations with Hansen caused him to lose focus on baseball and now he’s realizing that he may not want to do it anymore.

At any rate, the Royals have stated that they are preparing for the 2006 season without Zack Greinke. The phenom doesn’t seem phenomenal anymore.

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