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Thread: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

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    White Castle to the Nile Crash Davis's Avatar
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    What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansas...as_city_royals

    Greinke takes step toward mound

    By WRIGHT THOMPSON
    The Kansas City Star

    SURPRISE, Ariz. — Zack Greinke is alone, something that seems to both comfort and frighten him. The normally busy baseball facility has gone silent. Just green grass and brown dirt and white chalk — the simple things that have always drawn him to the game.

    When the young Royals pitcher speaks, his voice is quiet but strong. “Most people who have my problem have it when they’re by themselves,” he says.

    For all of his 22 years, Greinke has been a man defined by two powerful but disconnected traits. He is a phenomenal baseball player, but at the same time he is emotionally unequipped to handle everything that comes with playing at the highest level.

    Small talk always eluded him. Locker rooms, clubhouses and crowds made him uncomfortable. He felt out of place everywhere but the mound. Then, two months ago, he felt lost there, too. During one spring-training bullpen session, everything spilled out, forcing him to finally deal with longstanding emotional issues.

    “The way I was throwing,” he says, “it wasn’t me throwing. I couldn’t throw a strike. I couldn’t think about throwing a strike. I couldn’t focus. And I had the worst bullpen of my life one day, and the next time I was trying to throw my arm off just because I was going crazy. I was throwing everything 100 miles per hour. That’s when I was like, I can’t keep doing this.”

    Greinke went home to Orlando needing a break. Now, after his self-imposed exile, he’s back. He gets up and goes to work at extended spring training, trying to become an elite pitcher again and retake control of his mind. General manager Allard Baird has come to realize the challenge that Greinke faces every morning just to make himself come to a clubhouse.

    “I will tell you this,” Baird says. “What he has done to address this is, to me, one of the most courageous things I’ve ever seen.”

    From an early age, Greinke didn’t know what to do with empty spaces. Even during Little League, he hated to arrive at the ballpark a half-hour before games. He never seemed to know what to do or say.

    “I knew there was something wrong with me,” he says, “but I never thought about going to see anyone to talk about it.”

    He gravitated toward solitary pursuits. Even today, he loves golf, fishing and mountain climbing. High above Phoenix, where he likes to trek, he can look down on everyone else, happy up near the clouds.

    Growing up, there were signs. As about an 8-year-old tennis player, with a 50-0 record, he finally got beat. It was the only tournament match he lost, and he said it’s the last one he played.

    “I lost on purpose,” he says. “I had problems; I’d get real nervous before the games. The last time, I got so nervous and I was like, ‘Dad, I can’t play anymore.’ I was going crazy thinking I was gonna lose. I got so nervous I ended up hitting every ball straight into the net. The second set, I was loose and I beat the guy like 6-2. I ended up quitting in the last one. I hit them into the net again.”

    Still, his athletic talent came to define him to the outside world. His emotional issues became quirks. The Royals selected him in the first round of the 2002 draft. Dubbed the future, he rose through the minors, landing with a big-league club that was in dire need of pitching.

    He had a successful 2004 season but faltered a bit in 2005. By the time he got to spring training earlier this year and couldn’t throw a bullpen session, he’d come to a crossroads. He couldn’t fake fitting in any longer. Things he’d once adored meant little.

    “I really like when the sun is setting,” he says. “I was here in Arizona, and it was one of the prettiest days out and the sun was setting, and I was like, ‘I don’t care; I don’t even want to look at it right now. It doesn’t do anything for me.’ That was one moment where I was like: What’s wrong with me?”

    He left camp, and as the plane took off for home, a weight lifted off his shoulders. He felt free, for the first time in ages. But soon, he realized that his problems existed inside himself, not in any clubhouse.

    Now, two days into his comeback, sitting in a conference room in Surprise, he touches his pitching arm.

    “I wouldn’t give up this thing for anything,” he says. “I love it. But also, the problem I have isn’t going to bother me just if I play baseball. It’s gonna bother me no matter what I’m doing. That’s one thing I realized when I left and started talking to some people. I realized that it’s not just at the baseball field that it’s like this.

    “Whatever I do in life, it’s gonna bother me.”

    Greinke looks good. His blue eyes are bright. He says that he feels better and that he owes everything to the team officials who, in his moment of need, treated him like a human being first. That has taught him baseball can be more than a job.

    “I couldn’t have done this without Allard, (manager) Buddy (Bell) and my parents,” he says. “They’ve done so much more than they needed to do or should have done. I’m still amazed by it. When I left, I thought they’d just kick me out the door. The way they’ve done it, I wasn’t expecting it. It’s just been incredible.”

    Wednesday afternoon, standing in the empty lobby of the Royals’ spring-training facility, Greinke makes a point of saying how supportive his teammates have been. When he left, he was worried that he’d burned too many bridges. Their calls have meant the world.

    “I’ve treated a lot of them like crap, because I felt so miserable that I acted rude to everyone,” he says. “I was taking it out on people I was friends with. The way I was doing it, it was out of control.”

    Greinke doesn’t claim to have a miracle cure. Each day is a profound challenge. When Baird professes pride in what the pitcher has been able to do, Greinke refuses to celebrate moral victories. There’s no time to be proud yet.

    “If I get better, I will be,” he says. “If not, it will all be a waste of time. At least I’m trying; that’s kinda cool. If it doesn’t get better, then I’m gonna have problems for a long time.”

    Since arriving in Arizona on Monday, he’s worked out, easing back into it. They’re taking it slow. Greinke is trying to feel at home.

    He’s not there yet.

    “I don’t feel right in the clubhouse,” he says. “I’m pretty much comfortable everywhere besides here. … I’m not ready to throw a bullpen yet. I don’t know how long it will be. I would assume it would be pretty soon.”

    There’s no schedule or projected return date. Just hope.

    “This is a process,” Baird says. “It’s gonna take some time. No one knows how much time. He’s taking steps to move forward. Is he better now than what he was? Yes. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s a day-to-day approach. The focus is for him as a person. Today brings tomorrow, and tomorrow brings the next day.”

    So with only today in front of him, and with Baird and an organization behind him, Greinke walks down the sidewalk toward the clubhouse. He pauses for a moment, then goes through the open door.

    “I’m not afraid to play baseball,” he says.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    To reach Wright Thompson, sports reporter for The Star, call (816) 234-4856 or send e-mail to wthompson@kcstar.com.
    "I fought because I understood and could not bear to understand, that it was my destiny -- unlike that of my father, whose fate it was to hear the roar of the crowd -- to sit in the stands with most men and acclaim others. It was my fate, my destiny, my end, to be a fan."

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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    Huh....I wonder what IS bothering Zack.
    I hope it's never sunny in Philly again.

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    White Castle to the Nile Crash Davis's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    Total speculation, but there are some hints of Asperger's Syndrome:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger%27s_syndrome
    "I fought because I understood and could not bear to understand, that it was my destiny -- unlike that of my father, whose fate it was to hear the roar of the crowd -- to sit in the stands with most men and acclaim others. It was my fate, my destiny, my end, to be a fan."

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    Member SteelSD's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    Quote Originally Posted by Crash Davis
    Total speculation, but there are some hints of Asperger's Syndrome:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger%27s_syndrome
    Maybe, but if I had to throw a dart at a board, I'd aim at nonincapacitating agoraphobia.
    "The problem with strikeouts isn't that they hurt your team, it's that they hurt your feelings..." --Rob Neyer

    "The single most important thing for a hitter is to get a good pitch to hit. A good hitter can hit a pitch that’s over the plate three times better than a great hitter with a ball in a tough spot.”
    --Ted Williams

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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    Wierd situation. I hope he can get the help he needs and get his personal life back in order first. If he can come back and be a major league pitcher that's just icing on the cake. It sounds like he has the right support system so hopefully he can make it back.

  7. #6
    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    I wish all the best for Zach and his family, I hope he gets everything straightened out in his life.

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    Danger is my business! oneupper's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    I'm thinking Social Anxiety Disorder.
    "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

    http://dalmady.blogspot.com

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    Joe Oliver love-child Blimpie's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    Quote Originally Posted by oneupper
    I'm thinking Social Anxiety Disorder.
    Yep. I'm thinking this guy doing interviews in the locker room with his helmet on (but without the dime bags....)



    Sad story for both Greinke AND the Royals. They were outscored by something like 50 runs during their 10 game losing streak. To say they are anticipating his return would be a profound understatement.
    "Booing on opening day is like telling grandma her house smells like old lady."--WOY

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    This one's for you Edd Heath's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    And I was going to blame it on a bad break-up.

    Some guys can do it, some just can't.
    Some people play baseball. Baseball plays Jay Bruce.

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    Joe Oliver love-child Blimpie's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    Quote Originally Posted by Heath
    And I was going to blame it on a bad break-up.

    Some guys can do it, some just can't.
    You just reminded me of the Seinfeld episode when Elaine dated the "Bad Breakup Guy."

    When he learned it was over with his woman, he would immediately begin trashing her to her face. I think once Elaine dumped him, he began ragging on her big forehead...
    "Booing on opening day is like telling grandma her house smells like old lady."--WOY

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    As somebody who has dealt/deals with similar issues and is a similar age & stage in life, I have a lot of sympathy for the kid. So often we view atheletes as these robots who just go out and perform. I hope he's able to find a way to cope with his issues and go on to make use of his talent.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    RZ Chamber of Commerce Unassisted's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    It's great that his club is supporting him. What the article doesn't say is whether he's getting professional help. It sounds like he's getting space rather than help. Clearly he needs some help sorting out his issues and getting a diagnosis.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    Sports Illustrated puts Zack Greinke on the cover.

    Greinke is the first Royals player to appear on the cover since pitcher David Cone on April 5, 1993 for the magazine’s preview to the upcoming baseball season. The last Royals player to appear on an in-season cover was outfielder Bo Jackson on June 12, 1989.
    I guess that says something about the success of the Royals over the last 20 years.
    http://baseballmusings.com/


    http://www.sharapovasthigh.com/2009/...story-not.html


    I've gotten tired of hearing about the "hero" Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton is. Yeah I'm happy for him that he overcame drug addiction, became a 2008 All-Star and MVP candidate, and put on a show in the 2008 Home Run Derby, but come on now.

    You can be a crack addict, but if you stop doing it and become somebody worthwhile, you're a hero! But then the guy that stays out of trouble, just goes about his job, wins an MVP, well he's just a great baseball player, but far from a "hero". At least that's how the media portrays it. Who has been glorified by the media more in the last year, Josh Hamilton or Dustin Pedroia?

    Josh Hamilton got an "ESPN Homecoming" interview with Rick Reilly, honoring Hamilton at his former high school for what he has gone through and now accomplished. There's a program running on MLB Network all the time now, called "Josh Hamilton: Resurrecting the Dream".

    It's an effort to make all of the people that screwed up badly feel like they can still become something, and they can of course, but they shouldn't be praised for it if they do. They put themselves in those positions. It's sending the wrong message.

    To me there's a much more admirable story that we haven't heard nearly as much about. Kansas City Royals pitcher Zack Greinke is 3-0, has a complete game shutout, 26 strikeouts, and has not allowed a single run in 20 innings pitched thus far in 2009. He's been simply dominating and was just named AL Player of the Week(sharing the award with Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler).

    If you're understandably saying, "Well it's just been three games", he was great in 2008 as well. He went 13-10(on a 75-win Royals team) with a 3.47 ERA, 183 strikeouts, and just 56 walks in 202.1 innings pitched. That's pretty darn good for a guy that was just 24 years old last season.

    It's even more impressive when you consider where he was just a few years ago. Greinke was the first round selection(sixth overall) of the Royals in 2002 after being awarded the Gatorade National Player of the Year award for his high school dominance. He followed that up with a 15-4 record and a 1.93 ERA in his first season of minor league baseball, and was named The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year.

    In 2004 at the age of 20, he made his major league debut and ended up starting 24 games with the Royals, putting up a 3.97 ERA. He was living up to the incredible hype after being a first round draft pick and the top prospect in the Royals organization. He was a phenom and it didn't appear that it would be a question of if he could be a top of the rotation starter, but when.

    However, in 2005 he struggled mightily. He won just 5 games, led the American League in losses with 17, and had an ERA of 5.80. He gave up a whopping 233 hits in 183 innings, and struck out just 114.

    Something clearly wasn't right. He was too talented to be getting hit this hard and it certainly hadn't been a problem in his first season in the majors. The Royals couldn't figure out what exactly was going on. There had to be more to this that wasn't just showing up on the radar gun readings or in his mechanics.

    It turned out Greinke had been battling depression and dealing with social anxiety disorder. Sports Illustrated's John Donovan described what exactly Greinke was going through in a 2007 article:

    But behind all the promise, Greinke was being crushed by a nearly debilitating case of depression and constant bouts of social anxiety, illnesses that had plagued him for much of his life. Even during his short stint in the minors, he struggled with his depression, entertaining thoughts of quitting a game he had grown to despise. He pitched on, though, and in 2005 he lost 17 games, deepening his depression and hatred of the game.

    Last February, during a wild throwing session with catcher John Buck at the team's spring training complex here on the outskirts of Phoenix, he broke down completely. Afterward, he unburdened himself to Bell and the team's general manager at the time, Allard Baird, then missed almost the entire season as he sought psychological help.



    Greinke pitched only six innings in 2006, and was placed on the 60-day disabled list to deal with his psychological struggles. As Donovan alluded to, Greinke had reached a point where he wasn't enjoying the game anymore, and that really became the case when he struggled in 2005. I played baseball from the age of four throughout high school and I know what that's all about.

    After playing the game for so long there comes a point where you're just not having as much fun anymore. You've been doing it your whole life and when you're at a highly competitive level, it can feel like something you're almost being forced to do, rather than that fun game you loved to death in little league. You start to worry and it becomes a thinking game, instead of just going out and having fun. I realized I needed to get back to that, and I did. My performance went up as a result.

    In 2007 after constantly getting help and working hard to overcome social anxiety disorder and depression, Greinke got back on the baseball field and had fun again. He went 7-7 with a 3.69 ERA, working mainly out of the bullpen but did make 14 starts. He was blowing hitters away with his high 90s fastball and buckling their knees with his filthy curveball again, pitching with a swagger he had lost for a couple years. Since the results have just gotten better and better, and most importantly, Greinke's feeling better and better.

    The difference between the situations of Greinke and Hamilton is that Greinke didn't choose for this to happen. If you haven't dealt with a lot of depression or anxiety in your life, you're a special and lucky person I guess. And how do a lot of people choose to deal with depression and anxiety? Plenty of alcohol consumption and/or drug use. It's likely this was how Hamilton chose to handle such situations in the past, and heck, I've certainly been known to drink away my sorrows on occasion.

    However, I'm not going to expect you to praise me if I become a complete alcoholic(don't worry, not going to happen) and then do something significant. I would be putting myself in that mess.

    Zack Greinke didn't, and when he's pitching in this year's Midsummer Classic and quite possibly winning a Cy Young award in the near future, he better be getting every bit as much as love as Josh Hamilton has. He deserves a lot more.

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    Member penantboundreds's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    I'm not a real big fan of that article. Why bring Hamilton into the picture at all, the two are totally different and they both have obvious diseases, good for both of them but to leverage them against each other is kind of silly and disrespectful to each of them. Just my opinion, maybe and probably I am over reacting but that kind of strikes a nerve with me.

    Oh well, good for him, he's having one hell of a year.
    For Love of the Game

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    Member OnBaseMachine's Avatar
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    Re: What's Bothering Zack Greinke

    I think Greinke had a streak of 38 consecutive shutout innings and 43 innings of 0 ER allowed until his last start. That's the closest I can remember a starting pitcher getting to Orel Hershiser's 59 consecutive shutout innings record.
    I miss Adam Dunn.


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