The off-season is filled with visions of money stacked tall and wide. It is that time to make THE haul in a baseball players career. Today’s top pitcher on the Market for a new contract is Zach Greinke. He may not be the best pitcher, nor even the best pitcher on his new team. But he will be one of the best paid pitchers in baseball.
It is all built on hope. The hope of the Los Angeles Dodgers is to win a pennant and another World Series. The hope of Zach Greinke is to have the biggest bank account in whatever neighborhood he decides to land in. But there are severe problems in achieving both of these hopeful goals. First, there is the champion San Francisco Giants. Second, there is chemistry. Third, there is history.
The San Francisco Giants have won the World Series two of the past three years. Here is a team that has the players in place with an understanding that it takes all 25 to make a successful season. They also have one of the deepest pitching staffs in baseball. They also have the best pitcher in the National League, Matt Cain. Plus, they have an excellent manager of the game. Nobody today manages crises better than Bruce Bochy.
Chemistry is an important ingredient in making up a championship ball club. It is the glue that holds a team together in tough times and the power behind the bonding that makes the good times even greater. Greinke has some interesting issues when it comes to this particular element. Can the highest paid pitcher on your staff be only the second best on your staff? Can the introverted guy meld into the blend that is La La? Sure, the news that will be coming out of Camelback Ranch this spring will be full of hope and how well Grienke will be fitting into those Boys In Blue. He’ll be shown laughing with what’s his name, Matt Kemp, in Center Field. He’ll be throwing down a few with what’s his name, Adrian Gonzalez, who just got here from Boston at First Base. He’ll be seen in a picture, smiling, alongside what’s his name, Clayton Kershaw, the 24-year-old, number one pitcher on the staff. But there will be Donny Ballgame attempting to manage it all. And there will be exhortations from Tommy saying that the second coming of the Dodgers to Los Angeles is well on its way and that he will shout from the top of his lungs, “Bleed Dodger Blue, Baby”.
That brings us to number three: history and Grienke’s six year, $147 million dollar deal in the National League. Zack’s history in the N.L. with the Milwaukee Brewers was spectacular at home. He never lost a game at home in Milwaukee. But on the road, it was a different story. What happens on the road when he hits his non-winning bumps, far away from the palm lined driveway in the Hills of Southern California? Could anguish set in behind the doubts he will have to live up to because of the immense amount of money he is making? No one will be able to console him because no one knows how to talk to him. He doesn’t really do that. But the real doubt that will haunt him is that he is not a #1. He was number two in Milwaukee. He was number two with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Yet he is being paid #1 salary by a desperate team.
Why are they desperate? San Francisco is the king. L.A. is the pretender. L.A. hates to be second to any city, especially to the City By The Bay. Least we forget, it takes more than just a great home field starting pitcher. The San Francisco Giants have a bullpen besides great starting pitching and a proven manager with a team loaded with chemistry.
But, this is what the Hot Stove is all about, isn’t it. You can talk about hope forever. You can talk about the pros and cons of paying Greinke whatever. All the time you are doing this, you can almost smell the rosin of spring. It’s only a few weeks away.