Zack Greinke, the last honest man in baseball, thought about what was a fairly innocuous question about how the National League West might play out in the second half.
With four teams within four games of first place at the All-Star break, Greinke sized up the challenge by wishing his Arizona Diamondbacks had one fewer team with which to contend.
“I wish the Giants would have listened to the media and just given up on the season,” Greinke said. “Everyone in the world wanted them to rebuild, and they turned themselves into a really good team by just trying to win.”
The San Francisco Giants were too old before they traded for Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, not that they cared.
Neither do they care about the East Coast wailing that they ought to rebuild by trading Madison Bumgarner to the New York Yankees, notwithstanding the tiny little detail that the Giants arrived at the break closer to first place in their division than the Yankees were in theirs.
As the Dodgers try to become the third team in major league history to win six consecutive division championships, they could face their fiercest competition.
In each of the previous five years, the Dodgers clinched before the final weekend. They won 90 games every year. The Diamondbacks won 90 once, the other three teams in the division never did. No team besides the Dodgers has posted a cumulative winning record over those five years.
At the break, every NL West team not named the San Diego Padres had a winning record.
“People talk about our division like it’s the weak division,” the Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado said. “I think it’s just that we’ve got a bunch of good teams beating up on each other.”
Said Greinke: “Four really good teams, and it’s close. No one is going to be able to predict what’s going to happen from there.”
The Dodgers did not spend a single day this season in first place until last week, but their track record speaks for them, with the season approaching its final two months.
“I know the Dodgers are going to be there,” Arenado said. “They always are. They’re playing good baseball.”
The Dodgers have the best record in the league over the past two months. They lead the league in home runs, and in Manny Machado they have added a player with more home runs than anyone they already had.
So, yeah, they should be there in the end.
But let us pose this question: Would it be better for baseball if a team beside the Dodgers could win the NL West?
“I would hope it’s Colorado,” he said, “because we haven’t won the division ever.
“You’ve got to give respect to teams that play well and win the division every year. I can admire that. But I hope we can change that.”
His teammate, Charlie Blackmon, tipped his cap to the Dodgers too, sort of.
“I think it’s great when the big markets are competitive consistently,” Blackmon said. “But I also think it’s good to see the team that doesn’t spend the most money be successful sometimes.”
The Giants are spending more money on payroll this year than the Dodgers, but the Dodgers spent more money than every other team in every other year of this run.
“I think it’s good for baseball when teams like the Yankees and Red Sox are good,” Arenado said. “But I think it would be cool to have something different this year, kind of like the World Cup.
“You saw some different teams in there, and it brought a little excitement, so hopefully that’s how it is this year with baseball.”
Funny he brought up the World Cup. So did the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling.
“Croatia was in the final of the World Cup. That’s every four years,” he said. “Every four years, you want to see England and France, or Spain and Brazil.
“When it’s every year, you get tired of seeing Alabama. You get tired of seeing the Patriots. So I understand fans saying, ‘We’re tired of seeing the Dodgers in the playoffs.’
“But, as a Dodger, I’m not tired of it at all.”
Greinke, the man without a filter, was the only player queried to propose that the best interests of his team and the best interests of the game might not be one and the same.
“My thoughts, at this very moment,” Greinke said, “are that it’s usually best for baseball for the Dodgers to face the Yankees, or the Cubs to face Boston, and not for Colorado to face Cleveland.”
The Dodgers buried the pack last summer. This summer could be one to remember in four cities.
“I can see all four teams hanging in there,” the Giants’ Brandon Crawford said. “I think it will be a close race.”
Said Stripling: “It’s competitive as hell. Four teams are within four games. They have a chance. It’s competitive baseball.
“As a fan, that should be what you want.”
As a fan of a team not named the Dodgers, you might want another team to win. Spread the wealth. Good for ball, no?
“Since I’m on the Giants,” Crawford said with a laugh, “I definitely think so.”
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin