Eric Byrnes gave an interview this morning on KNBR, a San Francisco sports talk radio station, where he sometimes co-hosts offseason. When the hosts mentioned how well he was doing in spring training (.347 BA w/4 homers and tied for the club lead in RBIs) he said that the second half of last year was "aberrational". And he mentioned the two trades with the playing for three teams and four managers, and the steroid suspension of Palmeiro and the DUI arrest of Ponson, although he did not mention Ponson by name. Just as I, and no doubt many others, have suspected, Byrnesie’s performance was affected by the trades and team turmoil. I think he would h ave had to have been superhuman not to be affected.
But all that is over now. Byrnesie has a fresh start with a new team. He recalled that when he signed with the Diamondbacks in December he said, "I found a team that believes in me half as much as I believe in myself." This is not sarcasm. This is actually great praise because Byrnesie believes in himself tremendously. He acknowledged his inconsistencies, but he thinks that now he’s past the point in his career of great highs and great lows. And while he also acknowledged that the Giants are the favorites to win the NL West, he thinks the D’Backs are a team to watch out for, especially if there are no injury problems.
While Byrnesie likes the pitching, mentioning specifically Webb. Batista and "El Duque" Hernandez, he is especially enthusiastic about the lineup. He says that Luis Gonzalez (veteran left fielder and team leader) is in the best shape he (Byrnes) has ever seen him, and he thinks veteran right fielder Shawn Green will have a big year. (Let’s hope so. His performance in spring training hasn’t suggested that). Among the younger players, Byrnes expects Stephen Drew to be the regular shortstop by the end of the year, and thinks highly of rookie first baseman Conor Jackson. As for the 18-year-old Justin Upton, the Snakes first round draft pick last year who got a few at-bats in Major League camp, (6-10), Byrnes said there hasn’t been a guy that good that young since the 18 year-old Ken Griffey, Jr. He expects good things from Upton in the years to come. And in just general tone and energy, Eric Byrnes sounded like he would like to still be in Phoenix when Upton makes the majors.
As you can imagine, being that it’s in San Francisco, KNBR is a very pro-Giants station. The show hosts said that Byrnesie would be the one Diamondback they would root for. It doesn’t work that way for me. Go Byrnesie! Go Snakes! (I want my favorite player to get a ring!)
I’m ready for Opening Day. Eric Byrnes sounded like he is, too. Now, if it would only stop raining in Oakland.