Equating Your Royals To A Character In The Wire: The Zack Greinke Edition

For those unfamiliar with this series, this is the fourth installment. The previous four entries in the series can be found at RoyalscentricityJoakim SoriaDayton Moore, and Chris Hayes. I am also going to do something I have refrained from doing, and that is post this both here and at Royalscentricity, as the series did start there, and there is a very small segment of the populace that would not happen across that were it only posted here. 

If ever there were a piece in this series that screamed out for the comparison to be drawn, it would be the one between Donald Zackary 'Zack' Greinke and Roland 'Prez' Pryzbylewski. 

For the uninitiated, there are only five seasons. 60 hours. Call into work (you've got to have the death of a grandparent that you haven't used to get out of work at your current job, right?), tell them that you will be in next week, and get to work. Then, come back here. 

Back? Good.

Our introduction to Roland Pryzbylewski is seeing him accidentally discharge his firearm into a wall in the basement digs that the Barksdale Detail is set up in. He has been dumped on Lieutenant Daniels by Lt. Cantrell from the casualty division, who is casting off the dead weight that is Detective Pryzbylewski as fast as he possibly can. In fact, he is so happy to be rid of Prez that he is willing to part with Det. Leander Sydnor to make it all right by Daniels. Shortly after being place in Daniels' charge, Prez pistol-whips a 14-year-old wiseacre, blinding him in an eye. 

If looking for parallels in the form of Zack Greinke's career, one need look no further than his 2005 campaign and the ensuing withdrawal from all things baseball. After showing a little promise in his rookie campaign, Zack Greinke spends his 2005 struggling mightily. Granted, these struggles seem a lot more pronounced if one were to ignore the fact that much of his trouble is the product of a .067 swing in BABIP in the wrong direction and a drop in LOB% of 15.2 points from the prior season. The fact remains that Greinke finishes the 2005 season with an ERA of 5.80 and 17 losses, two things which, when combined with playing on a truly abysmal 106-loss team, disturb him so deeply that he walks away from the game. Perhaps his struggles stem from undesirable environs or perhaps a screw is less than tight, but there is little cause for hope and plenty of reason to suspect that he is beyond repair.

Thanks in large part to the fact that he's married to Commander Valchek's daughter, Prez is effectively protected from any substantive harm that should come to him. Without the aid of Valchek's political omnipresence, Prez is off the force. Instead, he gets relegated to administrative duty, sitting on the sidelines while the rest of the Barksdale Detail rolls in on their first ultimately pointless drug raid.  

Typically, electing to walk away from the game would spell the end of a career, but much like Pryzbylewski, Greinke has someone watching over him, making sure he has a place with the team: Allard Baird. Baird assures that his young, troubled player has a home with the club. While Greinke joins the Double-A Wichita team for its 2006 playoff run, his former teammates are closing out yet another 100-loss season. 

As Prez sits on the sidelines doing administrative work, his talents begin to shine through. A man who had been an incompetent detective suddenly finds himself in an environment in which he could thrive. Under the tutellage of Det. Lester Freamon, he sees how to do proper police work. Throughout the rest of the investigation, Prez comes into his own, shining given the new opportunity in a fresh setting with a set of duties much more suited to his skill set. It is actually Prez's work that gives the Detail their first break in the Barksdale case, as he cracks the pager codes and deciphers the street-level short-hand.

Greinke returns to Kansas City in 2007 and shortly finds himself thrust into the role of a reliever. It was as a reliever that he was able to become comfortable again at the Major League level. Under the tutellage of Bob McClure, his oft-credited mentor, Greinke learns how to actually pitch, not just throw. Thrust back into the rotation at the season's end, there is cause for hope. As 2008 unfurls his first full season as a starter since 2005), Greinke finally seems poised to live up to his vast potential.  

When the second season picks up, Pryzbylewski is adrift without the work on the Barksdale detail. He lets his father-in-law Valchek know that it was the work on the Barksdale Detail that seemed to give his job meaning, and Valchek, having his own ax to grind, commissions his own detail to torpedo a rival for personal reasons. Prez's work with the unit proves invaluable as he takes on more responsibility, but he and Valchek come to blows as the investigation evolves into a much more complicated case in which Valchek's endgame ceases to be the primary thrust of the case. Prez decks Valchek after being berated and shoved in front of the unit and is only saved from insubordination and assault charges by Daniels.

Greinke's 2009 is a season of legend. One that does not need to be expounded upon here. Just as Greinke has become the pitcher everyone thought he could and all seems well through the middle of the 2010 season, he grows frustrated with the state of the franchise and spouts off about how the rebuild would not be in time to help him. His reaction to an untenable situation is understandable but is not necessarily in his best interests.

In the third season, all seems to be going well with Pryzbylewski until he mistakenly shoots a plain-clothes African-American officer, setting off a delayed race relations nightmare for the department. Unable to come to terms with the accidental shooting, Pryzbylewski quits the force despite the support of his African-American brethren.

Greinke remained quiet for a while but in December shot his mouth off for the last time, undermining the efforts of the team to maximize the return they got for him. He got traded shortly thereafter, jettisoned from Kansas City.

When season four picks up, Prez has begun teaching at an inner city school. Things are rocky at first, but Mr. Prezbo takes to the job after a rough patch. It is soon evident that this is his calling, as he tries to take Dukie Weems under his wing. He has a way with the kids that is surprisingly effective. Things can be rough, of course, but it seems like things might just work out for Roland Pryzbylewski.

In a new setting and a different league, Greinke gets off on the wrong foot, injuring himself playing basketball in the offseason. He slowly begins to settle in as a Brewer. His performance seems to have been as well as he can do, but the system defense behind him sets him up for an uphill struggle. His 6.19 K/BB is second best amongst starting pitchers in baseball. His 11.99 K/9, the best. Unfortunately, the deck is stacked against him, and his ERA sits at 5.45, 3.30 higher than his xFIP. He is better suited toward playing in the National League on a team with a chance to contend, but his support system seems like it might try to undercut him. 

Clearly the comparisons between Roland Pryzbylewski and Zack Greinke are many, but they are not limited to the narrative arc that each person's life happens to take.  Both men are socially awkward and what could aptly be described as weird dudes. Prez is the type of guy who sat listening to "Brown Sugar" over and over to decipher the opening lyric Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields / Sold in a market down in New Orleans. Zack would rather eat Chipotle than legendary KC barbecue and hated lunch time more than anything in school. Neither seem particularly comfortable in their own skin, at least as young men. This makes each man stick out as against type in their respective fields. Prez's struggles could be said to have stemmed from his overcompensation for not being cut from the same cloth as most police. With what we know (or at least think we know) of Zack Greinke, he does not have the personality of your typical professional athlete. 

Much like Pryzbylewski, we can see Zack Greinke in what might be a better setting for him. But as he is out there, doing that for which he might be best suited, he does it for someone else. The longer he stays at it, the more distant the memories of what he has done become. He may pop up from time to time, but each time we see him there is less and less that is recognizable to us.

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