If there was ever a doubt about just how nice Kansas City Royals fans can be, their treatment of Zack Greinke is Exhibit A.
Greinke, you’ll recall, turned his shoulder on the Royals and the city in 2010, pronounced himself too good to be stuck with such a loser organization, and demanded a trade.
Greinke, bridges burned and nuked, got his wish and the Royals shuffled him off to Milwaukee along with Yuni Betancourt for Jeremy Jeffress, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Jake Odorizzi.
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Fast forward to Tuesday night: Greinke, as a Brewer, returned to Kauffman Stadium for the first time since shunning Kansas City and was greeted with … mostly cheers.
In fact, the predominant sentiment among talk-show callers and in newspaper comments sections suggests Royals fans would take Greinke back in a heartbeat.
Even Greinke seemed amazed at the forgiving nature of Royals fans.
“It’s nice because I was pretty rude on the way out,” he said after giving up just one run in seven innings against his former team Tuesday. “I felt like I had to (be rude) in order to get out. But I didn’t want to have to be the bad guy. I felt like I had to be.
“But I liked it here. Like I said, the fans were great. I don’t know (why) so many of them come to the games when they’ve been bad for so long. But it’s pretty impressive. I think they’re like beating five or six teams in the American League (in attendance), and some teams are really good, and Kansas City’s outdrawing them.
“So that just shows you how, for all that they’ve been through, to still come out is pretty cool.”
These days, Greinke admits he does have some regrets for burning bridges on his way out of Kansas City.
“But I felt like I had to do it,” he said. “I felt like the only way would be to force myself out. I don’t think anyone would have been able to trade me if I played like this great guy. And so I had to give them motivation to do it.”
Now, though, because Greinke will be a free-agent after this season, Royals fans are fantasizing that the team could sign Greinke back.
Those dreams were fueled even more a month ago when George Brett revealed that he had attempted to buy Greinke’s condo near the Plaza but was told Greinke would not sell.
Greinke said Tuesday night that no one should read anything into that.
“No, that has nothing to do with anything,” Greinke said. “Sorry to break it to everyone. I got a two-year lease (from a renter), so it was like, ‘Might as well rent it out.’ And when I got married, it was our first home, so my wife doesn’t really want to get rid of it, either.”
As far as signing back with the Royals next year, Greinke did suggest anything is possible.
“I mean, maybe,” he said. “But I’m still with the Brewers. I like playing in Milwaukee. And, the guys here are great. The organization’s great. And the city is good. Coming back to Kansas City, though, I mean the city is really nice, too.”
Of course, the big question would be: Are the Royals now competitive enough to be attractive to Greinke?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Some of those guys are pretty good hitters, though. A lot of power, it seems like. I don’t know if their power numbers have been really good, but you know it when you’re facing them; you can’t really make a mistake, or else they can do some damage.”
So the Royals are getting better in Greinke’s mind?
“Offense-wise, yea, they are,” he said. “Defense-wise, I don’t know. I know they got Escobar and Cain and some more defensive-minded guys. … Pitching is probably about the same. Bullpen looks good now. I felt like (the relievers) were pretty good when I was there, too, the last couple years.
“It might be better now. I think they have like, maybe the best bullpen in baseball. I’m not positive about that. They all throw all pretty hard.
“But I’m with the Brewers right now. Happy to be with them.”