Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Tao of Greinke (plus a trade with Matt/Sport Card Collectors)

At one point last year, I looked to share with several people a link that would help explain how Zack Greinke had quietly worked his way up to effectively being my current favorite major league player. Aside from being a masterful hurler and a skilled hitter (sometimes not even needing the "for a pitcher" caveat), Greinke, I explained, was also one of the funniest athletes that I can recall. This link, cleverly entitled "The Tao of Greinke," was a collection of Zack's quotes from around the time of his breakout 2009 season in Kansas City that saw the right-hander handle all of the best teams in the American League and net the Cy Young Award despite pitching for a moribund 65-97 Royals squad.
2014 Topps (Mini Pink) - Zack Greinke

Posting 10 WAR, as the righty did in 2009, is a difficult feat for any player not named Mike Trout, one that was made all the more impressive when one grasps that Greinke's career nearly ended several years prior. Despite reaching the majors in 2004 and excelling at the sport's highest level at just 20 years of age, Greinke left the Royals during the 2006 season and noted that he, similar to Ryan Jaroncyk from one of my previous posts, did not expect to return to the game. Greinke would later be diagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder, diagnoses that were certainly odd to see publicly recognized given the stigma inherent to admitting "weakness" that permeates the toxic aspects of sports culture. Understanding and accepting concerns regarding mental health have often been major shortcomings at all levels of society, particularly in the arena of sports. It is odd to consider why there tends to be such reticence to empathize with the struggles that are faced by professional athletes even if we cannot innately sympathize with being able to easily throw a ball 95 mph or club homeruns into the upper deck, as the basic idea that people are still people should - in theory - take precedence over perceived status differences. Unfortunately, that is often not the case, with the concerns of the "haves" frequently being dismissed under the fallacious notion that they are illegitimate given that athletes, celebrities, et al. 'have millions of reasons to not be depressed.'

Fortunately, the Royals appeared to have both respected Greinke's medical issues and offered enough support that the 22-year-old was able to return to the diamond at the conclusion of the 2006 season. Having also suffered from (then undiagnosed) depression and social anxiety, I saw a lot of myself in Greinke and that continued when Zack was a frequent figure profiled by writer Joe Posnanski. Whether struggling or dominating, Greinke always seemed to be himself and had a very blunt, honest style of answering questions. This was never more evident than in one of the quotes featured in the link mentioned at the outset of the piece, one that has unfortunately been deleted with the quote in question being one that I cannot find elsewhere on the internet. To paraphrase to the best of my recollection, a reporter noted that while they understood that Greinke did not like to be the center of attention, surely having a lot people congratulate him on his success in 2009 must be extremely gratifying.

Greinke's reply? 'No, it's actually kind of annoying,' a sentiment that he has effectively reiterated when noting that the "hassle" that comes with throwing a no-hitter would be more frustrating than would the feat itself being enjoyable. I found both of these statements to be hilarious - but most certainly think that I am in the minority in this regard.


What makes something funny is one of those eternal questions that, even with the acknowledgment of the subjectivity inherent to humor, has likely been attempted to be answered for ages. I certainly cannot define my own humor, as I have laughed at and told jokes that are many combinations of simple, crude, complex, and intellectual. Sometimes it was the punchline that was funny; on other occasions, it was the reaction by others and the subversion of expectations that was entertaining. This subversion of expectations, along with the incongruity between statements/questions and responses, often play key roles in when I find something to be humorous, as is the case with the paraphrased quotes above.

A few years back, a prompt on Twitter or something of the like asked users what was the funniest thing that they ever said. In thinking back, none of the "jokes" that came to mind were things that one would use in a stand-up set, although I have surely told several that could hopefully be described as being somewhat clever. Rather, the two "humorous" statements that readily came to mind were both along the lines of the quotes that Greinke has made - earnest statements that others can and did take in a different manner than intended due to different perspectives. The second of these two responses requires a lot of backstory lead-up and could still be grossly misinterpreted even after the necessary framing of the situation, so I will leave it for another time.

The first of the two responses, however, came following my sixth grade year in school, one in which I missed nearly the entirety of the fourth marking period due to horrendous recurring stomach pains that would result in a myriad of doctor's visits and multiple invasive procedures. Remarkably, not once do I ever recall my medical doctors or counselors at school raise the possibility of anxiety and/or stress causing even a portion of these issues, a fact made all the more remarkable by it often being the first guess of people to whom I have since relayed the story.

As such, I spent part of my summer back at the middle school in various pressure-inducing meetings with various school counselors and administrators who had not shown terribly much concern with my well-being when my total number of absences was rapidly ascending. I recall one particular meeting with a school psychologist in which I was asked a battery of questions that greatly bothered me due to their (intentional?) vagueness, as I tend to have issues with queries that are not specific as to what is being asked and what type of answer the questioner is hoping to receive, with that only being compounded by the concept of theory of mind. These problematic aspects all came together in the form of the question, "what do other people think of you?" My response was that I was not other people and that it was they who should probably be asked that question.

To say that this caused the meeting to grind to a screeching halt would be a massive understatement. Despite the fact that I was reserved and effectively intimidated for the majority of the assessment, the psychologist accused me of being a smart-ass who was screwing around, which then colored her reports to other members of the administration that I saw. At one point, her recommendation was for me to be held back a year, which seemed to be based out of spite more than anything else. Fortunately, a new school counselor was also involved in the assessment process and dismissed this idea as being ludicrous, as she noted that my history of academic success and the manner in which I had handled the battery of IQ-type tests (legitimize their relevance however you wish) indicated that this was not an academic concern. The situation would ultimately be resolved with me moving on to seventh grade, although that was effectively where it was ended, as no future support or follow-ups were required, let alone offered.

The reaction of the school psychologist still makes me laugh much for the same reason that Greinke's statements do. Neither what I said nor what Zack relayed to reporters was meant to be a joke. Rather, they were statements meant in earnest that could apparently be received in a different fashion when viewed with a different perspective. Because of that, I find humor in them and an appreciation for similar lines that can prove to be entertaining in somewhat unexpected fashion - regardless of original, non-humorous intent.


I recently completed yet another trade, this one with Matt from Sport Card Collectors, to whom I reached out after seeing that I could offer help when it came to several of his set needs from the 1990s. Making things all the better, Matt's want list focused largely around football sets and I am more than interested in trading many of my football cards given that I do not actively support the sport anymore. A trade offer was quickly accepted and I was thankful to see that what I sent out proved to be helpful to many of the sets that Matt is aiming to complete.

After making its way toward Connecticut in good time, the package that Matt sent in return disappeared from tracking for several days. Where did it go? The smart money is clearly on the Springfield Mystery Spot, particularly given that it was devoid of cards of Ozzie Smith when it did arrive. ;) Fortunately, despite the mysterious journey on which the postal service took said package, it did indeed come last week and I was blown away by its contents. Given that I have bought very little in the way of new releases in recent years, my collection probably skews older than that of most who blog about cards. Matt helped bolster my collections of more recent players in a big way, including that of Greinke, who was tied with Tim Lincecum for the player most represented in the deal with 12 cards apiece. Shin-Soo Choo (6), Jacob deGrom (11), Bob Feller (6), and Scott Kazmir (5) were all also widely included, with most of the cards being inserts and/or serial-numbered editions from brands that I would have never bought.

Pictured directly above are the stacks of cards from those six players including some of my favorites from each. I was particularly enthused to get both the regular and parallel editions of the very cool 2018 Stadium Club card of Choo that was shot with a fish-eye lens, multiple colorful parallels of Greinke (including the one at the outset of the post numbered to 25), and a couple of framed Gypsy Queen parallel cards of Kazmir that I did not know existed. The Lincecum featured atop his stack amused me greatly given that it celebrates the future Cy Young winner losing a game and details a poor start that he made, which strikes me as a funny thing to celebrate.

Other fun highlights included:

- Four cards of Michael Conforto, including the one pictured that features the New York Mets' homerun apple rising out of the hat. I have not been to Citi Field due in large part to not wanting to give the Wilpons any money, so it is heartening to see that this key part of Shea Stadium was carried over to the new park.

- Both a multiple-exposure photo and a fun disc of Jim Abbott, with the latter being reminiscent of the kind that I would get at the bottom of my Slurpee cups during Sunday trips to 7-Eleven when I was young.

- A rare HoJo in the wild has been spotted! Despite posting a trio of 30/30 seasons for the Mets from 1987-91, Howard Johnson often seems to have been a forgotten star on those stellar clubs. While it was definitely cool to add a card from his final strong campaign, it was also neat to see the deckled edge mini from 2014 which hopefully means that Johnson is not totally out of the minds of fans.

- The Jackie Robinson insert from Stadium Club is very pretty. That is all.

- Perhaps the funniest part of the trade (Mystery Spot aside) and definitely the most ironic is the fact that a big part of my motivation was to move out football cards, yet two of the coolest cards that I got in return were of football players. Prior to my previously-blogged-about trade with Chris, I did not have any cards of Colin Kaepernick or Eric Reid in my collection. While some claim to have stopped watching football due to the protest efforts led by the former 49ers teammates, I always supported their efforts to use their voices and platforms to bring attention to issues of racial inequality that continue to plague the country. The willful misinterpretation of these protests and the subsequent blackballing of Kaepernick cemented my decision to no longer support the sport, particularly given that Kaepernick has proven to be a person who more than backed up his pledges to charity and who has been demonized by those acting in bad faith.

As such, it is probably funny to be excited to get a jersey card or autograph from a football release, but that was the case when Matt's package arrived. Included in one of the above images below the Kaepernick jersey and Reid autograph from this trade are the mini Allen & Ginter replicas that came in my trade with Chris (including the Kaepernick that I mentioned in the post). These cards were so expertly crafted that it was not until Chris left a comment indicating that they were created by his friend, Ryan, that I became aware that they were not actually from A&G's release itself, so I wanted to make sure that they were properly recognized in a future post. Thanks again, Matt, for an awesome trade and to everyone with whom I have traded thus far for their amazing generosity! I have done my best to offer proper attribution on my individual trade pages and would certainly love to continue making swaps - particularly if anyone is interested in acquiring some football cards. ;)


  1. I was originally against seeing athletes take a knee during the National Anthem... until I realized it wasn't meant to disrespect our country, but take a stand against racial inequality. The thing is... it wasn't something that happened overnight. It took me listening to a lot of sports talk radio interviews and friendly discussions for me to understand Kaepernick's stance.

  2. I have some more of those players started in piles again already!