Adam Greenberg’s “One At Bat”

Over the last week or so, several people have hit me up on Twitter asking me to help promote OneAtBat.com, a social campaign to get the Chicago Cubs to sign Adam Greenberg and give him a chance to hit in the big leagues in September. The story is certainly moving. You may remember that Greenberg got hit in the head on the first pitch of his Major League career, but may not know that it effectively ended his shot at a big league career.

Since the 2005 season, Greenberg has bounced around between a few different Double-A clubs and more recently independent league baseball, and now 30-years-old, he’s not likely to have any kind of career rebirth that leads to a sustained chance with a Major League team. So, Matt Liston has decided to use social pressure and the promise of good PR to try and get the Cubs to give Greenberg the at-bat they tried to give him back in 2005, before Valerio de los Santos‘ wild pitch turned a dream into a nightmare.

It’s a pretty fascinating social experiment. Greenberg’s not the first guy to have his big league dreams cut short due to something beyond their control, and he’s certainly not the only guy playing in independent ball who would love to get an at-bat in the big leagues just so he can say he finally got to experience what it was like. If Major League teams operated like Extreme Makeover: Baseball Edition, granting wishes to those with touching backstories, we’d have a never-ending parade of at-bats being handed out because “it’s the right thing to do.” From a pandora’s box point of view, I can understand a team’s reticence to open up a spot on the 40 man roster and go through all the machinations involved with adding a new player in order to give Greenberg his chance at redemption.

That said, I’m still hoping the Cubs play along. If there’s room on a big league roster for Roger Clemens simply because he wants to delay his HOF eligibility in hopes of increasing his chances of getting inducted later on — and let’s call a spade and spade and note that this is likely the motivation behind his “comeback” — then we should all admit that a roster spot for one game in September for a team out of the playoff race isn’t so sacrosanct that it can’t be spared for Greenberg.

The schedule actually works out perfectly as well, as the Cubs close the season at home against the Astros. There will be no questions of whether giving Greenberg an at-at in a Houston-Chicago match-up in game 162 is influencing a playoff race, or endangering the legitimacy of an outcome that anyone cares about. Let Greenberg lead-off the game and get a standing ovation, and with any luck, he’ll even get a chance to run the bases. It’d be a good story. It’d be fun to watch. I hope it happens.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Jack
Guest
Jack
3 years 11 months ago

If I were Greenberg I would love it if the Cubs gave me an AT-AT. Forget about baseball, I’m going to storm the rebel base on Hoth.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
3 years 11 months ago

And ruin that 361 wRC+?

cubbluie
Guest
cubbluie
3 years 11 months ago

Thanks for getting the word out, Dave!

Rex Manning Day
Guest
Rex Manning Day
3 years 11 months ago

Just don’t do it in that Astros series if Clemens is the one pitching. That’s just asking for a terrible ending to this story.

David
Guest
David
3 years 11 months ago

Nah. If Clemens were to hit this guy, he might go down in history as the greatest player ever bounced from the HOF ballot without a single vote…

Wil
Guest
Wil
3 years 11 months ago

Problem with the Cubs is that they don’t have a 40 man roster spot. They’d have to drop someone from the 40 man and thus expose him to waivers.

The Astros however only have 39 on the roster spot (The last one for Clemens maybe?) He could be added to the Stros and get an AB without any consequences for the Stros roster.

Snowblind
Guest
Snowblind
3 years 11 months ago

Let this guy onto the roster, let the hype build to a crescendo, pinch hit him in the bottom of the 9th… then plunk him.

Life’s tough, kid. Move on.

Aaron Murray
Member
3 years 11 months ago

Glad to hear from the sociopathic minority.

BenH
Guest
BenH
3 years 11 months ago

This comment hurts on quite a few levels. I’ll just assume that was the intent. Good job, troll.

jumbo
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jumbo
3 years 11 months ago

He winked at me!

Hey, kid! Don’t wink!

Vit-D
Guest
Vit-D
3 years 11 months ago

Maybe it would be better to give the novelty at bat to someone who has “Zero At Bats.”

Proo
Guest
Proo
3 years 11 months ago

Greenberg does have “zero at bats”. He has one PLATE APPEARANCE, but still zero at bats.

Matt NW
Guest
Matt NW
3 years 11 months ago

Watching the film, it doesn’t look like de los Santos was wild, I’d say rather accurate. He doesn’t get over on the pitch at all, steps towards Greenberg, releases it high (I’m a lefty, and I used to throw at my older brother in the backyard with some regularity, he’d charge the mound, I’d run in the house… good fun) — that looks, just looks, like a plunking.

Doug B
Guest
Doug B
3 years 11 months ago

You can’t tell me the Cubs have 40 players worth keeping. I’m no scout but I’ve seen them play.

naysayer
Guest
naysayer
3 years 11 months ago

I’m surprised Greenberg even wants this. Clearly zero out of thirty teams feel that he’s good enough to give a roster spot to. if he gets an at bat, it’s out of pity, and he’d have to be pretty clueless not to see that. Plus, I’m a Cubs fan, and we have much bigger fish to fry.

BenH
Guest
BenH
3 years 11 months ago

Out of pity? How about out of honor? He put in the time and work to give himself the chance for his first at-bat that never came. People are more than entities. In fact, most have empathy. And can you please expound upon your last sentence? It’s hard typing while laughing hardily.

naysayer
Guest
naysayer
3 years 11 months ago

I don’t get the honor thing. He’s not good enough to make a major league roster, so there’s no honor in being given an at-bat.

BenH
Guest
BenH
3 years 11 months ago

He literally was good enough at one point and never got the chance to lift the bat off his shoulder.

Scraps
Guest
Scraps
3 years 11 months ago

Can you imagine the situation of the pitcher given the job of pitching to Greenberg?

and let’s call a spade a spade and note that this is likely the motivation behind his “comeback” … then we should all admit that a roster spot for one game in September for a team out of the playoff race isn’t so sacrosanc

I hate Roger Clemens. But I don’t know his reasoning for making a comeback, and — to call a spade a spade — neither do you; “we should all admit” that this is a bad analogy for a admittedly attractive idea. Even the proponents admit this is a good idea but only for a bad team. Greenberg’s story is sad, but I’ll bet his story is not the worst story out there, and in the age of the internet, as soon as Greenberg’s story gets rewarded, how about the second, or third, or tenth? If the Cubs decide to do this, anyway, you can be sure that it will be filed under Advertising — the same reason that (presumably) Clemens’s team will give him a shot. Except there’s a small chance that Clemens will give his team a boost.

chuckb
Member
chuckb
3 years 11 months ago

Of course this is Clemens’s motivation. I’ll be disappointed if the Astros allow themselves to be used in such a shameless manner. Clemens belongs in the Hall of Fame but I wish he had enough respect for the game to not whore himself oh just to increase his odds of getting in the Hall.

Even Bonds wasn’t so unscrupulous.

BenH
Guest
BenH
3 years 11 months ago

Your slippery slope dream is mere fallacy. I’d really like it if you could show me a story where a player gets even closer to his first at-bat in the Major Leagues without ever having a real shot.

MrKnowNothing
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MrKnowNothing
3 years 11 months ago

Imagine if he gets walked.

Raoul Duke
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Raoul Duke
3 years 11 months ago

Ugh, I remember watching this when it happened. Both Greenberg and Matt Murton (his best buddy from double A) got called up on the same day. Murton went on to have an unspectacular MLB career that led to a surprisingly good run in Japan, while Greenberg became a strange footnote in the annals of baseball history.

Gene
Guest
Gene
3 years 11 months ago

I don’t think he should get the at-bat. It opens a huge Pandora’s box. You mentioned Roger Clemens but this is a bad analogy and you know it, you only made it so people would think to themselves, “Hey, Clemens is a bad person and Adam is a good person. If Clemens gets to play this year then so should Adam because of karma.” Unfortunately, baseball isn’t about karma, it’s a meritocracy.
Clemens is pitching in the independent league and won’t get to the Astros unless he proves he can get still theoretically get big league hitters out. Greenberg is not good enough to play on a major league roster now. The reasons why that is are secondary to the fact that he is not good enough and does not merit an AB. It is also an insult to fans and players on the Cubs et al to say these September games are “meaningless” when the tickets still cost the same, players are being paid the same, parking is still overpriced, etc. This isn;t the early 1940s when teams made all sorts of PR moves to fill the stands.

BenH
Guest
BenH
3 years 11 months ago

Except they are meaningless in the sense that nothing that happens in one of these later games will have repercussions for the Cubbies in the playoffs. People don’t pay so they can watch the Cubs win. They pay for the experience of seeing a baseball game. I’m sure 99% of all fans would disagree with your argument that calling these games meaningless is an insult to them.

naysayer
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naysayer
3 years 11 months ago

Please peddle your tired stereotypes elsewhere.

Micah
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Micah
3 years 11 months ago

It’s funny because at this point, Adam Greenberg, 30, has a better chance of having positive value for a team on the field than Roger Clemens, 50. Greenberg has been playing baseball in the minors and Independent leagues since he had to take a year-and-a-half off due to effects from the concussion. He’s not going to be a starter, but he still is fast with a good eye. He also might be making an appearance in the World Baseball Classic next year for Israel.

Clemens, on the other hand, has only been working on developing his gut, his ego, and a machine to alter reality because he can’t admit to himself that his reputation and his career are done. But now he has a start in an independent league, featuring a fastball topping out at 88 mph, and all the sudden has proven he is able to get Major League hitters out? Come on, be realistic.

In the end, the reality is that either Clemens or Greenberg making an appearance is nothing more than a gimmick, but my money would be on Greenberg not being a complete joke in his appearance. In addition, his character and his circumstance, in my opinion, make him more worthy of an opportunity to appear in a meaningless game, even if it is as a gimmick.

fang2416
Guest
fang2416
3 years 11 months ago
Reason
Guest
Reason
3 years 11 months ago

Nice idea and I have signed the petition, because what the heck. A nice story is a nice story.

That aside, I’m not really sure he lost much of a career, although certainly some additional PAs He slashed at .269/.386/.407/.792 as a 5’9″, mid-20s OFer in AA after four seasons in the minors, including spending parts of three seasons in the same lower-level A league even though he was drafted out of college. Not a positive sign for a player’s prospect status.

He was selected down in the 9th round, 273rd overall, not a fertile area for MLB players. There is not a single player of note picked in the 9th, with 84% of the players in that round never making a single appearance in the majors. The players selected immediately ahead of him have the names Doug Deeds and Denver Kitch, and are known I assume by their family, friends and the MLB talent evaluators who once scouted them. The most successful player in the ninth round would be Chris Leroux. Who? Well he does have one inning pitched this year with the Pirates. Leroux was drafted nineteen slots ahead of Greenberg. The Cubs’ 8th-round pick was an OFer named Jason Fransz, who also never played in the majors. Their 6th rounder, picked 90 slots ahead of Greenberg, was another OF never to appear in the majors named Chris Walker. Their 5th rounder, picked 120 slots ahead, was yet another OFer, Shawn Scobee, who also never played in the majors. Their 4th rounder? Alan Rick, a catcher picked 150 slots ahead, who also never played in the majors. Hey, at least he wasn’t an OFer. Rick, like Greenberg, hasn’t given up the dream, also playing in independant ball, although I doubt they’ll be any petition to give him a chance.

After ’05, Greenberg was back slashing at .266/.373/.428/.802 in AA in ’07 after the beaning. Very similar but marginally better numbers to his last healthy season in ’05 right before his call-up. His resume doesn’t scream prospect before or after. At best, he was once given a ceiling as that of a 4th or 5th MLB OFer, which means his one MLB appearance is perhaps one more than he might have received with another team with better OF prospects and one who didn’t have a slumping CFer at the time named Corey Patterson.

He is now one of two players to be hit by a pitch in his first and only plate appearance without taking the field, and one of five MLB players to have his one and only MLB plate appearance end in a HBP, with the other three appearing in the field. A small group, but he’s not in his own exclusive club of one either. Yet, he is almost assuredly more famous for his one PA then he would be if he got 100 or so substandard PAs and drifted off into MLB history, his most likely destination. His Moonlight Graham-like moment certainly makes him a more memorable player history wise than a few more PAs and a Dan Gonzales-like “career.”

If the Cubs think there is some business value to activating him (positive PR and money to be made), then feel free. That’s why I signed the petition. The Cubs however owe him nothing more than they do any other player with equally deserving but different circumstances than Greenberg, which is to say nothing. There are also expenses associated with adding a player to the 40-man roster; it’s not just paperwork. Depending on the state of the Cubs’ 40-man, another player might be bumped, or just not added. That’s loss of service time and money to that player, who I’m pretty sure cares more about his chances than those of Adam Greenberg.

Sorry if this sounding all wet-blankey, yet I do question their position of feeling the need to give him one AB, as if somehow he didn’t appear in the major leagues. An AB is just a form of a PA, a subset. Walks and HBP count, which is why the guy has a 1.000 OBP. He has already appeared in the major leagues.

Last, the Clemens comparison isn’t a good one. For one, Clemens’ will represent a far more important and significant appearance. Many members of the BBWAA ignored the “steroid era” for a quarter century, even though virtually everyone knew it was happening, from the team owners to the fans. Now the writers have taken a holier-than-thou attitude and seem to be upset that they won’t be able to withhold their vote on Clemens for another five years, as if that has anything of value to add. If he wants to throw a brush-back pitch under the chins of the BBWAA members and in essence give more time for the debate to continue, then so be it.

Rob
Guest
Rob
3 years 11 months ago

I’m fine if he gets another AB just because of the freaky nature of the beginning and ending of his career. Really is up to the Cubs.

I do agree on the Clemens comparison. The two are unrelated and Clemens would be much more significant. I’d love to see him pitch for no other reason than to either see him get his a** kicked, or he strikes out the side. It’s an interesting story no matter what. Hopefully Dave can see the difference between the two.

Micah
Guest
Micah
3 years 11 months ago

I think it is a good human interest story that would be endearing to fans of baseball in general. I also disagree that he didn’t have a shot as he is a top-of-the-order guy whose job it was to get on base, and he did that rather well in the minors. I’m not saying he was destined to be an everyday regular, but I am saying he could have been a good piece off the bench at least.

The reason I support him (beyond the good impression he left when I interviewed him once and watched him play in AA Jackson) is that he didn’t get the chance to be a mediocre player because of what happened to him on the very first pitch of his career, which does place him in a unique group of one. He is the only player in the history of the game who went to the plate ready to experience THE moment he had worked for and dreamt of since childhood, but never had the chance to see a ball pass the plate.

The only pitch Greenberg saw never made it to the mit. Instead, it nailed him in the head and effectively ended the chance he had of reaching even replacement level value, should he have dared to set his sites so high…but what am I doing trying to appeal to emotions on a statistics-based website?

The point I meant to make before getting all sappy was this: Why does it have to be the Cubs? To me, if anyone “owes” him anything, it’s the Marlins. It was there pitcher who beaned him.

Still think it would be a better story than Clemens. Unfortunately, Greenberg never did anything to make people hate him, whether that hatred arose from Clemens dominating their team in a game, or from the part he played in freeing fans from the disillusionment that all their favorite players were Boy Scouts who spent their time away from the park tutoring kids and helping old ladies cross the street.

Matt
Guest
Matt
3 years 11 months ago

So what happens if he walks? Are they going to ask for more PA until he gets an official AB?

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