Zack Greinke suffered an injury during an “off-the-field” activity a few weeks ago. Turns out that the activity was basketball, and his injury was a broken rib. Greinke injured himself going after a rebound, and all this happened before he threw a single pitch in a spring training game. Greinke then went on to make two starts, giving up one run on six hits in 3 1/2 innings. According to the Brewers, he’s out four to six weeks, and he may very well start the season on the 15-day disabled list.
There is no singing and dancing. There is no celebratory tweeting. That’s not how we roll in Cardinal Nation. Actually, I don’t expect that from any other team in the NL Central, either. “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” -Ric Flair. Everybody wants to beat everybody else at full strength. I’m not holding back out of respect for Greinke, either. Playing basketball was a stupid decision. Cal Ripken Jr. was notorious for playing basketball, and he even played knowing that it might jeopardize his consecutive games played streak. He played anyway. Cal knew the risks. So did Zach. Fine.
Missing 2 or 3 regular season starts probably won’t have a huge impact on the Brewers season. Lots of pitchers miss that many starts during the regular season, and their teams do just fine. Just look at how many games each of the top pitchers started in 2010, and you’ll notice that not many of them notched 34 or 35. Actually, Chris Carpenter was the only one in the NL to start 35, and only 4 NL pitchers started exactly 34. You get the picture. The bigger concern for Greinke might be the lack of a spring training to actually prepare for the real season. I have the Brewers down as the leaders in the clubhouse for the NL Central crown “on paper”, but their margin for error is slim. It’s a relatively thin line in terms of talent that separates the Brewers from the Reds and Cardinals (a line that I’ve sadly dubbed the “Thin Brew Line”).
Losing Greinke for a few games doesn’t change that margin, though. Some fans are panicking a bit too early. Other fans are all too quick to smell blood in the water. It’s not like the Brewers are automatically forfeiting the games he won’t be starting. They may reset their expectations a bit, but that could work in their favor. If they happen to win 2/3, then those 2 wins will suddenly feel like “bonus victories” that they didn’t exactly expect to get. It’s a bit of a mindgame, but it doesn’t necessarily work against them. The Brewers aren’t accustomed to being the favorite. If they can find a way to exchange that lead dog status for something else, they will do it, and you can hardly blame them. No team in the NL Central really wants to be considered the “favorite”, especially given the recent history of the division.
Still, I reiterate that Greinke missing 2 or 3 starts probably won’t be a deciding factor for the entire season. The way Greinke handles his start to the season after the disabled list stint could be, though. I expect him to be really good, and I’m not even a fan. What must the Brewers fans expect?
TIDBIT: With 1 season at $13.5M left on his contract after this year, I look at this as an extended audition for Greinke. With the kind of run support the Brewers can provide, he has a chance to put up some seriously impressive numbers over the next 2 seasons. If he can make this basketball incident just a blip on the radar, I think that some team will throw close to CC Sabathia money at him. If he “jumps the shark” a few times, some team will probably still throw something close to Sabathia money at him, because teams just never learn.
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