Fandom and the Effort to Get Adam Greenberg “One At Bat”
Certain stories leave me pondering what it means to be a fan. What I’m supposed to do as a fan. I don’t always have a great answer beyond “root for the team, hope they win,” and then do or think the things that ultimately support the winning. But sometimes I get the feeling that there’s more.
I reckon that, by now, most of you know the story of Adam Greenberg. I remember when the outfield prospect was called up in July 2005, there was a bit of excitement among Cubs fans in the online world. Irrational, perhaps – Greenberg was far from a top prospect at that time – but we were thrilled to see a kid coming up with a skill set that was almost completely foreign to us: he walked almost as much as he struck out. That year at AA, Greenberg had a .386 OBP (with a .117 IsoD – the kid took a lot of walks), and there was a belief that finally the Cubs were taking OBP and “seeing pitches” seriously. Or, if they weren’t, maybe a kid like Greenberg would force the issue.
The Fates have a way of chuckling at your expectations while they swirl their magic brew.
The story was, of course, far crueler to Greenberg than to Cubs fans. He saw exactly one pitch (well, perhaps he saw no pitch at all): a fastball to the head. Concussed, Greenberg dealt with the aftermath of his cautionary tale for years, never making it back to the big leagues.
The comparisons to Moonlight Graham were as inevitable as the hopes that he would make it back to the bigs and shed that label. He never did.
Now 31, Greenberg played last year for the Bridgeport Bluefish, but hasn’t played this year. But that’s not stopping one Cubs fan from trying to get Greenberg back to baseball this year. Back to the Cubs. Back to the bigs. From OneAtBat.com:
We want to get Adam Greenberg his first “official” Major League at bat. Of the 17,500 players who have played in the major leagues, no player has ever had his MLB career end on the first pitch—except Adam Greenberg. Due to Major League rules, when Adam was hit, his at bat was recorded as a plate appearance, not an official at bat. We would like to see Adam make it back to the big leagues for the official at bat he earned.
The project, fully supported and appreciated by Greenberg (you can see his video at the site), is being headed up by Matt Liston, whom you may recognize from his work in ‘Catching Hell,’ and ‘Chasing October.’ Liston is a good dude, and his passion for these kinds of projects is infectious.
As for getting Greenberg that at bat – Liston would like to see it happen this year – I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, the ambitiousness of the project is rivaled only by its positive spirt. I admire those things. I like seeing Cubs fans taking chances on their passion (um, like, obviously), and I also happen to think the goal of getting Greenberg an official at bat is, well, nice. Be honest with yourself: what happened to him sucks, and it would be nice to have a part in adding a happy ending. What are we doing as fans – heck, what are we doing in this life – if we don’t care about things like that?
On the other hand, I suspect many of us will be overwhelmed by our primary concern for the Cubs. Getting Greenberg his at bat, at a surface level, may seem like an easily-pulled-off publicity stunt, and a laudable one that the Cubs should just do, especially at the end of a season in which they’ll finish with close to 100 losses anyway. But there are practical issues with making it happen. The biggest of which is the requisite 40-man roster spot for Greenberg. The 40-man currently stands at an even 40, which means the Cubs would have to de-roster a player to add Greenberg. Doing so would risk losing that player for good, something I’m sure the Cubs would be loathe to do. And, as much as I love the idea of doing something nice for Greenberg, I certainly don’t want to see the Cubs worse for the wear on the other end of it.
That said, it’s conceivable that – without naming names – there is a player or two on the 40-man whom the Cubs don’t plan to have back next year or to keep through the offseason. I’m looking at the 40-man roster right now, and, yeah, there is a player or two. So, on that level, I suppose it’s do-able.
There are still other concerns. What if the Cubs make all of this happen, and get Greenberg up to the plate as a pinch hitter, say, on the final day of the season, and he walks? What if he strikes out in embarrassing fashion? What if, God forbid, he gets hit again? What does that do to the story?
That said, I think the upside for him, personally, outweighs those risks. The risks to the Cubs, however, are less certain to be easily dismissed. If they could be, why wouldn’t I support something like this? It’s easy to be cynical and decry this as the kind of lame stunt the Cubs shouldn’t be involved in if they consider themselves a serious organization.
But … why be like that? Greenberg is an actual human being with an actual (sad) connection to the Chicago Cubs. Assuming the logistical issues don’t put the Cubs in any worse of a situation than they’re already in, why wouldn’t we support this? So, with a firm belief that the Cubs won’t actually give Greenberg an at bat unless they believe they can do it without losing someone they value going forward, I think I will support this cause.
If you also support it, you can sign a petition set up by the One At Bat crew.