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Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Athletic: ‘I’d trade you.’ Zack Greinke’s closest confidants try to explain his blunt … brilliance? [$]

Great collection of Zack-isms.

Ellis: In the fifth inning, about two or three hours later, Zack sidles up next to me on the rail at Petco Park. He goes, “I’ve been thinking about your question.” I have to rack my brain and think about what question. He goes, “The first thing I’d do is I’d trade you.” I said, “What?” He goes, “I would trade you because your value will never be higher than it is right now, and we can probably get a Double-A starting pitcher that will help us down the road, and this offseason we can sign Brian McCann because he’s a free agent. That’s probably going to be the best thing for us.” He kind of pivots his head around, looks back and then he turns back and goes, “What about you?”

Buck: I had been catching him for a while. This was right at the end. And it happened to be the year he was having his Cy Young year (2009). In the middle of that, he said, “John, I know I’m throwing good, but I’m starting to second-guess myself. I don’t want you to catch me anymore.” I was just kind of like, “What?” I was young, too. My ego was hurt. And then he goes, “I just think you’re too smart. You just make me out-think what I’m calling. You have too many good reasons, and sometimes I just want to throw it. And with Miguel Olivo, I just don’t get that.” We’re both sitting there, and Olivo is like, “OK, so I’m dumb?” And Zack goes, “Yeah, but I like throwing to you.” Olivo and I were like, “How do we both want to punch him, but we both get it and appreciate his honesty?”...

Peña: I told him at the end of the season once, I said, “Zack, listen, I don’t know if I’m going to be back next year, so I want to have something with you. I need a picture of you and I together or a baseball or something.” He goes, “Yeah, Peña, no problem. Of course.” We took a picture and I told him, “Zack, I need you to sign this picture.” He signed the picture: “To Brayan Peña, one of my best friends and a great catcher. Please do not sell this on eBay.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 14, 2021 at 05:23 PM | 50 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: zack greinke

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   1. puck Posted: March 14, 2021 at 08:47 PM (#6008594)
It's sub only, but what was remarkable to me is no one seemed mad, and most of the guys seemed to like him and enjoy telling the stories.
   2. gef the talking mongoose, peppery hostile Posted: March 14, 2021 at 08:59 PM (#6008596)
but what was remarkable to me is no one seemed mad, and most of the guys seemed to like him and enjoy telling the stories.


I suspect they realize he's ... a few baseball cards short of a wax pack.
   3. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: March 14, 2021 at 10:03 PM (#6008599)
The article sure does paint a picture of a guy who intends to work in a front office when he's through pitching.

Stuff like this:

LaRue: He’s like, “This is who I am, accept me for who I am, and if you don’t like it, too damn bad.” I thoroughly appreciate that.


I admit I do wonder what all these people's perspectives would have been had he been just a fourth starter, talent-wise.
   4. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: March 14, 2021 at 10:25 PM (#6008602)
It's sub only, but what was remarkable to me is no one seemed mad, and most of the guys seemed to like him and enjoy telling the stories.


Some people are in their own world and when they speak it's without judgment or other off-putting tone. From all I've ever read about Greinke—I don't think I've ever heard a clip of a him speaking—I figured he was one of these people. But you nailed what I figure is the key thing, that people like him.
   5. SoSH U at work Posted: March 14, 2021 at 11:04 PM (#6008605)
But you nailed what I figure is the key thing, that people like him


Well, at least everyone quoted in the feature. Not everyone likes him.
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 14, 2021 at 11:06 PM (#6008606)
Not everyone likes him.


People that don't wash their hands after using the bathroom, for one.
   7. Howie Menckel Posted: March 14, 2021 at 11:34 PM (#6008608)
the Dodgers let him into their scouting "war room" to analyze prospects.

he's definitely an eccentric genius.

some of them are dicks, and some are great guys.

"Some people are in their own world and when they speak it's without judgment or other off-putting tone."

my sense is that line here from above hits just the right note on Greinke.

vive le difference.

his HOF speech will be must-see TV.

   8. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: March 15, 2021 at 12:36 AM (#6008611)
I admit I do wonder what all these people's perspectives would have been had he been just a fourth starter, talent-wise.


I think what most people appreciated about him was his honesty about EVERYTHING, including himself. A large portion of the stories (particularly in the linked article in that piece from his days with the Royals) were about him asking questions of people who knew more about a subject than he did. He wasn't critical or condescending or arrogant. Some will always bristle at the unvarnished truth regardless of where it's coming from, but it sounds like the people who could get past their own shortcomings could see that he was never brutally honest to be brutal, but to be honest.
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2021 at 12:55 AM (#6008612)
He wasn't critical or condescending or arrogant. Some will always bristle at the unvarnished truth regardless of where it's coming from, but it sounds like the people who could get past their own shortcomings could see that he was never brutally honest to be brutal, but to be honest.


And when he said the HBP that required blood to be drained from A.J. Pierzynski's toe was "one of his better hit batters," it was merely the White Sox being unable to get past their own shortcomings about his brutal honesty.

I think Greinke is one of the most interesting pitchers in my lifetime, and he's obviously nothing like the typical ballplayer. But he's often been a dick.
   10. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: March 15, 2021 at 01:42 AM (#6008615)
I think Greinke is one of the most interesting pitchers in my lifetime, and he's obviously nothing like the typical ballplayer. But he's often been a dick.


I might be able to take this at face value if I could remember you saying the same about Pedro Martinez, who hit batters at just over twice the rate as Greinke and was known for having a headhunter streak.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2021 at 08:01 AM (#6008620)
I might be able to take this at face value if I could remember you saying the same about Pedro Martinez, who hit batters at just over twice the rate as Greinke and was known for having a headhunter streak.


It wasn't really the HBP that was the dick move, but claiming one that hurt another player (even if it was A.J.). And that was hardly the only thing that qualified.

As for Pedro, I've long said on this site he was one of the only pitchers I was ever certain who hit batters on purpose*. It was not one of his endearing qualities.

* For most others, their intentional HBPs look indistinguishable from their unintentional ones, the rooting interests of the observer being the key factor. Pedro's control was too good for his HBP rate to be anything but a product of deliberate decision making.
   12. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: March 15, 2021 at 08:59 AM (#6008625)
The "even if it was A.J." is doing a lot of work in that post.
   13. bunyon Posted: March 15, 2021 at 09:03 AM (#6008626)
The "even if it was A.J." is doing a lot of work in that post.

True, but that is a sentence that was built for carrying a load.
   14. chisoxcollector Posted: March 15, 2021 at 09:05 AM (#6008627)
Greinke is a dick, and one of my all-time least favorite players. Great pitcher, though.
   15. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2021 at 09:06 AM (#6008628)

The "even if it was A.J." is doing a lot of work in that post.


I know. It's A.J. It's funny when we laugh about him needing medical treatment.
   16. Rally Posted: March 15, 2021 at 09:09 AM (#6008631)
I admit I do wonder what all these people's perspectives would have been had he been just a fourth starter, talent-wise.


There wouldn't be an article to write about it because nobody would remember a pitcher who ran out of chances in 2006. For a pitcher who struggled early like Greinke did, there are two ways an organization will have patience to let him figure things out: 1) be supremely talented 2) be a good organization guy who's not going to rock the boat.
   17. McCoy Posted: March 15, 2021 at 09:39 AM (#6008639)
I think people miss that in the anecdote both catchers wanted to punch him and were hurt/insulted by him. That they themselves were mature enough to work through it is a feature about them not one for Greinke.

And like others have said it probably has a lot to do with Greinke having HoF abilities.


Ted Williams was an absolute dick and yet he had a bunch of lifelong friends who were deeply loyal to him but it was on his terms.
   18. . Posted: March 15, 2021 at 10:28 AM (#6008643)
I've been watching a lot of sports for a lot of years and I don't know that I've ever seen an athlete look dickier and douchier than Grienke's "bring it on bro" douche-look after he plunked Carlos Quentin. Danny Ainge is probably closest, but his mien sort of naturally defaulted to douche so I'm not sure he's quite as blameworthy. I'd have to review the tapes of the incident at the very end of that Suns/Rockets Game 7 where he intentionally threw the inbounds pass into Mario Elie's face; unfortunately that was still at least 10 years pre-high def and 15 years pre-social media.
   19. McCoy Posted: March 15, 2021 at 10:39 AM (#6008644)
I know. It's A.J. It's funny when we laugh about him needing medical treatment.


Stan Conte probably found it funny.
   20. jmurph Posted: March 15, 2021 at 10:40 AM (#6008645)
LaRue: He’s like, “This is who I am, accept me for who I am, and if you don’t like it, too damn bad.” I thoroughly appreciate that.

I don't know much about Greinke, but broadly speaking, this is not actually a good quality in a human.
   21. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2021 at 10:40 AM (#6008646)
Stan Conte probably found it funny.


Yes, Stan gets a pass on that one.
   22. JRVJ Posted: March 15, 2021 at 12:21 PM (#6008655)
From everything I've read about Greinke, I tend to believe that he's on (or at least at the borderline of) the autism spectrum.

That probably explains some of his behavior.
   23. RoyalFlush Posted: March 15, 2021 at 12:23 PM (#6008656)
Been my favorite player since he came up with the Royals - he's never given me any reason to change that. I miss watching him in person on a regular basis for my team. Was a joy to do so when he was in KC. IMO, he's gone from someone who looked very uncomfortable on an MLB mound to someone who could not seem more comfortable out there. I don't believe that was particularly easy for him and it has been enjoyable to watch over the years.


   24. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: March 15, 2021 at 01:49 PM (#6008664)
From everything I've read about Greinke, I tend to believe that he's on (or at least at the borderline of) the autism spectrum.


Back in 2006 he was diagnosed "with social anxiety disorder and accompanying depression." Medications followed. I have no idea where he's at now with similar diagnoses or treatments. Don't much care, either, as that's true for me of any player's personal life.

Greinke's redemption and pursuit of perfection
   25. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: March 15, 2021 at 03:35 PM (#6008675)
I know. It's A.J. It's funny when we laugh about him needing medical treatment.
I guess. In the same sense that getting a flu shot is medical treatment. I only played til my sophomore year of college and I had it done 3 times. (2 foul balls off my front foot and 1 foul tip while catching.) The fact that we are talking about AJ, combined with the fact that 3 guys in every August lineup are playing with something worse makes it easy to stay out of the pearl-clutching brigade.

Also, are you assuming that because he joked about it afterward that means it was intentional?
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2021 at 03:57 PM (#6008680)
Also, are you assuming that because he joked about it afterward that means it was intentional?


I wasn't assuming that at all. I assume it was accidental (as I do with virtually all HBPs, except the ones done by Pedro). As I said, it wasn't the HBP that was the dick move, it was claiming that particular HBP was his "best one" on a radio broadcast. And maybe a legitimate joke teller could get away with that, but that defense doesn't work for the brutal truth teller. He can't have it both ways.

And that's not the only incident. RR has noted a number of his Royals teammates had issues with him. Pretty much the entire White Sox organization disliked him. And I'm sure Yasiel Puig didn't find it charming when Greinke threw his luggage onto Michigan Avenue.

He's an easy Hall of Famer who might be the most fascinating guy to watch pitch in all of MLB. He also has a pretty lengthy history of acting like a dick, and it's not just because people don't "get him."
   27. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: March 15, 2021 at 04:48 PM (#6008688)
How many more batters would Pedro have had to presumably intentionally hit to go from it being not endearing to acting like a dick? Pedro hit guys at nearly twice the rate as legendary tough guy Bob Gibson.

And maybe a legitimate joke teller could get away with that, but that defense doesn't work for the brutal truth teller. He can't have it both ways.


There is no evidence Greinke is a self-described "brutal truth teller."
   28. RoyalFlush Posted: March 15, 2021 at 04:55 PM (#6008692)
LOL, "he can't have it both ways". We get it. You think he's a dick and he's never allowed to tell a joke. Got it. He's the dick.
   29. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2021 at 04:56 PM (#6008693)
How many more batters would Pedro have had to presumably intentionally hit to go from it being not endearing to acting like a dick?


Every batter he hit intentionally was a dick move. I know you're trying to pull a gotcha on me here, but it ain't going to work. I've never defended Pedro's HBPs, regardless what you think you remember.

There is no evidence Greinke is a self-described "brutal truth teller."


That's how everyone defends his other comments (see Gary DiSarcina above).

   30. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: March 15, 2021 at 04:56 PM (#6008694)
And when he said the HBP that required blood to be drained from A.J. Pierzynski's toe was "one of his better hit batters," it was merely the White Sox being unable to get past their own shortcomings about his brutal honesty.


That was AJ Pierzynski, though. If you'd used anyone else as an example, I would concede the point. Pierzynski's own manager would have agreed with Greinke.
   31. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: March 15, 2021 at 05:02 PM (#6008695)
Every batter he hit intentionally was a dick move. I know you're trying to pull a gotcha on me here, but it ain't going to work.


Understandable you'd think that but not my intention. I'm just trying to understand what moves your view on a player from an attribute (Pedro's HBP are "not one of his endearing qualities") to character-defining like with Greinke ("he's often been a dick").
   32. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2021 at 05:05 PM (#6008696)
LOL, "he can't have it both ways". We get it. You think he's a dick and he's never allowed to tell a joke. Got it. He's the dick.


No, not really.

I merely contested Lowry's comment in 4 that "people like him" (many around the sport don't) or Gary's comment that only those who can't get past their own shortcomings don't like him. Both of those comments aren't supported by his history. A number of people who have played for and against him don't care for him, and for perfectly legitimate reasons. I don't know why that's struck such a nerve.

So, if I may: We get it. You love him. You think he's the greatest and he's beyond criticism. Got it. (Sounds kind of dumb, doesn't it)?
   33. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2021 at 05:06 PM (#6008697)
Understandable you'd think that but not my intention. I'm just trying to understand what moves your view on a player from an attribute (Pedro's HBP are "not one of his endearing qualities") to character-defining like with Greinke ("he's often been a dick").


My initial remark was to counter your suggestion I was OK with Pedro's HBPs. That I didn't use the exact same language was not an attempt to move anything.

And I'm not defining Greinke's character. I never said he is a dick. I said he's often been one (I would assume most of us have at one point or another, with only the frequency varying). And it's those times that he's legitimately done dickish things that explain why some people don't like him.
   34. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: March 15, 2021 at 05:07 PM (#6008698)
I was too strong in my wording above in that it implied that only people who couldn't get past their own shortcomings would have a problem with him. There are certainly legitimate reasons to be annoyed at some of the things he said and did, and there are personality types that I'm sure don't mesh with his regardless of shortcomings. That said, the stories are funny now that time has elapsed since they happened. I wonder what his current teammates think of him. I'm sure there are some who love him and some who would be glad if they never have to interact with him again.

For my part, I've always enjoyed him as a baseball player and these stories don't change that.
   35. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: March 15, 2021 at 05:12 PM (#6008699)
My initial remark was to counter your suggestion I was OK with Pedro's HBPs.


When I said I didn't remember you previously commenting on Pedro's HBP I was serious. I genuinely didn't remember anyone but Yankees fans here complaining, and even then no commenter in particular.

That I didn't use the exact same language was not an attempt to move anything.


Fair enough.
   36. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: March 15, 2021 at 05:17 PM (#6008700)
Pretty much the entire White Sox organization disliked him.
If Ozzie Guillen, AJ Pierzynski, Carlos Quentin, and Nick Swisher unanimously dislike someone it frankly makes me think more of that person. YMMV.

Larger point, though, I neither agree nor disagree with you. I don't know the Puig story - sounds jerky, almost regardless of context though. To me, the AJ thing is a whole bunch of nothing - but that certainly doesn't make him *not* a jerk. It just doesn't, in my reckoning, add to the weight of evidence. There are a multitude of stories where he's tough to get along with, and the fact that he has a diagnosed condition that explains at least some of it probably makes it easier to take - but maybe only for those who have a reason to give him some level of pass.

   37. toratoratora Posted: March 15, 2021 at 07:04 PM (#6008717)
Back in 2006 he was diagnosed "with social anxiety disorder and accompanying depression." Medications followed.


Generally I would lean towards the "He's a dick" line of thinking. But with Zach I'm pretty hesitant because judging someone with a diagnosed mental illness leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.
As mentioned above, it's always been my impression that he is on the autistic spectrum and his words and actions certainly are in line with some of those I've known with similar issues.
   38. Darren Posted: March 15, 2021 at 07:19 PM (#6008718)
It seems like most people really liked him and his honesty, or at least understood that it was his nature and had its charms. There are people in my life who are like this and it's refreshing, but I guess it wouldn't be if there were more of them. :)
   39. Baldrick Posted: March 15, 2021 at 08:35 PM (#6008725)
People who brag about how they're truth-tellers are almost universally awful to be around. That's very different from people who just actually do say true stuff without a filter. The latter isn't necessarily enjoyable, but it's not at all the same thing as people who just enjoy being jerks.
   40. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: March 15, 2021 at 10:31 PM (#6008736)
From everything I've read about Greinke, I tend to believe that he's on (or at least at the borderline of) the autism spectrum.

That probably explains some of his behavior.


This was my thought, too. I've got a couple of extended family members with autism, so it's something we've familiarized ourselves with, especially in recent years. A lot of Greinke's more direct/socially clumsy comments over the years have made me think he's on the spectrum, though I admit that going around diagnosing people like that is a slippery slope.
   41. dave h Posted: March 15, 2021 at 10:42 PM (#6008738)
Some people can get away with being blunt. Sometimes it's because they don't come across as mean, other times because they've earned some right to be clear (and they're usually right). Just about everyone I know at my university has a story about a particular professor emeritus getting a zinger in during a talk - usually unplanned. They are often really harsh but I don't ever get the sense that they're intended to be mean. I was a semi-target once (he was criticizing someone else but I was the one on the hot seat at the time) and it's a story I enjoy telling because it's nice to be part of his legend even in this way.

Now I am also blunt, but I do not in any way get away with it - I just make enemies.
   42. dolce Posted: March 15, 2021 at 11:40 PM (#6008746)
I might be a bit of an apologist, but as a (short-lived) D3 college pitcher, I intentionally hit at least one batter per start. I had to two reasons, situational and psychological. Situational, the less common of the two, was to save pitches, psychological, the predominant reason, was first to test the emotional stability and resilience of the beaned batter as well as their teammates. Hitting one batter amplified the effectiveness of pitching inside to the others.

I threw reasonably hard for a mortal (max of 90 mph, avg 87/88), had a decent changeup, and adequate control. I'd bean at least one batter per start and would consistently pitch inside. My effectiveness dramatically increased the more I integrated this tactic.

Castigating inside pitching or the occasional intentional beanball presents a less competitive overly sanitized version of the game. If a batter gets rattled by inside pitches or getting beaned, it's simply a shortcoming that the pitcher can take advantage of.

Other considerations for the pitcher are your teammates getting beaned in response, you batting and potentially getting beaned, sadism above calculations govern your thinking, the risk of injuring the batter, starting a brawl, etc
   43. dolce Posted: March 15, 2021 at 11:56 PM (#6008749)
In terms of Greinke in a front office capacity, it seems like he has a good ability to evaluation talent, is introspective to the degree that he has a feel for what is, isn't, and will work for him with consideration to but ultimately independent of conventional thinking. I'd be curious to see if he can translate that awareness for other pitchers/players.

That he's very direct and forthcoming while putting a considerable amount of thought into his words (as well as people around him recognizing his extensive deliberation) sounds like he'd be a tremendous multi-faceted individual contributor who worked with players and coaches within the organization. I think it would be unwise to give him direct reports or put him in a position that requires communication with people outside of the organization: amateur or MLB free agents, the public, the press, etc as they may be looking for more flattering thoughts and words (free agents) or may be more combative than collaborative (press).

It's like they say about ads, there's no such thing as a bad ad, there's just bad prices. Deft management is not only about identifying talent but putting that talent in positions to succeed.
   44. JRVJ Posted: March 16, 2021 at 04:35 PM (#6008841)
40, my son is on the spectrum, so I'm probably more sensitive to this than most people.

Having said that, one thing that was admitted to us on a visit to a specialized center (Kennedy Krieger Insitute in Baltimore) is that there's a tremendous overlap when you're dealing with the Autism Spectrum, OCD issues, social anxiety, etc, not to mention possible comorbidity.
   45. Zach Posted: March 16, 2021 at 05:33 PM (#6008859)
There is no evidence Greinke is a self-described "brutal truth teller."

More like a wise fool who blurts out the truth because he doesn't realize it will hurt people's feelings.
   46. . Posted: March 16, 2021 at 05:48 PM (#6008863)
I might be a bit of an apologist, but as a (short-lived) D3 college pitcher, I intentionally hit at least one batter per start.


You're lucky you weren't arrested and jailed.

   47. dolce Posted: March 16, 2021 at 06:02 PM (#6008864)
(46) I'm not often one to take the "have you played the game?" position, but higher level sports are very competitive. I mentioned the various caveats in (42), but I'm not sure quick-take moralizing presents as anything other than being obtuse, naive, and bereft of nuance. BLAMO!
   48. Darren Posted: March 18, 2021 at 02:00 PM (#6009102)
You know you can also gain a psychological advantage by threatening the opposing team's families, but it's not a very nice thing to do. Even at the highly competitive level of D3 baseball.
   49. . Posted: March 18, 2021 at 02:06 PM (#6009104)
It wasn't "moralizing" anyway; it was reiterating that intentionally hitting someone with a deadly object is a crime. The only reason people who do it don't get charged with the crime is that it's very hard to prove criminal intent. Once the perp confesses to the requisite intent, that problem goes away. As the number of crimes goes up, so too the luck involved in not being charged with them and jailed -- thus the comment.
   50. flournoy Posted: March 18, 2021 at 07:05 PM (#6009138)
If you need to cause physical injury to your opponents in order to gain a psychological advantage, that explains in part why you didn't make it past a (short-lived) DIII career.

Also, "beaning" a batter means hitting him in the head, a.k.a. the "bean." I hope that was not your intent.

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