On the surface there’s nothing wrong with playing a little hoops in the off-season to stay in shape and mess around a bit, but now that Zack Greinke is out for 4-6 weeks with a cracked rib, it’s not the teams that have to insert the language into a contract to preclude such activities, but the players who have to think before they engage in them.
There’s not much a team can do to curb a player from doing whatever in the off-season. Hypothetically, if the words “no basketball” or some other all-encompassing phrasing—barring basketball, rugby, skydiving, bungee jumping, rappelling, full-contact karate, ultimate fighting, tennis, bowling, alligator wrestling, chainsaw juggling, spelunking or participating in archaeology digs—were included, a player in Greinke’s stratosphere would shrug and do it anyway; he’d be safe in the knowledge that the team needs him and, barring a catastrophic, season/career-ending injury, the worst he’d get is fined a negligible amount from his massive salary.
That’s the point.
Aaron Boone and Ron Gant were released because they suffered injuries in an off-field activity—Boone was playing basketball; Gant was riding a dirt bike; Jeff Kent injured himself riding his motorcycle, lied about it saying he fell while washing his car and nothing of significance was done.
Because one was Jeff Kent—possibly a Hall of Fame infielder with power who was an integral part of the Giants hopes for contention; the other two were Aaron Boone with the powerhouse Yankees and Ron Gant with the dominant Braves.
What are the Brewers going to do and say about this other than what they’ve said and done?
GM Doug Melvin was quoted in this ESPN Los Angeles Story:
“It doesn’t matter how he hurt it.”
“This is part of what we go through as a GM.”
As much as he was savaged for it, another Wisconsin athlete—Brett Favre—uttered a statement that could’ve been attributed to any big time athlete whose value to his team is more than rules and contracts can constrain; while he was vacillating on retiring or playing a few years ago (insert joke here), Favre said (I’m paraphrasing from memory): “What’re they gonna do? Cut me?”
And he was right.
The Brewers need Greinke to compete; with Prince Fielder in his final year in Milwaukee, the window for this team’s current structure is closing; without Greinke, they’re screwed.
Because of that, they’ll take the pain—literally and figuratively—and move forward; when Greinke’s ready to pitch, he’ll pitch. Rib problems are no joke—Jacoby Ellsbury can attest to that; the Brewers can only hope that Greinke will be healthy and the issue won’t linger; that he didn’t hurt his arm while pitching through the pain; that he won’t enter a local rodeo in his downtime and break his valuable right arm.