Greinke will find comfort and thrive with Dodgers
Zack Greinke will be just fine with the Los Angeles Dodgers. And that's not even considering the money he is getting.
As the leading pitcher in a relatively thin free-agent market, Greinke was in a magnificent bargaining position. That translated into a six-year, $147-million contract with the Dodgers, the second largest ever for a pitcher. The contract's average annual value is $24.5 million, a record for a pitching contract.
The undercurrent accompanying the Greinke saga included the constant speculation that Greinke would not fare well in a large market setting because of his social anxiety disorder. The people saying these things apparently had not spent much time observing Greinke.
Greinke is not emotionally disabled. He likes structure, particularly in his dealings with the media. His postgame comments following his starts are characterized by insight and honesty, and, when the situation calls for it, candid self-criticism.
And when he was traded to the Angels from Milwaukee last summer, he was not overwhelmed by the move to a large-market club. In his last eight starts with the Angels he was 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA.
Before a large media throng at his introductory Dodgers media session on Tuesday, Greinke was typically open, direct and humorous. Asked how he reacted to the amount of media attention, Greinke smiled and responded:
"It's definitely more than I've ever had before. This doesn't bother me. What bothers me is one at a time and answering the same questions over again. The answers are just going to get worse, each time you ask it."
That was good. That was very good.
Asked what some of the factors were that made him choose the Dodgers, Greinke replied:
"I don't want to make his head too big, but (club president) Stan Kasten was like the smartest person I've ever talked to. With him in charge, I thought they had a good chance to keep things going good."
Good again. You don't get filtered responses from Greinke. He seems to be incapable of dishonesty.
Asked about his reasons for picking the Dodgers, Greinke said:
"Besides the money, I guess, No. 1 one was to have a team that could win a World Series for several years, because my contract was planned to be for several years."
That would now appear to be the Dodgers. They are sparing no expense in building what looks like a winner, as their projected 2013 player payroll climbs to the record level of $230 million.
Greinke had already made an impression on the Dodgers, apart from his tangible, admirable work on the mound. Coming in for a meeting with Kasten, general manager Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly, Greinke arrived with no agent, no entourage, just his wife. This was the act of a confident man, not somebody wracked by emotional uncertainty.
"I don't know how many free agents I have spoken to and I can't remember one who didn't bring an agent with him, friends or representatives," Colletti said. "Three hours with Zack. It was impressive. He was stunning.
"When he left that day, we all said: 'We've got to figure out a way to get this kid here.' Because he's sharp, because he's about so much more than just the pitching. It was probably the best free agent meeting I've had in decades of doing this. It was just pure."
There is going to be an obvious reaction to this signing centered on the contention that Greinke's career doesn't merit the kind of money he will be getting from the Dodgers. The argument could easily be made that nobody merits this kind of money, unless he or she is finding the cure for cancer or figuring out how to stop the polar ice caps from melting.
Zack Greinke was supremely fortunate in the timing of his free agency. But beyond that, the limitations other people have arbitrarily placed on him do not necessarily apply to his situation.
"People take their own interpretation of what would make me comfortable and what wouldn't, and that's not necessarily true," Greinke said.
What makes Zack Greinke comfortable is a situation in which his team can win and in which his commitment to his craft can continue to be relentlessly, successfully applied. In this case, the size of the Los Angeles metropolitan area does not have to be considered as any sort of obstacle.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.