Greinke rejoined the big-league club in 2007 and went 7-7 in 14 starts. Last year, he was 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA. This year, at the age of 25, he has been, for one month at least, the best pitcher in baseball.
Before the season began, the Royals decided that Greinke had too much talent to let get away. They offered him a four-year deal worth $38 million — less than a quarter of the package the Yankees gave CC Sabathia. It was something of a risk given Greinke’s history, but it was also the team’s way of saying it believed in him.
Greinke signed it, and now he’s delivering like few pitchers have ever done. What’s more, from everything he’s said and done, he could win the next three Cy Youngs and still not show up at management’s door demanding more money or a trade to one of the game’s glamour teams.
After he won his first five starts this season, Sports Illustrated wanted to put him on its cover. He didn’t object to the honor, but he declined to pose for a cover photo. It’s not the sort of thing that interests him.
This sort of behavior really isn’t normal. The truth is most of us are far more likely to lap up the attention than to shun it. Humility isn’t in our bones.
So, when we find both uncommon humility and uncommon talent wrapped in one package, we treasure it. The fact that Greinke came so close to being chased out of the game he loves by his illness makes it that much more precious. In a different era, without the knowledge we now have about the organic nature of mental illness, a man like Greinke would have faded away. He’s lucky that he’s living today, when there is help.
We’re lucky, too, because we get to watch him work.
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