One of my favorite "Seinfeld" quotes of all time comes courtesy of the fiery Elaine Benes who, after struggling with her catalog-writing muse, realized, "People like interesting writing!" So it also goes with baseball players -- people like the interesting ones -- and, if early returns are any indication, the Chicago Cubs have an interesting guy in Matt Garza.
Take his closing comments regarding spring training, during which Garza threw 21.2 innings, giving up 35 hits, 14 walks and 25 runs (20 strikeouts, though):
I’m healthy. It’s my first year in Arizona. And it sucks. I don’t give a damn. I don’t care about the travel. It sucks here. It’s so dry, but whatever. Now it’s time to go to Chicago, where there’s a little more moisture in the air.
Take the spectacle of Garza in the Cubs' dugout during the first two games of the season. The 27-year-old pitcher was caught by cameras screaming in support of his teammates and applauding loudly. "Good AB! That's a good AB!" he yelled at one point.
Take his debut start for his new team. The slim, goateed hurler appeared focused and deadly serious as he threw everything in his arsenal against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The result: Seven innings, 12 strikeouts and 12 hits allowed -- all singles (and a loss, thanks to a lack of run support and heartbreaking ninth inning).
Interesting. Very interesting. (And weird.)
Take his postgame comments in the pressroom. Garza seemed cool, guarded and a little defensive when fielding his first round of questions from the Chicago media. Hints of a smile broke through at times, but he mostly reiterated points he'd previously made to the press in Arizona and then helpfully broke down the dimensions of a baseball diamond. Why it was almost Piniella-esque.
I'm not prepared to make any proclamations about Matt Garza. I know that Tampa Bay Rays fans had some issues with his moodiness at times. But I'm guessing they also appreciated the competitiveness he brought to the mound -- especially in several key games. Personally, I wasn't comfortable with the trade that brought him to the Cubs. Like many, I feared GM Jim Hendry gave up too much for a pitcher who, thus far in his career, hasn't turned in results all that different from a right-hander the team already had on the roster: Randy Wells.
But I'm more than willing to give Garza a chance to prove my fears wrong. His stuff does look really good. And I have no problem with a guy who plays (or even watches) with emotion or who decides, for whatever reason, that he doesn't want to be Mr. Diplomacy with the media. Dealing with the press is part of a player's job, being anything beyond perfunctory about doing so isn't. (The Tribune's Paul Sullivan tweeted this morning that Garza left the clubhouse when the 17:1 media-member-to-player ratio got too much for the pitcher.)
No, at this point, I would just say: Keep an eye on Matt Garza. Because he's an interesting guy. And in an intense media environment like Chicago, on a team that battles history every season, he could bring plenty of memorable highlights and quotes this season. Let's hope most of them are good -- or at least entertaining.