More Sports:

October 04, 2017

Easily the best subplot in tonight's National League Wild Card Game

The National League playoffs begin tonight with two teams that haven’t played in the postseason for some time.

The host Arizona Diamondbacks last made the postseason the same year of the last Phillies playoff appearance, in 2011, when they lost to the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Division series. The Colorado Rockies’ drought was two years longer: prior to tonight their last playoff game came on the night Ryan Howard memorably told his teammates “get me to the plate, boys” at Coors Field in 2009.

Arizona and Colorado are obviously divisional foes – the D-backs took the season series 11-8, outscoring the Rox by 31 runs – so these are opponents pretty familiar with each other and that should make for an entertaining game.

There is no lack of subplots, either.

The most intriguing? Perhaps you think it’s the debate among who’s best among the trio of players who are likely to finish toward the top of the NL MVP voting: Paul Goldschmidt, (Phillie killer) Charlie Blackmon, or Nolan Arenado.

Or maybe it’s the argument of who is more terrifying (and capable of supplying the most nightmare fuel) Colorado’s Dinger, who menaces opposing pitchers from behind the catcher during games and has to be the only mascot anywhere risqué enough to go bare midriff every night...

... or D. Baxter, an apparent bobcat whose interactions with opposition players border on crazed stalking, in stark contrast to our beloved and playful Phillie Phanatic.

Nope, neither of these wins the prize for the best storyline for tonight’s game. 

The most intriguing possibility the NL Wild Card game could produce is a matchup of Arizona’s starting pitcher Zack Greinke and former Phillies and current Rockies reliever Pat Neshek.

Say Greinke is motoring along into the seventh inning of a 3-0 game. And say Jon Gray has exited for Colorado, but they want to keep the game close so they call on their trusted veteran reliever. And, in the bottom of the seventh, Greinke steps in against Neshek.

So, why the intrigue between these two All-Star right-handers? Well, let’s just say Neshek is a baseball card and autograph collector who isn’t too fond of the former Cy Young Award winner.

Back in July, on the day that he made his second career All-Star team (representing the Phillies and not Colorado, where he was traded later in the month), Neshek said that among the things he was most looking forward to in Miami was tracking down Greinke’s autograph.

“He’s tough – hopefully we can talk,” Neshek said of the elusive Greinke. “I’ll have my kid run over and get him. It’s going to be cool. My kid is a lot older now. He wasn't even 1 back then [in the 2014 All-Star Game]. He's 3½ now.”

Unfortunately for Neshek, he wasn’t able to corral Greinke’s John Hancock at the All-Star Game, even though players often spend a decent chunk of time signing throughout the two-day Midsummer Classic events. But if you think that would stop Neshek’s pursuit then you don’t know just how avid of a collector the man has been throughout his life.

Arizona and Colorado played seven games against each other in September and, at some point during that stretch, Neshek made another run at Greinke. And, well, it did not go well. (Click onto the tweet below for Neshek's recap).

And, yes, we’re certain that “Heat17” is Neshek, as he’s made the handle known for fans who wish to trade items with him through SportsCollectors.Net. And yes, he referred to Greinke as, among other things, a “turd.”

It’d be pretty interesting if Greinke stepped in against Neshek tonight, less than a month after their war of words, wouldn’t it?

We should probably put it out there that Greinke had a very public battle with a social anxiety disorder early in his career. So, that surely could be at play.

Or maybe he’s just tired of Neshek’s requests.

Either way, a dig into Neshek’s social media reveals he’s come away with something far better than a Zack Greinke autograph: he once met Vanilla Ice.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Like PhillyVoice Sports on Facebook.