MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Greinke isn't a Super Packer Backer

Bauman: Greinke isn't a Super Packer Backer

Greinke isn't a Super Packer Backer
It takes an obvious amount of fortitude to compete at the highest level -- to become great enough, for instance, to win a Cy Young Award.

So if we say "Zack Greinke has courage," that should come within the general, accepted range of human knowledge. But this fellow may have more guts than even previously imagined. Here's why:

The setting was "Brewers on Deck," a mid-winter celebration and look ahead for the Milwaukee franchise, held downtown at the Frontier Airlines Center. A record crowd of 11,299 citizens showed up Sunday, their optimism fortified by the fact that the Brewers, previously in need of pitching, had traded for two substantial starting pitchers, Shaun Marcum from Toronto, and Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner, from Kansas city.

On the main stage for an early afternoon session were Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio, general manager Doug Melvin, assistant general manager Gord Ash, and the two new Brewer pitchers, Marcum and Greinke. Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker handled the moderating chores, asked some reasonable questions, easily obtained some legitimate laughs and then turned it over to the fan base for the question-and-answer portion of the festivities.

This went along smoothly enough, and maybe even predictably enough, until one woman asked the two pitchers which team they thought was going to win the Super Bowl. Super Bowl XLV, of course, will feature the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. For those of you who grew up wearing the Green and Gold, the Packers are something of a secular religion in Wisconsin. A home game is a pilgrimage to Lambeau Field. A road game is a crusade. A Super Bowl in the home of the Cowboys is an occasion for a combination of reverence, awe, rejoicing, not necessarily in that order.

Here is Greinke, 27, newly arrived, making a first public impression. He is here with the most ardent fans, the people willing to spend the time and money for a Brewer outing on a typically frosty winter's day in southeastern Wisconsin. And here also are three major representatives of his new team's brass, sitting there next to him.

There is only one correct answer to this Super Bowl question. In fact, there is only one possible answer, only one answer that can even be contemplated. But that is not Zack Greinke's answer.

"I like the Steelers," he says.

This statement is not greeted simply by boos. That would be an understatement. Howls of protest greet Greinke's stated Super Bowl preference. Uecker leaps in to offer any possible assistance, saying:

"Give the guy a break. He's only been in town for 15 minutes."

Marcum, meanwhile, does not need to cram for this exam. He quickly inserts his half of the discussion:

"I'm going to disagree with Zack and go with the Packers."

A genuine ovation follows. If an election had been held in that room at that moment, Marcum could have been emperor, while Greinke would have been exiled one state to the south to play for one of the Chicago teams; the Cubs, or even better, the Bears. I mean, even now, the Bears still need somebody to throw the ball, don't they?

Through much of this episode, Greinke wore the traces of a grin. Thus, he appeared to see the humor in all of this, which was a very good sign.

It is distinctly possible that Greinke sincerely believes that the Steelers are supposed to win the Super Bowl, and faced with the question, merely spoke what he saw to be the truth. That would be fine.

It is also possible that Greinke saw the opportunity for a bit of humor, even though the humor would make him the temporary object of derision. That would be even better.

His responses to other questions indicated a nicely developed sense of irony. His profession, pitching, he described at one point as 'kind of annoying' ... You want to be a shortstop or something, hitting 60 home runs; that's what you grow up thinking."

Asked about making the transition to the National League, where he will regularly have the chance to hit, Greinke responded: "If I don't do something hitting that'd probably be the biggest disappointment of my career."

Nice. With the additions of Greinke and Marcum, the Brewers have transformed their starting rotation. Given the existing talent of their offense, they have become genuine contenders in the NL Central. And if Greinke pitches the way he did in 2009, all will be forgiven for his pick against the Pack. Well, almost all will be forgiven.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.