Adam Greenberg's once far-fetched wish will soon be granted. Baseball fans should focus on that inspiring story rather than the Pandora's Box that the former prospect's one at-bat has the potential to open.
The reality, however, is that no story today comes without some form of debate.
Greenberg, a former Cubs prospect, was struck in the head by a pitch in 2005. It was the first and last big league pitch he ever saw, as Greenberg has since battled vertigo and vision problems while embarking on a career comprised of bouncing around the minors. In many ways, he's a modern day Moonlight Graham, which has had baseball fans petitioning to get Greenberg a big league at-bat.
Greenberg — who technically does not have an at-bat — has been striving to get back to the bigs, but his comeback bid has come up short since the infamous '05 plate appearance. That all changed on Thursday when Marlins president David Samson announced to Greenberg on NBC's Today Show that Miami planned to sign him to a one-day big league contract. Greenberg is now set to get his one at-bat on Tuesday when the Marlins take on the Mets.
Overall, this is somewhat surprising news. The emotional support has been there, and the crazy world that is the Internet seems to have been influential in getting Greenberg his long awaited second chance. But teams have understandably been reluctant to give the 31-year-old a shot because of what it represents, and that reluctance should hardly be grounds for criticism.
Letting Greenberg fulfill his dream of stepping into a major league batter's box at least one more time is a feel-good story. Suddenly, there's a sense that there really is at least some common decency in the world, and misty eyes will be glued on the once up-and-coming minor leaguer as he defies all odds on Tuesday. But after wiping away the tears and wading through all that is fascinating about this story, there's the unfortunate truth that Greenberg's at-bat is hardly more than a publicity stunt for the Marlins.
Nothing will really be at stake when Miami and New York square off on the regular season's finale Tuesday, so giving Greenberg an at-bat doesn't come with much of a cost from that standpoint. But the Marlins' decision to bring Greenberg aboard inevitably opens the Cubs up to some criticism for passing on the opportunity to make a dream come true.
The Cubs — sitting in fifth place in the NL Central with the last-place Astros on the schedule for Tuesday — realistically could have jumped at the opportunity to play the role of good guys. Instead, they looked away.
"Adam made the big leagues based on merit in 2005," Cubs general manger Jed Hoyer recently said in an e-mail, according to the Chicago Tribune. "While it is unfortunate he got hit in his first at-bat, he is in the Baseball Encyclopedia as a major leaguer and he should be incredibly proud of that. We wish him the best, but there are no plans to add him to the roster now or in the future."
It sounds cold, and denying Greenberg seems to go against that aforementioned concept of common decency, but any heat placed on the Cubs is unwarranted. As unfortunate as Greenberg's 2005 incident was, there are plenty of other minor leaguers working hard to get to the majors — something, as Hoyer points out, Greenberg actually already accomplished. The Cubs were well within their right to give those kids a shot rather than succumbing to the pressures of the Internet and fans on the outside looking in.
Chicago's decision might not be a popular one, but it ensures that everyone in the organization understands that baseball itself is at the heart of the club's decision-making process — right or wrong. It also sends a message that regardless of the Cubs' place in the standings, they're going to move forward with the future in mind, even if that means they don't necessarily do what many would deem to be "the right thing."
Greenberg has long stated that his comeback bid is not meant to be taken as some charity case, but the reality is that any team willing to grant the former prospect's wish would likely be doing so out of the goodness of its heart.
That shouldn't stop anyone, especially Greenberg, from enjoying the moment. But let's not get frustrated when teams opt for the more conventional baseball route.
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