During the 2008 season, two guys captured the American psyche by overcoming dramatic odds and performing incredibly well on the big league stage. Both Rick Ankiel and Josh Hamilton had very public melt downs and seemed destined for failure, but remarkably both guys were able to overcome their respective demons and accomplish big things in 2008.
But if you want to talk about amazing comebacks, Zack Greinke needs to be in the conversation.
Since being drafted in 2002, Greinke was thought of as the Royals future ace and budding all-star. By 2004, Greinke was in the Royals rotation and performing very well, but in 2005, Greinke struggled mightily and produced a disappointing 5.80 ERA.
By 2006, Greinke bottomed out. He was forced to leave Royals spring training to deal with a social anxiety disorder that ultimately cost him the entire season. The Royals became uncertain about how much they would be able to get out of their former top pick and Greinke slowly slipped into oblivion and uncertainty.
Then came the good part. By 2007, Greinke's psychological issues had been taken care of and he was deemed fit to join the Royals again. By the end of 2007. Greinke had established himself as a pretty darn good reliever, which was a strong symbol to Royals brass that he was ready to take off in the starting rotation.
And luckily for the Royals, Greinke delivered in 2008. In his first full season as a starter since 2005, Greinke went 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA for the fourth place Royals. At times, Greinke looked absolutely dominant and appears to be a legitimate front end starter even though he missed lots of time in 2006.
So this leads us to today when the Royals rewarded Greinke with a 4 year/$38 million dollar extension. The deal signifies just how far Greinke has come since 2006, when so many doubted whether he would actually develop into a front line starting pitcher. Greinke has undoubtedly come a long way.
For the Royals, this deal makes lots of sense unlike some of their moves this off season (I'm looking at both of you...Kyle Farnsworth and Willie Bloomquist). This deal buys out two of Greinke's free agent seasons and give the Royals a legitimate stud pitcher to build around at a great price for the next four seasons. Royals fans should feel very fortunate that GM Dayton Moore showed enough sense (finally) not to trade Greinke for Jeff Francoeur and other spare parts from the Braves.
But don't get me wrong, this move is all about Greinke. It is truly remarkable that Greinke could overcome his vast demons and still achieve his tremendous potential. I always love watching guys overcome the longest of odds to find success. That's what America is all about.
There is no doubt that there were many in 2006 that doubted Greinke and wondered aloud whether or not he would ever make it. But this deal signifies it: Greinke is back in a big way. Hopefully this is just the start of big things to come.