Two days before he would make a triumphant return from the disabled list with 5 1/3 innings of one-run baseball in a victory over the Washington Nationals, Zack Greinke stood on the field at Dodger Stadium laughing and smiling in conversation with Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner.
It was something of a unique sight: a player from one team having a friendly conversation with the owner of another. Especially when that player has never played for that owner.
But in the Nationals‘ brief history, Greinke represents one of their greatest “What if?” questions. What if the right-hander hadn’t nixed the rumored trade that would have brought him to Washington instead of Milwaukee before the 2011 season — and possibly cost the Nationals multiple members of their core?
The Nationals did their best to sell Greinke on their team back then, back before they had a division title to their name and were predicted as World Series favorites. And Greinke listened.
“I talked to [Lerner and the Nationals‘ front office staff] for a couple hours, probably,” the right-hander said Tuesday afternoon, before he’d help the Dodgers take the three-game series from the Nationals.
“[In total] I probably talked to him more than any owner I’ve played for. … It was a pretty long meeting [we had in 2010], so I have some relationship with him.”
That mutual affection led him to the Nationals‘ side of the field at Dodgers Stadium on Monday. Greinke, who signed a six-year, $147 million deal with Los Angeles this offseason, wanted to tell Lerner that everything the Nationals had sold him on was right.
“I’m just so impressed with how good they’ve become,” Greinke said. “I was in a different league [back then] and never saw them play, so I didn’t really have a good feel for what they had. They were telling me how good their young guys were and I didn’t really want to take 100 percent of their word for it and just complete trust what people are saying. But, I mean, they were right about what they were saying.