Sunday, July 8, 2012

Zack Attack

In a mid-season game yesterday against the lowly Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers' ace starter Zack Greinke was ejected after four pitches in the first inning.  He spiked the baseball into the infield dirt after a close play at first base.  First-base umpire Sam Holbrook, apparently utilizing eyes in the back of his head like the lava lizards of the Galapagos Islands, found in his infinite wisdom and frocked authority that the stoic, silent Greinke, who had said a grand total of no angry words after the play, not to the umpire nor to anyone else on the field, nor faced nor confronted the ump, nor argued the call with vehemence, nor with an air of sophisticated insouciance, nor gestured at the ump, who wouldn't have seen him do so anyway, nor so much as glanced sideways with a stony, hollow eyeball at the man in blue, had nevertheless said one word too many.

Greinke's ejection -- "unprecedented," according to Brewers' television announcer Bill Schroeder, inasmuch as the non-celebratory touchdown spike was spectacularly and notoriously unwitnessed by Holbrook, who nevertheless was evidently convinced it was the deed of a villainous scofflaw rather than the self-scolding of a Gold Glove-caliber pitcher angry at himself for being late to break to first base -- was followed closely by the pro forma ejection of the manager, Ron Roenicke; the Brewers proceeded to lose to the AAAstros, 6-3.

This being the Brewers' penultimate game before the All-Star break, and with Greinke connected to mid-season trade rumors, there's naturally more to the story.  Major League scouts from several teams interested in Greinke were reportedly in attendance, although they probably left to tour NASA's Johnson Space Center with their kids after Roenicke replaced Zack on the mound with 76-year-old Livan Hernandez (spoiler alert: not a prospect).  Unfortunately, the scouts still need receipts in order to write off the space junket, which means they can't return from a suborbital voyage to Houston without filling out their TSP reports, which in turn means they still need to see Zack pitch.  Instantly upon his departure, as he headed up the tunnel to play Three Card Wenceslas with Roenicke in the clubhouse for three hours, the hue and cry on Twitter and the game broadcast rose as one voice, voicing a potentially Nobel-winning concept: could Zack Greinke start for the Brewers in Sunday's first half-closing contest, his last opportunity before the All-Star break and conceivably his last as a Milwaukee Brewer, after throwing only four pitches on Saturday?

If the Brewers want to pitch Greinke today in order to compete and win, that's fine. If, however, the Brewers are considering risking Greinke's arm just to showcase him for the visiting scouts, that's risky and distorts the purpose of playing a Major League ballgame.  Woe to the organization if he gets injured after his every-five-day preparatory routine is thrown off.  Besides, Marco Estrada has been pitching quite well in his spot starts.

To me, the answer is simple: give Zack a cold drink and a lounge chair.  What more can the scouts possibly need to see that isn't already on game film?  He's a former Cy Young Award winner who would be the ace of most staffs and has had an excellent first half.  Either sign him to a new contract extension or start the bidding.

Then, when Estrada is ejected by Holbrook for glancing suggestively at second base, the Zack Attack will be tanned, rested, and ready.

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