When it comes to player loyalty in professional sports, it’s no secret that it’s pretty much non-existent. Players change teams all the time, leaving dedicated fans sometimes feeling betrayed. And although over the years we’ve seen it happen more and more often, it doesn’t seem to make the disappointment any less.
Dodgers fans felt that sting this past off-season, when Zack Greinke unexpectedly left L.A and decided to take his talents to Arizona, signing a 6-yr/$205 mil deal with the Diamondbacks. Going into the off-season we all knew it was a possibility that he could leave, but it just seemed unlikely.
Rude awakening, indeed.
Losing a co-ace like Greinke was a big blow, and it left many fans stunned… confused… angry even. Tonight, Greinke will return to Dodgers Stadium for the first time this year, and it will be interesting to see how he’s greeted by the fans. Boos? Cheers? A little of both?
As fans, we’re always going to be disappointed when a big time player leaves. And whenever they return to that home crowd in a different uniform, the response they get from the fans will depend on various factors. Did they leave via trade, or free agency? What were the circumstances of their departure? What kind of player were they before they left? All these questions factor into whether a player is “welcomed” back or not.
A couple of recent examples of former Dodgers returning to Los Angeles is Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon. Both players left after the 2014 season when the new front office took over and made some bold moves, sending both guys packing. When they made their return to Dodgers Stadium, both Kemp and Gordon received standing ovations from the crowd.
Of course, their departure was different than Greinke’s. They were traded away, and had no control over leaving the team. Greinke left via free agency, on his own accord.
When a player chooses to leave on his own, it’s usually a turn off for fans right off the bat. Sure, there are times when it’s a lot more understandable. Maybe a player has family ties in a certain part of the country and would like to come home and play out their career. Or, maybe their choice has to do with joining a winning team, who has a better chance to play for a championship. But neither was the case for Greinke.
His decision was primary based on money. He made no attempt to hide that fact when he signed with the Dodgers back before the 2013 season, and I’m sure he’d make no denial about it now. And anytime a player bolts to another team solely for more money, it’s tough to ask fans not to be at least a little bit upset.
Make all the claims you want about players doing what they have to do for their family and all that. When you start talking about $200 million dollars, it’s difficult for most fans to sympathize with the money factor. Greinke didn’t leave for a better chance to win. He didn’t leave to go home. He went with the highest bidder, simple as that, and it makes the pill a little harder to swallow for some.
On the flip-side, others may not hold any ill will against Greinke at all. For starters, he did have a few really good years with the club, and perhaps fans will show their appreciation for that. Additionally, some may hold the front office more responsible for him leaving than Greinkie himself. Despite reportedly offering him a sizable 5-yr deal, Andrew Friedman and Co. couldn’t match Arizona’s offer. And being that no other team has the financially resources of the Dodgers, being out-bid by another club was a surprised that most fans didn’t expect.
Another aspect that could ease Greinke’s return is time. They say time heals all wounds, and it’s been almost a whole year now since he left. Maybe today’s crowd had some different feelings back in April that may have pacified a little over the course of the season. If Greinke had taken the mound in any of the Diamondbacks previous trips to Los Angeles this season, perhaps the reaction would have been a little more one-sided, with his departure still fresh in fans’ minds.
Adding an even extra element to his return is the reported interest the Dodgers had in Greinke as a possible trade candidate recently. Surely, fans would welcome back Zack with open arms if the Dodgers were to make such a move, right? Just ask Cleveland if you can forgive and forget when it comes to your star player returning.
Dodgers fans will show Greinke how they feel about him tonight, and I suspect it will be mostly boos. I won’t be in attendance, but if I were, I’d probably boo too. Sure, he’s not the first player to ditch my favorite team for another, and he certainly won’t be the last. Still though, as fans, we have every right to express are disappointment and vent our frustration about their decision. You’re either with us or against us, and well, Greinke will literally be pitching against us today.
Sorry Zack, but there’s no love lost here.