October 08, 2011
MILWAUKEE — During the regular season, the Milwaukee Brewers split 18 games with the St. Louis Cardinals, and the split should not be described as amicable. If you want the teams' relationship boiled down to a sentence: Cards manager Tony La Russa accused the Brewers of cheating and Milwaukee outfielder Nyjer Morgan(notes) hurled a wad of tobacco in the general direction of St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter after they exchanged screams.
So, at a pre-series press conference at Miller Park on Saturday afternoon, Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke(notes) was asked: Given what has happened this season, do these teams genuinely dislike each other?
"Maybe, now," Greinke said. "No one really likes Carpenter. But, besides that, they respect mostly everybody on their team."
Soft-spoken Zack Greinke, stepping out. Well, everyone figured Morgan didn't like Carpenter; you don't usually chuck your chaw at your favorite guy. But nobody on the Brewers likes Carpenter? Eleven questions later, someone finally got to the natural follow-up: What do the Brewers have against Carpenter?
"They think that his presence, his attitude out there sometimes is, like, a phony attitude," Greinke said.
Phony! Holy Holden Caulfield! More like "Pitcher in the Rye," am I right?
"And then he yells at people," Greinke continued. "He just stares people down. Most pitchers just don't do that. When guys do, I guess, some hitters get mad. And some hitters do it to pitchers. But when you do that, some people get mad. There's other pitchers in the league that do it but, I don't know, a lot of guys on our team don't like Carpenter."
Carpenter heard about Greinke's comments, but refused to address the issue when asked by the St. Louis media. Best not to escalate. Yet.
Via the Twitter of St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz we do have a statement from La Russa:
La Russa says he's disappointed by Greinke's shot at Carpenter. "That's a bad comment".
Sometimes, when athletes and coaches don't like a question, they'll say "bad question."
""It's very disappointing that Greinke would say that. I've always thought he was high-character type, a classy guy," La Russa later said.
It might seem like an odd word choice for Greinke to use — "phony" — when describing Carpenter's sometimes-fiery demeanor. Intense, yes. Intimidating. Mean. Overly aggressive. Over-the-top. But phony?
Well, let's get back to where Greinke is coming from. Maybe he's not the ultra-loner like J.D. Salinger's Caulfield, exactly, but Greinke often relates his social experiences in the major leagues to high school. I'm not sure if Greinke got bullied, per se, but he seems like the kind of guy who would have been picked on — especially if not for his ability in sports.
He's still shy, still an easy target. Ryan Braun(notes), a teammate, even picked on Greinke the other day, saying "He lives his life awkwardly." It seemed to be meant in good fun, and Greinke seemed to take it that way, but he also said his wife didn't appreciate it, that it seemed like Braun was picking on him. Like he was being bullied.
One of the things about bullies is, they say it's an act to cover up their own insecurities. Now, I have no idea if Carpenter goes about his business in a certain way because he's overcompensating for something, but that's not really relevant. It's about what Greinke sees: A bully. And bullying the other team is definitely part of Carpenter's game. That's why he called Carpenter a phony.
It's almost like Greinke is saying, "Shut up and pitch" — which isn't really fair to Carpenter. It works for him, or at least Carpenter thinks it does. Just because Greinke goes out there quietly and doesn't yell, or glare, or try to intimidate with body language, doesn't mean that everyone should pitch that way. His way, in a way, is his own shell, his own way of being phony.
It's like getting on the Brewers for their "Beast Mode" antics. It's become part of who they are. It's how they want to play the game. But it's also part of an act — which is part of what makes the great stage of the postseason such a fun melodrama to watch.