Tagged: Eric Byrnes 06.3

When Leaders Lead: Top of D’Backs Lineup Pounds Giants 10-3

Jeff DaVanon continues his hot hitting ways. Playing RF and batting second, he went 3-4 and a BB, batting in three runs and scoring thrice himself, as the D’Backs beat the Giants, 10-3. DaVanon is hitting a torrid .455. Now the best the Giants can do is split the 4-game series.

Leadoff batter and shortstop Craig Counsell went 2-5 with 2 runs scored. Three hitter and third baseman Chad Tracy went 2-4 with a walk, 2 RBI and a run scored. Cleanup hitter and left fielder Luis Gonzalez went 2-4 with 3 RBI and a run scored.

The Giants hit into 4 DPs, to go with the 4 they hit into the day before. And in the first inning, before anyone had an inkling of the blow out that was to come, Giants second baseman Ray Durham was cut down at homeplate trying to score from second on a line drive single to center by catcher Matt Metheny. The play went Eric Byrnes to Tony Clark to Johnny Estrada.

Yeah, Eric Byrnes. Today was one of those rare days when Byrnes and DaVanon played together. And I was glad to see it. One cannot begrudge DaVanon the playing time. He’s the best hitter and RBI man on the team right now. But Byrnesie’s not going to find his rhythm as a hitter if he has to platoon with DaVanon. More on that in a future post.

It was not as felicitous a day at the plate for Byrnes as two days ago, when he homered. He popped up and grounded into his first DP of the year. But he also walked twice without striking out, bringing his totals for the year so far to 8 Ks and 6 BBs. He’s narrowing the gap, and getting that K/BB ratio closer to 1:1. This is the 6th time in the 13 games in which he has appeared (including the pinch-hitting stints), in which his P/PA has been 4 or better. He’s learning patience.

Still, Byrnes’  RBI total is disappointing, but that is not all his fault. There was only one runner in scoring position in the 4 plate appearances he made in this game; there was a runner on third when he came up in the fourth inning. But there were two out, he was batting eighth, and behind him was the pitcher. With no protection the Giants had no incentive to throw Byrnes anything hittable. So I am going to put that one in the bad luck column, along with the two great catches against him and the ground rule double that forced a runner to stay at third. And indeed the D’Backs stranded their runners at first (Byrnes) and third (Clark) that inning when pitcher and nine hitter Brandon Webb struck out.

But Byrnesie scored a run in a D’Backs rally in the eighth, during which he had his second walk. So all was not lost atg the plate this game. And walks are good for the OBP.

Shawn Green was successful in his effort as a pinch-hitter today; he singled Byrnesie to second, while batting for reliever Brandon Lyon.

Trivia: Only pitchers named Brandon threw for the D’Backs this game: Starter and winner Brandon Webb, and relievers Brandon Lyon and new call-up Brandon Medders.

Kéllia "It’s cloudless t-shirt weather that made going to the laundromat a pleasure" Ramares
Sunny Oakland, CA

Happy Anniversary, MLBlogs!

Since I live on the Left Coast of North America, it made sense to me to come into this celebration at the end. This is a more fun way to remember April 18th than the San Francisco Earthquake of ’06. I had to board op the KPFA Evening News today, and it was earthquake this and earthquake that. They keep talking about all the preparations we should make, but with all the oil, chemical and radiation places we have in the area, if we have the BIG ONE along the Hayward Fault, our collective goose will be cooked in a most unsavory broth.

I’m not going to be able to name everyone I have read in the MLBlogosphere, but I will point out a few, and I wish Happy Anniversary to all, and a big welcome to the newcomers!

I’m a journalist and in early summer of last year, I blogged at another site for a short while about the subjects I generally cover: Peak Oil, Nuclear Proliferation, E-vote Fraud, Global Warming, you know, the stuff that generally puts a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

Then the A’s exiled Eric Byrnes to the cellar of the NL Worst…and while it was no surprise they sent him out–they had obviously been shopping him for a while and making A’s fans endure some "not ready for prime time players" as possible replacements–the way they did the P.R. around it was insulting. The A’s F.O. knew it would be an unpopular move, so they enlisted the help of third baseman Eric Chavez and a couple of local sportswriters to knock both Byrnesie and his fans. I was extremely ticked off and wrote two essays on the transaction and the way it was handled for the other blog. At that point I realized that I would rather write about baseball than Armageddon, even when the baseball news was bad, so I folded up the tent at the other place and joined MLBlogs in early August with Down the Left Field Line: Life, Baseball & Eric Byrnes.

The biggest thrill I’ve had here has been the opportunity to exchange some comments with Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.  (I also enjoyed the fact that the one of the KPFA News Co-directors who is a baseball fan looked stunned when he saw that Brooks Robinson was answering my queries). Not only has he answered the questions I have left on his site, he once visited mine. I had reviewed the Cooperstown exhibit BASEBALL AS AMERICA. It includes the glove Brooks used in the 1970 World Series, when I and others just watched in awe at his demonstration of third base as played by a Human Vacuum Cleaner. I let Brooks know I had posted the review and he actually left a comment on my blog. I’m honored that he took the time to visit and comment.

Soon after I started the blog, I enrolled in a video editing class. I had looked around MLB.com and realized that it would just be so much fun, not to mention more remunerative, to drop public affairs journalism for life as a video editor for MLB. Unfortunately, I lasted only about a month in the class, not because I couldn’t handle the work, but because I knew I couldn’t afford the equipment I would need to develop professional level skills. It was a class in Final Cut Pro, a piece of software that at half-price would have cost me a month’s rent. And it was just for MAC computers; I work on a hand-me-down Pentium II. Heck, I don’t even have a DVD player yet.

But before that reality hit me, I had formulated my idea for the final project we were supposed to do: a short film on the evolution of the catcher’s mask. And I contacted Dan Holmes, of the blog "From Cooperstown," who gave me the name and number of the person at the Hall of Fame who could help me get pictures for it. It’s been great to know that if I have a baseball question, there are some very good resources here in the form of my fellow bloggers.

Another great thing has been the opportunity to encounter a number of baseball-savvy women, especially Cyn, author of Red Sox Chick, Diane of Diamonds Are For Humor, whose picture captions are just hysterical, and three big-time Cardinals fans: Tiffany, of Party Like It’s 1982, Mollie, author of Daddy Raised a Cardinals Fan, and Rachel of Rachel’s Redbird Ramblings. I miss Rorie the White Sox fan; I am reading a bit more of Arielle’s Dispatches from Red Sox Teen Nation.

It’s great to be in the company of women who know their baseball. Women long been marginalized both in terms of participation in the baseball industry and just for knowing the game, even though they help fill the stadiums. It’s about time a woman, Effa Manley, will be inducted into Cooperstown–I’ll write more about that when the induction is near–and I hope to see more. How about Joan Payson, founder of the Mets? (The team I rooted for as a kid).

As more women are drawn to this blogosphere, I hope there will be more frequent discussions of an expanded role for women in baseball. I really don’t like seeing all-male scouting sections in stadiums. Women have been scouting their male friends and relatives probably since the game’s earliest days. When I was a child, I remember reading a story in a set of books called "Childcraft" about the young Connie Mack wanting his mother, a proper Victorian lady, to see him play baseball, then considered a lower-class sport.  The title of the story was "Slide, Connie, Slide" and I remember that it ended with Mack’s mother telling him that his friends were to call him "Cornelius, not Slats." If women have been watching the game since at least the 19th Century, it’s time we got paid to watch it.

I would also like to see, or rather hear, women do play-by-play. (I’ve been wanting to try it myself since college). The Yankees have a woman color analyst and the Red Sox have recently added a woman to the Remdawg and Don broadcast team; Tina did the on-field interview of Mark Lorretta after his walk-off homer. But I want to hear a woman do play-by-play. It may sound strange at first because it would be new, but folks will get used to it, and future generations born to it will think nothing of it. (If we don’t blow ourselves up and thus prevent the existence of future generations enjoying baseball on the radio). I remember that in the late 60’s my parents and I were in our car, traveling through North Carolina near midnight, when we heard a female disk jockey on the radio for the first time. My parents thought it sounded weird. Little did they, or I, know that I would end up in radio, though mostly in news/public affairs rather than in music. Perhaps we can get some of the broadcasters at MLBlogs, such as Daron Sutton, of The Dog Ate Daron’s Homework, to talk about what someone, female or male, has to do to break into baseball broadcasting.

Of course, there are some wonderful male writers as well. Part of what is great about this blogosphere is that the community sticks together even if the teams change. So, while I was devastated that Eric Byrnes was non-tendered by the Orioles, to this day I still exchange comments and email with Oriole fan Daryl, of Daryl’s Place. In fact, Daryl was the one who broke the bad news to me, and there is no one else I would rather have heard it from first. (No one at KPFA said a word to me about it).

Daryl’s a terrific, thoughful writer and baseball fan. I only wish he had more time to write for his blog. But apparently I am part of the reason he doesn’t. I write long articles, like this one, and he actually takes the time to read them!

Daryl and Cyn have provided me with some great field shots of Eric Byrnes. I don’t display them now because he’s in the Orioles uniform and I prefer more up-to-date D’Back shots like the ones Mark Newman added to my Spheroid. I guess that’s the newsie in me (or my desire to forget Byrnes’ abysmal, aberrant 2005). But if you didn’t see them before, take my word for it: the Byrnes-as-a-Bird pix are great shots, better than anything I could have done. Daryl and Cyn have digital cameras; I don’t.

My visitor counter was suggested to me by Bobby, of Deep Fried Fish. So I will back up a story he told recently on Mark Newman’s MLBlogosphere to Lisa, of For Love of the Astros, on one of the fun parts of the counter: It allows you to see from where the visitors came. And we get some people who arrive via Google queries that really have nothing to do with baseball. Because Bobby’s blog is called Deep Fried Fish, he gets visitors from Google who want to know "how to fry fish." (Special instructions on how to cook Marlin: Grill in open air at 90 degrees or higher for two to three hours a day for six months. Turn over frequently). In one of my essays on New Orleans as Katrina approached–the blog is called Life, Baseball & Eric Byrnes, after all–I recalled my visit to that great city and the fact that I had eaten a muffaletto sandwich there. This is a sandwich that is a pride of New Orleans. Someone in Atlanta landed at Life, Baseball & Eric Byrnes because s/he had googled for a recipe for a muffaletto sandwich. (Not here, except for my opinion that they should be made with San Francisco Sourdough).

Thanks to that counter page, I think I know when some familar folks in and out of the Blogophere visit. My one disappointment is that more people don’t leave comments. I can see people googling about Byrnesie from as far away as Taiwan. It would be great if more of Byrnes’ fans let me know they’ve stopped by. I have encountered a number of his good fans via MLBlogs. I’m not the only person who cares about the fortunes of a so-called "average" player. (Bobby, I haven’t zinged you for that one because of technical problems in commenting about anything on your blog for days now! But consider yourself zinged, both by me and another Bay Area Byrnes fan!)

I look forward to the MLBlogs becoming more technically sophisticated. I really, really want to build a directly-linked list of great Byrnes plays, especially the defensive gems. I’m a Leo; I have a taste for good drama, and to me, Byrnesie hurling himself into the gap to rob someone of an extra-base hit is drama at its best!

There are also some other things I want to write about, such as naming rights, ticket prices, being a player’s fan versus (or along with) being a team fan in the free agency era, etc. (Yes, believe it or not, I don’t always write about Eric Byrnes, even though he’s my favorite subject). If I ever hit the Lotto, I might be able to do all the baseball writing I want. If only all I had to do was to sit around watching baseball games, and writing about baseball without having to concern myself about paying bills!

But I have gotten a few more tech hours at KPFA, and some other "serious" journalism projects are coming up, so I might actually have to pull back a bit here, at least for a while. Though be warned that I’m working on another big Byrnes article. I’ll try not to pull back too much, though. Baseball, and the chance to write about it here, helps keep me sane in an otherwise crazy, crazy world, where not all the signs of an impending Armageddon are as benign as the Cubs winning the 2006 World Series.

Go Byrnesie! Go MLBlogs!

Kéllia "We’ve had two straight days without rain" Ramares
Oakland, CA

In General: Bright Lights, Fly in the Ointment & Other Notes

Sun18_1 Pedro Martinez won his 200th game, and as a Met against the Braves at that! Way to go, Petey! 200 wins is the mark of a very good pitcher. Your 200-84 record is a landslide, and you’re dealing with that injury in your big toe. But not only was this 4-3 victory an important mark for your personally, it came against the Braves! I want the Mets to win the NL East this year. Let’s Go Mets! Fourteen is enough!

Notwithstanding my preference for the Mets over the Braves, I was also pleased to see John Smoltz’ complete game shutout over the Padres. I want to see more complete games. Smoltz is old enough to remember when complete games was a vital stat for a starter. (And so am I!) He’s come a long way since my fantasy league partner and I passed him up for several years because we doubted the wisdom of selecting anyone stupid enough to burn his chest ironing his jersey while he was wearing it, in an effort to save time!

And speaking of old guys, Smoltz’ former Braves teammate and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux went eight and got his first win as a 40-year-old, as the Cubs beat the Dodgers 4-1 a few days ago. I enjoy it when older athletes can stay healthy and do well. And that’s true in this case, too, even though a Cubs victory in the 2006 World Series might mean Armageddon is near.

"Age is just a number," said Maddux. "I heard Julio Franco say it a million times. I used to laugh at him, but now I know what he means." Here’s another number: 321 wins.

Chris Shelton of the Tigers has hit Homer No. 9. Enjoy it while you can, Chris, and if the pitchers make adjustments that cools you off as the season progresses, don’t be afraid to adjust back. Not that you, or anyone else, has to be hitting homers all the time. But baseball is a game of inches, and of tiny adjustments, sometimes during an at-bat.

Despite the fact that I can admire great pitching performances, I really like offense, so kudos to Albert Pujols, David Ortiz and Mark Loretta for their recent taters. And can you believe pitchers hitting homers? Two from Arroyo of the Reds, and the one from Mulder on Opening Day at Busch 3?

Housefly_1 Speaking of Arroyo, he made it clear by words and actions (signing a below-market contract, closing on a house near Fenway), that he wanted to stay in Boston, but he got traded to the Reds before the season even started. This may be an example of that saying "No good deed goes unpunished." Of course, he’s not hurting for money because he signed a "below-market" deal; one month of his dough would probably keep me in fine shape for at least a year. But if fans complain about the mercenary nature of ballplayers, the players need only point to what happened to Arroyo in reply. The trade puts Arroyo into the starting rotation of the Reds, whereas he was slated to get lost in the Boston bullpen. I hope he does well with Cincinnati. This is the year he finds out if he’s made of front-of-the-rotation stuff or not. (And now he’s got two homers, which he would not have had in the AL. That’s something to tell the grandkids!)

Eric Byrnes–I hope you didn’t think I would pass up a chance to mention him–struck out yesterday. His two-run homer got its own post, which is why it’s not in the bright lights section here. I mention the K because he also walked; the K/BB ratio is now 8 K’s to 4 BBs. His usual 2:1. He needs to bring that down to 1:1. It’s also a fly in the ointment because yesterday’s great performance just missed True Elation, which is for me a multi-hit day with at least 1 RBI. But now that the ice is broken, in just the first of four games against the Giants, a team against which he does very well, I hope there will be more bright lights AND flies this week…as in flies hit toward the bright lights well beyond the outfield walls.

And we are still waiting for that 500th double from Luis Gonzalez. Not that the 3-run jack he hit last night, with Byrnesie aboard, was anyting to sneeze at. But once the pressure of hitting that double is off, I think we’ll see Gonzo’s batting average go way above the Mendoza line. And that can only spell good news for the runs-scored total of Eric Byrnes and the Arizona Diamondbacks in general.

Note_1David Newhan of the Baltimore Orioles broke his leg on an awkward slide and will be out 6 to 8 weeks. OW! Am I just seeing things, or are a lot of guys ending up on the DL early in the season, and for serious things? The LA Dodgers are collecting serious injuries like some kids collect baseball cards. There’s Eric Gagne’s surgery to remove a nerve. There’s still no timetable for Nomar Garciaparra’s return, and now reliever Yhency Brazobon needs Tommy John surgery. OW!

Kéllia "It’s Day 2 of our Sun Streak" Ramares
Oakland, CA

Bad Karma? Why I’m Glad the Giants Beat the D’Backs 10-9

At the end of three, the Giants led the Diamondbacks 7-0, largely because the D’Backs played like they were back in Little League. Then, in the middle innings, the Snakes slithered their way back. They scored one run in the fourth, then sent 9 men to the plate in the 5th and 6th innings, scoring four runs in each rally. So by the end of six, it was 9-7 D’Backs. Did either team want this game?

All was quiet in the 7th. Then D’Backs manager Bob Melvin made the move that probably displeased the baseball gods and certainly displeased me. He pulled a double switch, sending closer Jose Valverde in to pitch the 8th and fill the 2-hole ion the lineup, in place of Eric Byrnes who made the last out in the seventh; Jeff DaVanon took Byrnes’ place in center. No sooner had Melvin made the switch than the Giants tied the game 9-9. They won it with a run in the 9th.

I keep looking at the lineup and I have to concede that I don’t know what else Melvin could have done in the 8th inning. The way double switches work is that the new pitcher goes into the lineup hole of the guy who made the last out in the previous inning, and that guy gets substituted for in the field by someone who then takes the old pitcher’s spot in the lineup. This means that in the 8th inning, Valverde took Byrnes’ spot in the lineup (2) and DaVanon, who replaced Byrnes in center field, took pitcher Jose VIzcaino’s spot in the lineup. That was 5th, because of a previous double switch. This meant that DaVanon, not Valverde, would be up in the bottom of the eighth.

But I am beginning to think that powers way higher than me are also getting tired of seeing DaVanon, who can play all outfield positions, being being Byrnes’ understudy.  What seemed like a logical move set up other potential problems. First of all, in the late innings of a tight game, you want your best gloves on the field. Eric Byrnes has long ago established himself as a guy completely unafraid to fly, dive, or crash into a wall in order to get the ball. He’s got to be the fastest of the four outfielders. Secondly, Byrnes not only has a history of doing well against the Giants–the Giants announcers repeatedly called him a "Giant–killer" and went through what, for me, were the highlights, he lived up to that reputation in the game by hitting a 2-run homer in the fifth. He also walked in the 6th and thus was on base when Luis Gonzalez hit his 3-run jack. Taking him out in the eighth meant his bat would no longer be available if the Giants tied or took the lead in this high-scoring see-saw game.

With the D’Backs leading by two runs at the start of the 8th, Melvin probably thought that Valverde would just slam the door. That really would have been nice. But even Mariano Rivera loses one on occasion, so you have to be prepared in case a lesser light, like Valverde, blows a save, which he did this time.  It was not a night for either side to count on their pitchers.

Andy Green, who had started the fourth inning rally with a pinch-hit homer, made the last out of the game. But had he been able to get on, and had the D’Backs been forced to manufacture the tying run via a two-out, small ball rally, they would have had to pinch hit for Valverde in the ninth, because leadoff hitter Craig Counsell and then Valverde, were due up after Andy.

The Bad Karma that led to Byrnes being replaced by DaVanon this game was sown before the first pitch was thrown…well before. It was sown when Bob Melvin made the decision to use DaVanon primarily in center field i.e. as a substitute for Byrnes. Given the way the D’Backs outfielders are batting, the lineup should be Byrnes AND DaVanon, not Byrnes OR DaVanon. In other words, DaVanon, who can play all three outfield positions, should be subbing for someone else so that he and Byrnes can be on the field together. And my first nomination for "someone else" is Shawn Green.

Green went 2-5 this game. He also went 2-5 on Easter Sunday. The combined 4-10 (.400) raised his average to a ******** .175. He’s so hot, he’s almost tepid. The Giants started a southpaw this game. Melvin supposedly likes to play the percentages,so much so that in a recent game against the Brewers, he ordered an IBB to GET TO CARLOS LEE, for a righty-righty matchup. And one of the reasons he likes DaVanon is that Jeff is a switch hitter. Green is a pure lefty. So, against the lefty Fassero, why didn’t DaVanon start in right field, alongside the righty "Giant Killer" Eric Byrnes?

Was it because Green was "hot," having gone 2-5 on Sunday, so Melvin wanted Greenie to maintain his rhythm?  Eric Byrnes went 3-5 on Opening Day, but was relegated to pinch-hitting for Game 2. Green went o’fer, as did most of the rest of the team in Saturday’s 10-0 debacle; Byrnesie doubled, and walked AND made a spectacular catch, yet he rode the pine all the next day. What about letting Eric maintain his rhythm?

Managers can claim that they play percentages or that they play the hot hand, but that’s only true with certain players. Others, denominated "stars" are given the benefit of the doubt, sometimes long past the point of doubt. Yes, Shawn Green is considered a star; Eric Byrnes, himself, says Green, along with Luis Gonzalez, are the D’Backs’ two stars.  But being Shawn Green includes starting the season slowly, and he’s lived up, or should I say lived down, to that reputation this year. Yet the manager who so likes to play percentages that his lineup is significantly different depending on whether the opposing starter is a righty, a southpaw, a sinkerballer or not, starts Green under all sorts of circumstances. More on what that means for Byrnes in a later article I’m developing this week. 

For now, I’ll just say that if back-to-back 2-5’s brought Byrnesie to .175, we probably would see little of him for two weeks or more. And setting up a lineup against the Giants in which you end up having to take your "Giant-killer" out in a close game creates bad karma and a losing record.

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA

THE ICE IS BROKEN!!

Byrnes_1_1

ERIC BYRNES has just hit a 2-run jack over the left field wall for his first homer and RBIs this season!! It came on the first pitch he saw from Giants starter Jeff Fassero in the 5th inning, and knocked him out of the box. Craig Counsell was on first.

The D’Backs sent 9 guys to the plate and the inning has ended Giants 7 D’Backs 5, but the important thing is that Byrnesie has broken the ice. He has a good record from interleague play against the guys from the other side of the Bay.

Kéllia YESSS!! YESSS!! YESSS!! Ramares
Oakland, CA, where it did not rain today!

What Makes a Top Play?

The Number One thing I want to add to this blog is a list of links to great plays by Eric Byrnes, especially the great grabs like the one Mark Newman of MLB.com linked to my Spheroid. But two things are getting in the way. One is technical: I am as clear as mud on how to do it. (Hey, I’m a radio person, not video, and not a geek, either). The other is that I can’t always find what I am looking for, because the play has not been archived as a top play. So I have to ask, "What makes a top play?"

Take April 15, 2006 for example. Byrnesie made his first sick grab of the regular season in the 5th, taking away extra bases and RBIs from Adam Everett in a game that was already 7-0 ‘Stros at the time. (It ended 10-0). Since I have MLB All-Access, I went to the highlight reel. Was it there? No. Was it a Top Play? No. There was only 1 D’Backs Top Play listed, and that was a routine DP. So what that it was induced by young pitcher Casey Daigle, one of the last guys to be cut in spring training, but up now because Terry Mulholland went on the DL? You’re supposed to do that when you’re a reliever. It was a routine, oh, excuse me, CLASSIC, 6-4-3 double play. The grounder was just a few steps to the shortstop’s right, the second baseman had plenty of time to throw without having to leap over the spikes of a sliding runner, and the first baseman did not have to dig out or leap for a bad throw. It was all very ordinary.

So I went straight to the D’Backs web site, where they show a couple of videos on their front page, and there was that "classic" double play again. YAWN. The second vid was of Conor Jackson’s second homer of the year, which occurred when the ‘Snakes beat the ‘Stros 5-1 last Friday.  Where’s Byrnesie’s great catch?

I went to the D’Backs’ archive page. For April 15, they had archived "D’Backs turn two" and "Daigle gets the DP," two iterations of the same routine 6-4-3. Eric Byrnes ran as hard as he could into the gap, and launched himself full out into the air to rob an already hot hitter of even more RBIs. Why isn’t that a top play, D’Backs? Have you so come to expect that sort of thing from Byrnesie that it’s become routine, but a pitcher inducing a 6-4-3 is special?

MLB.Com’s front page featured video of great grabs by other players in the majors, but no Byrnesie.

And when I finally found the play on D’Backs’ audio–the telecast had come from the Houston side–the D’Backs’ announcer turned his excited call of this great play into a commercial for a termite exterminator company. That’s as declasse as people dressed as giant tacos, burritos and sodas racing on the field, as far as I’m concerned.

So what makes a top play? It’s not necessarily the score of the game. I saw the 2005 play that was linked to my Spheroid when it happened. The score was Yanks 11, 0’s Zilch, Zip, Nada, when Byrnesie made one of his signature diving catches in the gap. (The game would end 11-3).

What makes a top play? It’s not necessarily the quality of the play. The D’backs have archived Byrnesie scoring a run on April 12, but to be perfectly honest with you, this was less a top play for Byrnes than it was a continuation of a bad night for Rockies catcher Danny Ardoin. Byrnes should have been a dead duck. He was moving on contact from third, but the contact was a little nubber taken by the pitcher halfway between the mound and home and flipped to Ardoin, who had the plate blocked. Byrnes scored when Ardoin dropped the ball. E-2. It was a sigificant run for the D’Backs, but it happened bcause of an error by the opposing catcher. Sure, Byrnesie gets credit for staying alert to the error and tapping home plate. But if you want to highlight Byrnesie’s hustle, a race into the gap, launch full out into the air, backhanded sick grab is the better way to go (and without adding a termite exterminator commercial to the description!)

What makes a top play?

Kéllia "I’ll believe the forecast of four straight days of sun when I see four straight days of sun" Ramares
Oakland, CA

Astros Two-Hit Punchless D’Backs 10-0

The Houston Astros played like the defending NL champs they are, pasting the Arizona Diamondbacks 10-0 at Chase Field in Phoenix last night. They cleaned the clocks of the D’Backs pitching staff, beginning with Claudio Vargas, who gave up 5 runs in 3-1/3 innings. Meanwhile, their own pitchers combined for a 2-hitter to give starter Wandy Rodriguez his second win of the season.

Sun18 Bright lights: Eric Byrnes finally had the opportunity to make one of his signature diving catches and he made the best of it, robbing Adam Everett of another RBI hit. The Houston shortstop ended the day 2-4 with a homer, three RBI and a run scored. But none of that in the 5th inning, when Byrnesie made his running toward the wall, full out in the air, backhanded grab to keep the score, ugh, 7-0 Houston. It was his first great grab since spring training, when he made a similar grab in late March, when a lot of other guys might have been tempted to let the ball fall in rather than risk injury during and exhibition game. But that’s what’s so special about Eric Byrnes. He’s all out, all the time.

I had a feeling that the catch would help him at the plate and I was right. Byrnes doubled in the 6th inning. It was the second of the only two hits the D’Backs would get all night. It was Byrnes’ third double in the first 11 games of the season. If he can hit an average of three doubles every ten games, and play 150 games, he will hit the 45 doubles I’m hoping will put him at or near the league lead in that category. He also drew a four-pitch walk in the 8th, making him one for three. His batting average is now .257.

HouseflyFly in the Ointment: Byrnes, batting leadoff against the southpaw Rodriguez, flied out to left for out number three in the third inning, stranding Damion Easley, who had gotten to third courtesy of a three-base error by Houston CF Willie Tavares. It was a decent pitch to hit and Byrnes was not robbed by a great defensive play. He just didn’t execute. True, neither did the rest of the D’Backs tonight. And it was less embarrassing than Craig Biggio’s performance. The Astros leadoff hitter went 0-4 on a night when everyone else in Houston’s starting lineup, including the pitcher, got a hit. But the bottom line is that we are 11 games into the season and Byrnes still has no homers and no RBIs. There are now 25 PITCHERS in the National League with at least one RBI! This was only the sixth time in 38 plate appearances that Byrnes has had a runner in scoring position. And only the second time the runner was at third base. There were no men on base in three of his four plate appearances this game. When that rare opportunity to drive in a run happens, you have to execute, Byrnesie. No need for a homer or even a double with a runner on third. A ground ball single to left will do in that case.

Byrnes also struck out looking his first time up. Although this K was balanced by his 8th inning BB, he has 7 Ks against only 3 BBs through the first 11 games of the season. Byrnes was not driven in either time he was on base, so he still has only three runs scored.

First it was sausage races in Milwaukee. Now it’s a taco, a burrito and a Pepsi racing Phoenix. And I used to think that dot-racing, BART-car racing, and the three-card monte style game with caps and a ball on the Oakland Coliseum DiamondVision were bad! At least they kept the antics OFF the field. The dumbing down of baseball proceeds apace. Readers, please feel free to write comments about what inanities occur at your local major or minor league park.

Note Other Notes: Vargas picked Willie Taveras off first in the first. Damion Easley, who played shortstop tonight, ended the D’Backs hitless skein tonight with a 5th inning double. Luis Gonzalez is still looking for his 500th double. It looked a couple of times as if he was going to get it, but the balls went foul. Most unfortunately, he hit one of those foul balls with Byrnesie on second. It would have been great to have that 500th double at least score Byrnes to break up the shutout.

Eric Chavez, Frank Thomas and Milton Bradley hit back-to-back-to-back homers in today’s 5-4 Oakland win over the Rangers. They did it on three consecutive pitches! When Chavez and Thomas hit their homers, why didn’t Texas pitcher Vicente Padilla throw a ball, just to make sure Bradley didn’t hit the third one out on the third pitch? If a pitcher gets the first two men out on two pitches in an inning, the third hitter is supposed to take a couple and try to work the count. Never let the pitcher off so easy as to get three men out on three pitches. It should be the same when pitchers are giving up home runs. Don’t let the other team think it’s batting practice time.

Nick Swisher also homered for the A’s. It’s good for baseball that Frank Thomas is healthy and hitting again.

Pittsburgh’s Sean Casey is going to be out 6-8 weeks because of two fractures in his back. OUCH! Fortunately, the doctors think rest, rather than surgery will heal him. It seems like someone is going on the DL somewhere every day, but any kind of fracture in the back is serious. Best wishes to Sean and all other guys on the DL. Yeah, even you, David Wells, ornery as you are.

Kéllia Ramares
Oakland, CA