Elite major league pitchers who enter free agency, such as, oh, Zack Greinke for example, amount to high-stakes poker games. Throwing a baseball, such a violent, unnatural action, makes every pitcher a risk to break down physically.
Guaranteeing Greinke $100 million or so over five years requires more than money. It requires guts. Kansas City Royals owner David Glass has the money, but does he have the stomach? Does he care enough about the public-trust aspect of owning one of just 30 Major League Baseball franchises to buy Kansas City a winner?
Glass could come up with 100 million reasons not to risk so much and his reasons too easily would be accepted by a fan base hypnotized into a state of indifference by years of substandard baseball played at poorly located, yet beautiful Kauffman Stadium.
One counter argument trumps all: Greinke would have more value to the Royals than to any other franchise. He turns 29 in October, which means he would be just 33 at the end of a five-year deal. He would draw big crowds every fifth day. A maturing lineup dotted with potential All-Stars armed with lethal bats and sound gloves won’t leave any mark in Royals history if they don’t have a serious starting rotation. No better place to start in building that than to put a dominant, experienced ace such as Greinke at the front of it.
It’s what the majority of the Royals’ fan base wants. Hearing that made Greinke feel good Tuesday night after he allowed a leadoff home run to Alex Gordon in the first and then shut out the Royals the rest of his stay on the mound. He pitched seven innings, allowed five hits, struck out eight (seven in the first four innings) and didn’t get a decision in the Royals’ 2-1 victory against the Brewers.
“I mean, it’s nice because I was pretty rude on the way out,” he said of the fans’ desire to have him come home. “I felt like I had to in order to get out. I didn’t want to have to be the bad guy, but I felt like I had to be. But I liked it here. Like I said, the fans are great. I don’t know how so many of them come to the games when they’ve been bad for so long, but it’s pretty impressive.”
Greinke didn’t sell his Kansas City home, which has created hope that he intends to return.
Sorry, it had nothing to do with anything, Greinke said.
“I got a two-year lease, so I was like, ‘All right, might as well rent it out.’ We like it. When we got married, it was our first home, so my wife really doesn’t want to get rid of it either.”
If Greinke returns to Kansas City via free agency, it won’t be at a discount price. Nor should it be. The only way to convince one of the game’s best pitchers that the organization has changed is for the Royals to outbid the competition for him, just in time for the lease on his house to expire, just in time to surround him with enough talent to contend.