Avoiding Greinke Due To His Past Depression Is A Copout

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Twitter GMs, armchair scouts and amateur experts are bad enough when they’re talking about players’ on field performances and regurgitating stuff in authoritative tones as if they understand it, but with Zack Greinke it’s expanded from self-aggrandizing analysis of his performance to pop psychology and the factoid that because Greinke had depression in 2006, he’s still unfit to pitch in a high-pressure atmosphere.

The term used to diagnose Greinke was “social anxiety disorder”. Greinke had to leave baseball for awhile to get his life and mental state in back together. He did that, returned and eventually became one of the best pitchers in baseball and a Cy Young Award winner.

The “why” is as irrelevant as the fact that he was once depressed and unable to perform. It was six years ago. Put yourself in his position. Drafted out of high school with the 6th pick in the draft and joining the perennial doormat Royals whose future hopes hinged on his development, he was in the big leagues two years later before he was ready. Oh, he pitched well enough as a 20-year-old rookie in 2004 with an 8-11 record and solid across-the-board numbers for a dreadful team that lost 104 games, but he wasn’t emotionally ready at that age for the scrutiny and expectations surrounding his circumstances. Very few people would be. All the talk of “maturity beyond his years” for players like Mike Trout is fine, but 22 is 22. It’s an early age to be labeled a savior.

Greinke led the American League in losses in 2005 and missed almost the entire 2006 season with his off-field troubles. He regrouped and fulfilled his potential and more. So why is it still something brought up almost offhandedly as if the final word has been uttered because of what happened when he was 22-years-old?

According to Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin, Greinke is definitely going to be traded somewhere. The Brewers had been holding out to see where they were after the All-Star break and have come completely apart. Greinke is a free agent at the end of the season and the Brewers are a mid-market team that is willing to spend money to compete, but can’t toss $140 million at a pending free agent as the Phillies just did with Cole Hamels and simultaneously field a competitive roster to surround Greinke. Trading him makes sense. When all is said and done, the Brewers will likely have recouped what they traded away to get Greinke and more since they didn’t give up all that much to get him in the first place. That’s more of an indictment on Royals’ GM Dayton Moore than a credit-garnering device for Melvin.

Even with that there are teams that are being eliminated by the media because of a problem that existed six years ago and the set-in-stone implication that Greinke wouldn’t handle New York, Boston, Philadelphia or any other town with a heavy media contingent and demanding fanbase. The reality of that will be known within days when Greinke’s traded. The Red Sox or Yankees might roll the dice on him. The reality of the implication will be known in the next two months.

Teams can shun Greinke for legitimate reasons. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and sounds as if he’s looking forward to that process and won’t sign an extension to preclude entering the market. In a trade, he’s going to cost 2-3 top-tier prospects and there’s going to be a bidding war for him. If it happens to be true that he can’t handle the high-pressure atmosphere, the trading team will only have him for the final two months of the season and will be trading for him chasing a title. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but to steer clear because of an issue he had in 2006 and has overcome admirably is an excuse, not a reason. Saying “he can’t handle it mentally” is a copout and shouldn’t be referenced as a final barometer not to trade for a pitcher who could mean the difference between winning a World Series and not making the playoffs at all.

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Mid-Season Trade Candidates—Zack Greinke

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Name: Zack Greinke—Milwaukee Brewers

Tale of the tape: Right-handed pitcher; 28-years-old (29 in October); 6’2”, 200 lbs.

Contract status: $13.5 million in 2012. Free agent after the season.

Would the Brewers trade him?

They’re not going to be able to sign him, but there’s a difference between would they trade him and will they trade him.

There’s an undertone that Greinke is definitely going to be traded because the Brewers are floundering and are unlikely to climb back into contention.

They’re 34-41 and in 4th place in the NL Central. But they’re 7 1/2 games out of first place behind the Reds and 5 1/2 games out of the Wild Card lead.

The Reds are a good team but not so good that the Brewers should forget about a possible comeback in the division. There are two Wild Cards available and throwing in the towel before it’s absolutely necessary is a questionable decision.

If they fade out by the end of July with a double-digit deficit in the division and are 8 or so games out of the Wild Card and—more importantly—have not played well enough to justify holding out, they should trade Greinke.

Greinke is one of the top pitchers in baseball with a feel for pitching that is quite rare. He’s able to accelerate his fastball when he needs to and his control is impeccable with both his fastball and his off-speed stuff. He’s a pure ace in his prime and if he’s available teams would be remiss by not exploring his cost.

What would they want for him?

The new CBA has taken away the draft pick compensation for a team that acquires a pending free agent player at mid-season. Unless a club thinks that the player is the final piece of their puzzle and his acquisition will put them in a position to win the World Series, it may not be worth it to gut the system or even give up a top prospect to get the player.

The Brewers are not only losing Greinke after this season but Shaun Marcum is a free agent as well and Randy Wolf has a $10 million contract option for 2013 and is going to be 36 in August. Wolf’s pitched better than his record, but it won’t make sense to pick up the option if the Brewers are beginning a rebuild.

Their farm system is largely gutted. They need volume at the minor league level and pitching prospects. GM Doug Melvin is experienced and will dangle Greinke out there to maximize his value. They would get a couple of good prospects for Greinke. In retrospect the Brewers didn’t give up much to get Greinke so they’ll be able to recoup what they gave and get a bit more back after having the pitcher for a season-and-a-half.

Which teams would pursue him?

Greinke is a bad fit for either New York team and probably Philadelphia and Boston.

That won’t stop any of those teams from going after him and maybe he’ll surprise those who think he’s not mentally tough enough to handle the big stage.

Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman has said he doesn’t foresee pursuing anything of the high-end quality of Greinke, but the absence of Andy Pettitte and disabled list stint for CC Sabathia—no matter how short-term it supposedly is—has to give them pause for October and will force them to ask about Greinke.

The Orioles will be after him; the Tigers, White Sox, Indians and even the Royals might be involved.

The Royals are labeled as sellers with Jeff Francoeur, Bruce Chen and even Billy Butler being mentioned, but they’re 5 games out of first place in the mediocre AL Central and are 31-25 after their atrocious 3-14 start. Why should they sell?

The Braves, Cardinals, Marlins, Dodgers and Diamondbacks are in this drama too.

What will happen?

The window for the Brewers was narrow. If they were going to win with this group it had to be in 2011. They lost in the NLCS; Prince Fielder departed as a free agent; they tried to patch it together to replace him and it hasn’t worked.

Now they have to start over again.

Given their injuries and as poorly as they’ve played up to now, I can’t imagine a miraculous comeback for this configuration. Greinke’s going to get traded and my guess is that he winds up with the Braves.

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Time Is Running Out Fast On The Brewers

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By itself the Brewers’ loss of first baseman Mat Gamel to a torn ACL isn’t all that catastrophic.

Gamel wasn’t exactly taking advantage of his opportunity to play every day (again) after the free agent loss of Prince Fielder. With a slash line of .246/.293/.348, 1 home run and mediocre defense, it shouldn’t be that hard to replace Gamel.

But if you read this piece from Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Brewers intend to replace Gamel with veteran journeyman Travis Ishikawa.

Ishikawa’s slash line is .172/.226/.414.

That’s not going to cut it.

The Brewers’ best maneuver (one they’re considering) would be to shift Corey Hart to first base—where he’d done some spring work—and use a combination in right and centerfield of Carlos Gomez, Nyjer Morgan and Norichika Aoki.

Eventually I’m sure that’s the final conclusion they’ll come to.

The Brewers had hoped that their pitching would remain a strong suit. A deep and impressive starting rotation backed up by two legitimate closers should keep any team competitive whether they lose a basher like Fielder or not. They signed Aramis Ramirez to pick up some of the slack, but Ramirez is a notorious slow starter and has gotten out of the gate poorly. When the weather heats up, in general, so does Ramirez.

Ryan Braun has quietly gotten off to a good start with 7 homers and a .942 OPS and quieted the PED controversy from the off-season.

But the Brewers don’t have much time to get themselves together. They’re a win-now team with important pieces—Zack Greinke, Francisco Rodriguez and Shaun Marcum—set for free agency after the season.

For a mid-market team with a tiny window, the Brewers got to the precipice in 2011 and fell short. They took steps to make another run, but fate has stepped in with a vengeance.

If they don’t get themselves together soon, GM Doug Melvin needs to seriously consider putting the word out that he’s willing to listen to offers on the above-mentioned pending free agents. K-Rod would be an asset to a contender—perhaps back where he began his career with the Angels. Marcum is a solid mid-rotation starter. Greinke is a star whom the Brewers are unlikely to be able to keep.

They gutted their system and made their moves for 2011 and lost in the NLCS. Now it may be time to set a date (around mid-late-June) and make a move in the direction of reality and accept that they need to get what they can for the players they won’t have much longer and look toward 2013 and beyond.

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Brewers Get K-Rod—And They’re Not Done

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At least they’d better not be done.

With their current issues, the bullpen was probably the last place the Brewers needed to upgrade for a legitimate run at a championship. First was defense; then there was a lefty specialist to deal with the Phillies; then there was bullpen help.

Considering the money and personal conduct problems from last season surrounding Francisco Rodriguez, it’s a bit of a surprise the Brewers chose to get him first.

Perhaps they were concerned that someone—specifically the Cardinals—were going to go after K-Rod and wanted to preclude that from happening while simultaneously bolstering what’s been a moderate strength.

There are two ways to go in making deals to improve: enhance a strength or fix a weakness.

The Brewers bullpen has been serviceable with John Axford closing and will be better with K-Rod either setting up for Axford or taking over as the closer. (It isn’t clear as to what they’re doing, but I’ll guess that, for now, Axford will hold onto his job.)

Was this a smart move for the Brewers?

Well, it was aggressive. K-Rod is mostly reliable in the regular season and while he’d like to have the contract kicker worth $17.5 million come into effect by finishing 55 games this year, he’ll get a good contract somewhere if he does enter free agency this winter. The Mets have sent some money along with K-Rod and are receiving two players to be named later.

As a closer, K-Rod was never a lockdown arm in the playoffs. He was notoriously unreliable for the Angels, always seeming to fail at the hands of the Red Sox. He’s not a guarantee to be a help to the Brewers setting up/closing now or in the post-season. He’s wild and is prone to the home run ball. His strikeout numbers are still solid though not as massive as they were earlier in his career. He’s a different pitcher relying on control of his fastball, a great curve and good changeup more than he did when he was young.

He will help the Brewers now.

It’s not hard to figure out what the Brewers have to do next.

Their infield defense is awful. Looking at Axford’s numbers in comparison to a pitcher like Kyle Farnsworth—who’s functioning with a fast and rangy infield with the Rays—and the difference is shocking. Axford’s BAbip (batting average on balls in play) for ground balls is .273; Farnsworth’s is .153.

This is no coincidence nor is it a stat taken out of context to prove a point. It’s a problem.

With the addition of K-Rod and the great starting pitching, they must-must-must improve the defense by finding a slick-fielding shortstop to replace Yuniesky Betancourt. That means J.J. Hardy, Jason Bartlett, Brendan Ryan or Jack Wilson—someone who can catch the ball. They won’t hit much worse than Betancourt has and they’d improve the defense markedly.

Casey McGehee hasn’t hit either and his defense at third base is mediocre. The Brewers could go after a historically solid defender who has some pop like Kevin Kouzmanoff of the Athletics or Casey Blake of the Dodgers.

To accompany the “go for it” mentality that GM Doug Melvin is exhibiting and contingent on getting a shortstop, they could do something drastic like trade for an outfielder and move Ryan Braun back to third base for the rest of the season. Braun wasn’t a good defensive third baseman, but he won’t be much worse than what they have now and they’d augment the offense with a Carlos Beltran or Kosuke Fukudome.

When discussing the Brewers trading deadline needs two days ago, I said they had to try and win this year. Prince Fielder is leaving as a free agent and their window of opportunity is short. Trading for K-Rod is reflective of that—Melvin knows what the Brewers are and he’s going for it in 2011.

But if they want to truly go all-in, they can’t stop at K-Rod.

And they won’t.

I’ll post about how this affects the Mets later today.

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Viewer Mail 6.4.2011

Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Management, Media, Players

Gabriel writes RE Buster Posey and Scott Cousins:

What people don’t really see is that Posey did not suffer a concussion nor a separated shoulder. He was injured because of the awkward position he assumed when trying to defend the plate. It’s a shame Buster is lost for the season, but people should not satanize Cousins because injury was not his goal.

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Pookah writes in response to Gabriel and RE Brian Sabean’s comments:

Gabriel, the injury could have been way worse. Unfortunately, it would take a way worse injury for the rule to be changed.

Though Sabs (as we call him) shouldn’t have said any of that, I don’t fault him. He lost his best position player. He spoke out of frustration. The Giants have already apologized on Sabs behalf (http://sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110603&content_id=19988894&vkey=news_sf&c_id=sf). Maybe he’ll get fined, but I’m sure he’ll think it was well worth it.

Posey was in a bad position because he moved in front of the plate to take the somewhat errant throw.

Cousins had no way calculating where Posey was and deciding in that small window that sliding around him was the best option. He chose to run him over and Posey got hurt. It was an accident of circumstance.

As for Sabean’s comments, you can’t defend them in any way. You can read Pookah’s link and then you can read this link from SBNation in which the Giants press release is “translated”—more accurately, I say.

Sabean’s absolutely going to get fined; he was going to get (or has already gotten) a stern talking to from baseball’s Godfather, Joe Torre; and he made himself look like a whiny fool.

The “home team” radio silliness as if Sabean’s comments weren’t going to be picked up by the national media and this “emotional time” garbage is stoking the fires.

Posey was hurt in a clean play. He wasn’t killed in a drive by shooting led by a rival gang with low-level soldier Cousins pulling the trigger.

Enough.

Jak writes RE the Brewers and deadline deals:

Sounds nice and all, but can you name any Brewers prospects that any team is interested in? You seem to have forgotten how much the Greinke trade emptied their whole farm system. Jose Reyes would make them unbeatable, but i will bet my life that Melvin cant pull that deal.

It’s a fair point.

But history has shown that you can’t say now what it’ll take to get a player from a dealing club. Situations and demands are fluid and change rapidly.

Reyes isn’t going anywhere unless there’s a lot coming back, but with Francisco Rodriguez or Carlos Beltran, the cost would be less; K-Rod especially could be had for a young, high-end prospect who needs to mature and simply taking on the rest of his contract.

Unbeatable is a strong word. The Mets have had Reyes for eight years and have proven to be eminently beatable.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the MLB Draft:

HAHAHA! Who will be drafted number one!?!? THE SUSPENSE IS KILLING ME LIKE A NAIL GUN TO THE TEMPLE! Two words for Pirates fans: Brad Lincoln.

Our best bet is to wait to see what Keith Law says as he continuously alters his mock draft with a greater frequency than PECOTA tries to run from their picking the Twins to win 95 games.

I fought the Law and the Law won.

Let’s not fight the Law.

Patrick writes RE Reyes and the Mets:

Reyes won’t make or break the franchise, but it will make or break the next three to four years.

Look if his price tag becomes insanely overvalued a lunatic owner looking to make a splash, like the way Boston did with Crawford and Washington did with Werth, I can’t fault the Mets for being in a thanks but no thanks mode.

However when you look at the makeup of the Mets system, the pending free agent market for 2012 and 2013, the two most direct routes to roster improvement, there is not a lot there.

Most of the Mets options for improvement are going to need to come out trades and of non-tendered guys, wise looks at other teams systems ala taking shots at guys like Pridie and Turner and roll the dice some pan out.

The trades require a deep farm system which the Mets can’t boast currently. So is it wise to lose a core asset like Reyes if you really want to be competitive.

To get Reyes, it’s a safe bet that someone will go over-the-top in a similar fashion as the Red Sox and Nationals did with Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.

For the record, I’d like the Mets to keep Reyes unless someone offers the moon for him in a trade or his demands as a free agent are in the Crawford range ($140 million).

Teams turn around their fortunes relatively quickly even after perceived “franchise-wrecking” moves were completed. The Mets can’t let sentiment and the anger and rhetorical manipulations by fans/media influence them into doing something stupid; that’s how they got into this mess in the first place.

JR writes RE the Brewers and J.J. Hardy:

Do u think the Brewers go and try to get Hardy back?

I actually thought of that.

It’s not a terrible idea. A free agent at the end of the year, Hardy’s a far superior fielder and hitter than Yuniesky Betancourt, but his offense has collapsed since the All Star beginning to his career.

The Orioles won’t do anything now, but Hardy will be available and won’t cost much.

I could see it happening.

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Deadline Players

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If any team is a sure bet to be heavy buyers at the trading deadline it’s the Milwaukee Brewers.

Because they have so much invested in this season and aren’t going to be able to keep Prince Fielder as a free agent, they’re all in for 2011.

There are other reasons why the Brewers are going to be super-aggressive at the trading deadline.

Presumably Brewers GM Doug Melvin knew how promising Brett Lawrie was when he traded him to the Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum. Marcum has been terrific so far this season and is under team control through next year. The Brewers needed starting pitching; they had Casey McGehee to play third and Rickie Weeks at second; and they were forced to take Yuniesky Betancourt‘s contract from the Royals to get Zack Greinke.

There was no place to put Lawrie; he’s never played shortstop and beyond doing something truly outside-the-box and trying to shift Weeks to short to make room for him, this was a mutually beneficial and necessary move. The Blue Jays had a lot of pitching and the Brewers had a prospect the Blue Jays coveted.

Lawrie is expected to be recalled soon; he’s been destroying the ball at Triple A Las Vegas with 79 hits, 38 extra base hits including 15 homers, and a 1.092 OPS in 52 games.

It was a “win now” trade for the Brewers and it’s working; they still need some upgrades.

With that in mind, expect something major to improve the offense, infield defense and bullpen before the trading deadline. I’m talking about any of the three potentially available Mets from Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez; Heath Bell from the Padres; or Jason Kubel from the Twins.

The Brewers are in a very winnable division and the Wild Card will also be available. With their starting pitching of Greinke, Marcum and Yovani Gallardo, they’re a major threat to anyone in the playoffs already; if they do something bold like acquire any of the above-mentioned names, they’ll be truly dangerous.

Fielder’s basically gone and Lawrie’s ready for a recall from the Blue Jays. The Brewers know what they have to do—they have to win and they have to win now.

Melvin will do everything necessary to make a playoff run because, given the circumstances, he doesn’t have much of a choice. And he’s right to do it.

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Priorities And Necessity

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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.

Why?

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.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon.


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