Former Royals manager Buddy Bell once said of Zack Greinke, "Kid'll never lie, even when he should."
Kansas City Star columnist and former Royals beat writer Sam Mellinger passed that quote along to go with a story illustrating the point. The honesty of Greinke is one of the things that makes his impending free agency so interesting.
In Kansas City, where Greinke was vilified on the way out of town for quitting on his team as he demanded out, there's a fantasy of sorts that Greinke could bypass the big bucks from the Yankees or Dodgers and return to the Royals, the franchise that drafted him and nurtured him through his diagnosis with social anxiety disorder.
After Tuesday night's return to Kansas City in a visitor's uniform, Greinke spoke for roughly 15 minutes, while not directly addressing his free agent plans, entertaining the questions and answering as only he will, in vague and broad terms. He didn't rule out a return to Kansas City or Milwaukee, but also didn't seem to give the idea that he had made up his mind where he'd play in 2013 and beyond.
When asked if his return was a realistic possibility, Greinke talked around the question, while also throwing in some shoe-gazing reflections of his exit.
"It's nice because I was pretty rude on the way out. I felt like I had to [be] in order to get out," Greinke said at a news conference [via the Kansas City Star]. "But I didn't want to have to be the bad guy, but I felt like I had to be. But I liked it here. Like I said, the fans were great. I don't know how so many of them come to games when they've been bad for so long. But it's pretty impressive. I think they're like beating five or six teams in the American League [in attendance], and some teams are really good, and Kansas City's outdrawing them. So that just shows you how, for all they've been through, to still come out is pretty cool."
When asked if he regretted some of the things he said on his way out, Greinke said "maybe," but reiterated it was a means to an end.
He did say the fact that he hasn't sold his house in Kansas City as having a deeper meaning.
"No, that has nothing to do with anything. Sorry to break it to everyone," Greinke said. "I got a two-year lease, so it was like, 'Might as well rent it out.' And when I got married, it was our first home, so my wife doesn't really want to get rid of it."
As much as Greinke said he liked living in Kansas City and the Royals' coaching staff, he had equal praise for the Brewers and Milwaukee.
Billy Butler, one of the Royals left behind that voiced his displeasure of how Greinke left, said he'd welcome back his old teammate.
"It really is all about winning," Butler told the Star's Mellinger. "It's about being a good teammate, too, and all that stuff, but a lot of things get overshadowed when you have that type of talent. If we were winning, he would have a completely different attitude."
Greinke is precisely the type of player the Royals need. Despite their highly touted farm system, none of the starters from that stable have established themselves at the big-league level. If the Royals truly believe their position players are good enough to make them contenders, their pitching still lags behind and has no real ace. Greinke would give them that.
The Royals have already re-signed the other piece they sent to the Brewers in that trade, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. If Greinke were to return, it would be one of the biggest shockers in recent baseball history and also make the Royals' trade of him even better for the organization. Of course, for that to happen, owner David Glass would have to care or want to win and then put his money where his mouth is -- and anyone who has paid attention to baseball in Kansas City over the last two decades would certainly have their doubts about that.