Sean Pendergast

Astro Fans, We Need To Enjoy Zack Greinke More

Zack Greinke stories are the best kind of sports stories.
Zack Greinke stories are the best kind of sports stories. Photo by Jack Gorman
We know the current Houston tale of woe. I feel like some permutation of Deshaun Watson's trade demands, J.J. Watt's departure, James Harden's successful trade demand, George Springer's departure, and the respective existences David Culley, Jack Easterby, Cal McNair have been the lead for 90 percent of my posts since the calendar flipped to 2021.

So with the anniversary of the Day the Sports World Shut Down in our rear view, and with vaccines pumping away, with restaurants and bars reopening, it's high time we look on the bright of things in sports (until tomorrow.. the anniversary of the DeAndre Hopkins Trade, everybody!) With that positive spirit in mind, I have come to the conclusion that we are not enjoying the fact that Zack Greinke is a Houston Astro nearly enough!

Yes, Greinke is a future Hall of Famer, but he is so much more. He is a treasure trove of awkwardness, brutal honesty, and a source of voluminous laughter. To wit, for full Greinke enjoyment, you MUST check out the recent article from The Athletic, in which they recount stories from 15 different catchers who have worked with Greinke. Here are a few examples. First, there was the time he shamed one of his catchers for eating too much ice cream:

Brayan Peña, Royals: We were eating together and I was eating ice cream. He is very lean, great body, he’s in ultimate shape, he really takes care of himself, right? We were talking and he says, “You want to know one reason why you’re not an everyday big-league catcher?” I thought he was going to say something about my framework or blocking balls or game-calling or hitting. He goes, “Because you eat too much ice cream.” I was like, “Zack, seriously?” The room was full of players. Everybody started laughing. So I got up and hugged him. Every time that we went to a city after that, he made sure I had the best ice cream they were selling in that city.

And how about the time that he intentionally beaned a teammate in spring training so he could conserve pitches? That happened:


Tony Arnerich, Class-A Wilmington: In spring training, we were both staying at the hotel. I was facing him and I got to a 1-2 count and fouled off like three pitches. And then he just smokes me in the elbow with a fastball. That night, we were back at the hotel and we’re in the hot tub. My elbow is kind of barking and I’m like, “Greink, man, you know where you’re throwing the ball. What’s up, man? Did you hit me on purpose?” And he was like, “Well, I only had so many pitches, I didn’t want to waste them all on you. I wanted to face other hitters so I had to get you out of there.” I was like, “Oh my God.” His brutal honesty was so great.
Then, there was the time he offered his catcher a fantasy football trade in the middle of a game:

A.J. Ellis, Dodgers: He took a deep dive in the fantasy football world, and like anything, when Zack gets involved with something, he’s going to be all in. … He took on the persona as Trader Zack, a guy who was constantly chasing down roster reconstruction and making changes. Trader Zack was working the clubhouse.

Alex Avila, Diamondbacks: He likes that whole GM style of being able to create a team.

Ellis: It was during the middle of his warm-up session in the Dodger Stadium bullpen. At that point it was like 7:03 p.m. All of a sudden he stops throwing and starts walking toward me. So I pop up from behind the plate and meet him halfway. He looks at me and says, “I’ve been thinking.” It could be about anything. He says, “I’ve been thinking. You guys have this quarterback injury issue going on now. I’ve got a ton of quarterbacks on my roster, and I noticed you’ve got a bunch of wide receivers on yours. I think we match up really well so I think you guys should make a trade. We’ll talk about it a little bit later.” Then he totally 180’d and walked back to the mound.

For each of those stories, there ten more in that article, and I'm sure a hundred more that are untold. A few quick hit Greinke thoughts after the 20 minutes well spent reading all those anecdotes in The Athletic:

I may have to travel to Cooperstown when Greinke gets inducted into the Hall of Fame
I told myself that I would go to Jeff Bagwell's induction ceremony, and I didn't, and I still hate myself for that. I want to be there for an induction weekend, but I want to make sure there is an Astro going in. Among players with Astro ties who could still conceivably go in before my love of fried foods wipes me out — Roger Clemens, Jeff Kent, Billy Wagner, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, and maybe Jose Altuve. Anybody else probably puts me into my late 60s or early 70s for HOF induction, and I don't want to get cocky. My question with Greinke would be "Will his Hall of Fame speech be the shortest in history, the greatest in history, or both?"

I now feel strongly about Greinke be the one MLB player who would do this....
I think there is a non-zero percent chance — small, but not zero — that Greinke could be the one MLB player who would retire in the middle of an opposing at-bat, like Greinke is pitching to a guy, the count is 1 ball, 1 strike, and Greinke just places the baseball down and walks off. It'd be like the baseball version of Forrest Gump stopping in the middle of his cross country run and saying "I'm kind of tired of running. Think I"ll go home now."

Just reading these stories is making me angry about one thing....
I'm retroactively pissed that A.J. Hinch removed Greinke from Game 7 of the World Series in 2019. Let's just move along.

Lastly, proof that being good at your job makes you "eccentric and funny" and being horrible at your job makes you "unfunny and annoying"
I give you Zack Greinke, future Hall of Famer...

And I give you Joe Biagini, career scrub who had a 10.42 ERA as an Astro....


Greinke? Awesome. Biagini? Go away.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast