On his blog The Dog Ate Daron’s Homework, Diamondbacks broadcaster Daron Sutton announced that in tomorrow’s first spring training game, Conor Jackson would hit clean up. Earlier in the off-season, there was talk of Eric Byrnes being the cleanup hitter, and indeed that may still be his role, especially against left-handed hitters. But as long as the subject of lineups has been mentioned, first by Diamondhacks and now by Daron, I might as well weigh-in with my thoughts.
One would have figured at least to start, that if Byrnes wasn’t in the four-hole, Chad Tracy would be there. After all, he led the team in RBIs and was second to Byrnes in homers. He struck out a lot last year, but claims that that was because he was not making an adjustment to the pitchers who have adjusted to him. We did notice that toward the end of the season, Tracy’s strikeout rate did slow down. So maybe he’s working out the adjustment. We’ll see a spring training progresses. Again, he is likely to see some time there — spring training lineups are quite fluid — but manager Bob Melvin has indicated that he would like to bat Tracy third.
Conor Jackson is an interesting selection. Jackson has the patience at the plate but not the speed on the base paths that would make him a good table setter. He and Byrnes tied for second in RBIs among the Diamondbacks last year. And they were both just one behind Chad Tracy in a race that was not decided until the ninth inning of the final game. He likes the pressure of the cleanup spot, something that the numbers suggest Byrnes is not all that comfortable with. Jackson also understands that a double with runners in scoring position will be fine; one does not always need a homer. There is some concern at that Tracy who, after 2005, was expected to be the team’s homer leader, might try too hard for the four-bagger if he’s hitting cleanup.
If it turns out that Conor Jackson is the man for the cleanup role, where should the Diamondbacks slot Eric Byrnes and why? I think, for early spring training at least, he should hit second. His lifetime stats show that he has his highest batting average in the second spot. But that would be just to get him going. In about two weeks, I’d start giving him at-bats in the fifth position. And I’d tell him now, if he hasn’t been told already, that the five-hole is really where he should be.
Rather than thinking of the lineup as having three parts, I like to think of it as having two: 1 — 4, and 5 — 8, with the pitcher who can slap a single or at least bunt, or a pinch-hitter, linking the two halves during a rally. That makes the five-hole a transition spot for which Byrnes’ combination of talents is well suited. He has the pop in his bat that can drive in a runner ahead of him and the speed afoot that can make him a table-setter for the second half of the order. This is especially useful for a team like the Diamondbacks, who have a fairly even lineup.
for the D’Backs was yesterday. And my photo supplier furnished this John Miller/AP shot of a certain someone hard at work:
<SMILE> Seeing this first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day!
And did David Wallace of The Arizona Republic just discover the next action movie star?
Here’s why I can say that so categorically: the Arizona Diamondbacks announced their promotional schedule several days ago. The team is giving away something at all its Saturday and Sunday games this year. On the schedule are 6 bobblehead days, including giveaways honoring rookie Carlos Quentin and broadcaster Mark Grace. There is a kids replica jersey T-shirt giveaway day for rookie Chris Young. There is a Baxter kids replica jersey T-shirt giveaway day. Baxter is the team’s mascot. Rookie Stephen Drew rates two giveaways: a figurine (not to be confused with a bobblehead), and a growth chart. Sophomore Conor Jackson also rates two giveaways: a bobblehead and a figurine.
Byrnes may appear on the trading cards they are planning to give away on July 14, if he’s still there. But there is no separate mention of him on the Diamondbacks press release announcing the promotional schedule.
Promotions honoring three rookies, a broadcaster, and a mascot, but nothing for a fan favorite, who led the team in home runs and stolen bases last year–what does that say to you? I know what it says to me. It says that the front office has known all along that they would trade Byrnes during this season. And they’ve known it since at least the day they had to put in the orders for the items that they will give away this season.
This is a repeat of what I saw in Oakland in 2005. In September 2004, I bought the last Byrnes/22 T-shirt from the store at the Coliseum. In June of 2005, when I went to a game, I did not see any Byrnes shirts being sold in any of the sales booths around the stadium. Byrnes was gone six weeks later, and despite the claim of the A’s front office that they were not trying to trade him, trade rumors were rampant during the off-season after 2004, and everybody knew early in the year that they were trying to get rid of him.
The Diamondbacks need to assure themselves of Scott Hairston’s readiness to handle left field, and perhaps to a lesser extent, of Jeff DaVanon’s full rehab from last year’s surgeries. A good spring training by Hairston and a good medical report on DaVanon, and then it’s just a matter of time. For all we know, other teams have inquired about Byrnes already.
Let’s hope those other teams are teams who would want him as an everyday player and who have a good chance to win. Then next year, after Barry Bonds retires, Eric can sign on with his hometown team.
Great to see this, especially since, after one day where the temp went up to 83 degrees in Oakland, it’s dropped faster than a Brandon Webb sinkerball.
Thanks to M. Spencer Green/AP who took these pix. And a tip of my outdated but still great-looking and fitting D’Backs road cap to a certain reader who sent them along just as I was finishing a tedious day of slogging through the endnotes of my latest article.
On The Dog Ate Daron’s Homework, the blog of new Arizona Diamondbacks broadcaster Daron Sutton, there are two articles, each of which feature snippets of Daron’s interviews with Eric Byrnes and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe.
You’ll also be treated to some fine photographs, including one of Eric in his Licey Tigres uniform, back in the pre-long-hair days. (Young, sweet, innocent. Just another All-American boy with big dreams).
Why these two in particular? Read the articles and find out!
Daron is definitely getting his Diamondbacks career off on the right foot, as far as DTLFL is concerned. He’s shown he knows who the great interview on the team is. ;+)
May this year be your best yet, personally and professionally. May the baseball gods give you lots of goodies this year, including a grand slam, your 100th career homer, the chance to play in the post-season, and before December is out, a lucrative, multi-year contract with a team (preferably the Giants) that wants you as an everyday player. You’re due for all of these good things and more!
Diamondhacks turned me on to a page filled with career statistics for you. It is admittedly incomplete, but it gives a fair idea of your career at the plate. I’ve been pondering this list for three or four days while I’ve been considering what would be a successful season for you this year.
It’s been a struggle to tease out some patterns; consistency has been a bugaboo for you throughout your major league career. But even that has a good point: except in a few circumstances, you haven’t been completely, consistently mediocre or bad. It’s just that your flashes of brilliance have been just that: flashes. So the issue for you is to figure out what’s going on when you’re really good, so that you can continue doing whatever that is throughout the course of the long season.
With that in mind, I’m going to pose a few questions, which I think you should answer to yourself for yourself. If you can find the answers, you will easily meet or exceed the benchmarks DTLFL will lay out later.
My first questions concern the differential between your batting averages in the first and second halves of the year. You are notorious for being the guy who leads the major leagues in decline in OPS in the second half of the season. The stats page lists your first half batting average as .285, but your second half average is .234. I’d like to see you bat .285 or better in the second half of the year. (Your stats for last season, which I took from the MLB.com stats page, are .292 for the first half of the season, which they call before the All-Star break, and .243 after the All-Star break). If the 50-point decline in batting average were just for your rookie year, I could think that it was just that the pitchers had figured the new guy out. But the fact that you consistently decline sharply in batting average after the All-Star break raises the question of your stamina over the course of a long season.
You certainly look fit. But is there something about your conditioning program or nutrition that needs reworking? When Barry Zito gave an interview to Dave Fleming at KNBR the day he was introduced as a Giant, Fleming suggested that some "stat heads" thought that Zito was starting to decline. Zito said he was aware that his velocity had declined, but it was probably because he did too much throwing in the off-season and not enough conditioning work on his core. His core weakened during the course of the season, and consequently, his velocity declined. Is something similar happening to you? Are you weakening during the course of the long season with the result that your batting average declines? Is there something you can do during spring training, and throughout the season, that will keep you strong? Also, are you adequately hydrated, especially during those last three hot months?
My next questions concern your inconsistency from month to month. Your career stats show that May is your best month. You’ve averaged .315 over your career in the second month of the season. But the stat sheet says that in April, you average .264, and in June, .276. That tendency to have dramatic shifts from month to month was exaggerated in 2006. Last April, you hit .237. But in May, you hit a phenomenal .364! Then In June, you hit .238, followed by a very nice .295 in July, only to follow that up with .239 in August. Who takes over your body in May, and can we keep him around for the entire season? We’ll even take whoever possessed you last July. Or is it that the real you is the hitter of last May and July, and someone else takes over during the other months?
Seriously, when you’re good, you’re really good. Some guys have a hot streak that will take them from .230 to .260 or .280. But your performances in May indicate you have an ability to hit over .300 for a sustained period of time. This, even though you have an annoyingly large differential between your batting averages against left-handed and right-handed pitchers. In May, you face both, but it doesn’t seem to matter; you bash them both. What are you thinking, feeling and doing in the month of May that has been so consistently successful? Have you really thought about this? I don’t think it is solely a question of stamina here, at least not from April to May. (I’d point to stamina first thing to account for your consistently lousy September/October stats). Your performance in May, followed by your June swoon, makes me think of Wile E. Coyote, who runs off the cliff and through the air until he realizes that he is off the cliff. That’s when he falls. Could something like that be happening to you? Are you cruising in May, and then in June something inside you says, "I’m not supposed to be able to do this." And then you crash? Coyote and Road Runner offer a valuable lesson here. The Road Runner always runs through the air to make it to the next piece of solid ground; he’s concentrating on running. Coyote manages to do something others don’t expect him to be able to do, i.e. run in the air, as long as he’s focused on chasing the Road Runner. He falls when his mind goes off his goal and gets caught up in the vagaries of the situation at hand.
You can do it; you have done it. If you are a lifetime .315 hitter in May, and hit .364 last May, you can hit north of .300 for the entire year. You have the skill and you have the work ethic. And if you have a stamina problem, that can be resolved. Just remember throughout the year that you can be a .300 hitter, and not just against left-handed pitching. Don’t let anyone tell you different, including yourself. And during those times when your hitting cools off, as happens to all hitters from time to time throughout the long season, focus on what you were thinking, feeling, and doing when you were hitting better. Do you watch video of yourself? Sometimes, small changes in mechanics creep in over time. Video can help you keep track of that.
Now… about that differential between left-handed and right-handed pitching. Some differential is common; that’s why managers play percentages. But it is a shame to see a differential as large as yours. It drags down your overall batting average. The great hitters minimize the differential. Again, I suggest you look to your performances in May for an answer to that as well.
Last but not least, especially since you are expected to bat cleanup this year, there is the matter of your clutch stats or lack thereof. Despite the fact that, last year, you set a new personal best for RBI, and that was good enough to tie for second place in RBI on the team, you still have a lot of room for improvement. According to the lifetime stat sheet, you are generally at your best in relatively low pressure situations where there may not be an RBI opportunity except for a solo home run. For example, you bat .308 when a team has a margin of four runs, but only .243, when the margin is two runs. You bat .288 when leading off an inning, .280 when you are batting leadoff, .281 when you’re batting second, and .274 when you’re batting eighth. In the cleanup role, you only hit .205 lifetime, which means you are not batting your listed weight. Batting fifth, you average .246, and batting sixth, you are at .203. You also hit .203 in extra-inning situations. With a full count, or the bases loaded, or a runner at third, or as a pinch-hitter, you are a .200 hitter. With a two-strike count, you’re batting .186. You bat .279 with none out, a full 21 points higher than your average with two outs. The night that always stands out in my mind in this regard is May 31 of last year, when you hit two homers against the Mets at Shea. Both of those homers were solo shots. In your two times up that game with runners in scoring position, you struck out. There are techniques for hitting in certain situations that you can learn if you haven’t already, such as shortening your swing with two strikes. Your hitting instructor can help you with these techniques.
As for the mental side of the game, there are two possibilities here, either of which may be in play at any given point in time. The first is that you are too aggressive in some of these RBI situations. This is where learning how to be a contact hitter is important, even for a power hitter. I remember a game in the Diamondbacks first series with Milwaukee last year, when Carlos Lee came up to bat with the game on the line. He only needed a single to win the game, and that’s just what he got: a ground ball to center. You don’t have to hit a home run every time. A flexible approach will add points to your batting average and RBIs to your run totals.
The second possibility is that you are not aggressive enough, some times. Are you trying not to make an out, as opposed to trying to get a hit? I get that feeling about you when I see you bat with the bases loaded. What are you thinking and feeling in the less-pressured situations where you hit better, as opposed to what you are thinking and feeling when the heat is on? You look more relaxed out there, in general, than you did when you were struggling in Baltimore, but are you really more relaxed, at least in the clutch situations? I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, don’t try to prove who you are out there, just be who you are. The Diamondbacks need a cleanup hitter this year, and you are the guy with pop in his bat and a veteran’s knowledge of the game. You have the physical tools to do the job. And you have from time to time delivered with exciting results. Enjoy the situation rather than feeling pressured, and you’ll to rise to the occasion more often.
ByrnesBlogger1 is back with Benchmarks for Byrnesie-2007. Only this year, I am going to state a range for most if not all of the categories. If you meet the lower number, you will have succeeded in that category. But meeting or beating the higher number, means that you truly have had a great year.
Games: 150+. And these are starts, not appearances. Last year, you appeared in 143 games, but you started only 131. I know that you don’t make up the lineup card, Byrnesie. But you have it within you the power to make it very easy for Bob Melvin to write your name in nearly every day. I hope that BoMel has developed more confidence in you then he showed through much of last year. After all, there were only two other major leaguers who achieved a higher combination of power and speed than you did. But I know he’s a percentages guy. I know he likes lefthanders and switch hitters, and we know he likes matchups. The way to overcome such preferences is to be a consistently good hitter, no matter if the pitcher is a left-hander or a right-hander, a curveball artist or a flamethrower, a sinker ball specialist or a guy who is likely to leave one up in the zone, where you are likely to pound it. In other words, the closer you all are throughout the year to the kind of performances you give in May, the easier it will be for BoMel to put you in the lineup without thinking that he should platoon you with DaVanon, Hairston or anybody else.
Strikeouts and walks: In the strikeout department, anything below 88, your total for last year, would be a success. But I am hoping you will strikeout no more than 70 times. I thought you would approach that mark last year until the last six weeks of the season, when you seemed to strike out at least once every day. I liked the 58-plate-appearance streak in the middle of the year when you did not strike out. It was for a brief time the longest streak in the major leagues. What was the difference between that streak and the end of the season? Were you more anxious at the plate in late August and September?
I really want to see you walk more. I know you’re not the kind of guy who walks 100 times a year and I’m not suggesting you should try to be that kind of guy. But walking 50 times, like Vlad Guerrero did last year, will do wonders for your OBP, and by extension your batting average and your OPS. A little more selectivity on your part will help keep the pitchers honest because they don’t want to give a base stealer like you a free pass. Your lifetime stats show that you’re an excellent first-pitch hitter; keep it up! But if that first pitch isn’t something good, be a little more patient and make the pitcher work for his money. This means not only taking a few but also knowing how to foul off a strike you don’t want to hit. Ted Williams was great at this. I’m sure you are thinking now, "Yeah, but I’m not Ted Williams." You may not be able to execute quite as well as the Splendid Splinter, but you can adopt his philosophy and just try your best. See if your hitting instructor or a teammate can help you master this skill.
Seventy strikeouts and 50 walks produces a K/BB ratio of 1.40. I would consider this a stellar performance. Anything under 2.00 is very good and is certain to be welcome by manager Melvin.
Hits: I think it’s time you set your sights on 200 hits. If you get to start 150-155 games and get 600 at-bats, then 200 hits would be a .333 average. One hundred eighty hits would be a successful year, your personal best. But 200 hits is the sine qua non of great hitting. For you to achieve this, you will have to have more multi-hit games than you did last year. And more games where you have three or four or more hits not just two. As best as we can recall, you had only two games last season where you had four hits. (With this in mind, I’ll redefine my mood definers for 2007. I honestly don’t think I can be truly elated with just two hits and 1 RBI anymore).
Achieving this benchmark will take a bit more flexibility in approach on your part. That means less dogged determination to pull everything. A greater willingness to walk will help here also. Then pitchers will have to throw you strikes with three-ball count to avoid walking a base stealer. Right now, your lifetime batting average with a three-ball count is a miserable .217. You swing at junk with a three-ball count because you would rather try to get a hit than walk. But as the stats show you often get neither.
Doubles: I really thought you were going to set a new personal best in this category in 2006. You fell just short, hitting 37 doubles; your personal best is 39. In a way, you made up for it by hitting six more homers than you did in 2004 when you hit the 39 doubles. But I am greedy; I want it all! So a successful year in doubles will mean 40; an excellent year will mean 45, and a truly stellar performance will be 50 or more. Somebody’s got to replace Gonzo’s doubles production. It might as well be you.
Home runs: Success as a homer hitter in 2007 means 26 homers. Why 26 and not 25? Not only because you hit 26 last year, but because your 26th homer this year will also be the 100th homer of your career. I’d hate to see you end the year with 99. But I really want to see 30 to 35 blasts this season. And that won’t be difficult if you focus on just getting more hits. Twenty-six homers out of 150 total hits last year meant that you hit a homer 17.3% of the time. Thirty homers out of 180 hits is 16.67%. Thirty-five homers out of 200 hits is 17.5%.
RBIs: The 79 you got last year was a new personal best. But anything in the 80s will merely be OK, especially if you’re in the heart of the order. The Diamondbacks simply have to score more runs and that means that more have to be driven in. How much you can do is a little difficult to gauge because, except for the solo home run, RBIs happen because a teammate or teammates have reached base before you. And that you cannot control. But you do have a lot of say over your own performance with runners in scoring position. Concentration, situational hitting, and fully embracing and enjoying the opportunities to drive in runs will give you the 21 more RBIs you need to reach 100. That’s a cleanup hitter! But as I said before, I know that RBIs are partially a function of how many people get on base ahead of you. So I’ll call 90 a success and 110 or more a truly stellar performance.
Stolen bases: I think that a combination of starting more games, getting more hits, and drawing more walks will enable you to steal at least 30 bases without any unnecessarily risky baserunning. You’ll have to watch out for the fact that opposing managers now know that you are a base stealer; you’ll want to preserve your excellent success rate, which last year was .892. Twenty-five bags will be a success; 30 will be excellent and 35 will be truly stellar, especially since the Diamondbacks are not a particularly strong running team. Stealing would be easier if you had other "partners in crime."
So there you have it, Byrnesie, a few numbers to think about as you prepare for the new season. But once the season starts, don’t obsess about numbers. Like the Nike commercial says, "Just do it!" And have lots of fun while you’re at it. Then I’ll have lots of fun watching and writing about you.
An item in today’s San Jose Mercury News has me a little concerned.
• Eric Byrnes is coming off a career year with the Diamondbacks and, at 31, figures to have plenty of baseball left in him. But since [recently retired football player Tiki] Barber is also 31, we’re reminded that it’s never too early to think about the next step.
Byrnes, who came from St. Francis High and started his major league career with the A’s, will have a once-a-month pregame spot on Fox’s Game of the Week and make regular appearances on FSN’s “Best **** Sports Show Period” for a segment called “Byrnes, Baby, Byrnes.” He’s also assigned to be an All-Star Game reporter (guess he doesn’t give much for his chances of being selected for the game).
I know you’ve appeared regularly on a station in Sacramento since your days with the River Cats. You’ve done a number of guest co-host gigs on KNBR in San Francisco, and this off-season you "graduated" to sitting in for Gary Radnich, one of the Bay Area’s sportscasting "stars", solo for three hours, and you’re hella better at talking sports than he is, even if I do take exception to your always referring to women as "chicks."
I know you’ve guest-hosted "Best ****" before. It was mentioned in the SI.com column about you and this blog back in May ’06, and back then it was said that offers were pouring in.
I know you had a successful off-season as a broadcaster. Ed Goren, president of Fox Sports, must love you to pieces. He figures that folks who might not normally watch sports analysis/talk shows will hear that you’re going to be on and will tune in to see what you’re wearing and how your hair looks, and stay for your funny and insightful commentary. All well and good when your team is out of the post-season.
But this is different. This is going to be national TV throughout the season. Are your teammates going to relate to you as before when they know you’re going to be on the tube periodically throughout year? Are you "one of the guys" or "one of them"? Already we heard, as Barry Zito closed in on a decision on where to sign, that he didn’t want to talk to you because you were part of the media. And he’s a good friend of yours!
No doubt you have the Diamondbacks’ permission to do this, but what is Bob Melvin really going to make of it? Is he going to question your commitment to baseball, perhaps silently, subtly? You know how he likes to play percentages. If it’s a choice between you or, say, Scott Hairston, against a particular pitcher and it’s a close call, will he start Hairston because Scott seems hungrier than you?
What’s most disturbing to me is the part about the All-Star Game. Granted, you have only a slim chance of making it. But last season’s 26/25 combined with a stellar first half of ’07 and the fact that the game is being played in your home region make it a distinct possibility, especially since you never know who is going to get injured right around that time. Or at least it was a distinct possibility until this morning. In taking this assignment, you are announcing before spring training gets underway, that you don’t expect to be considered for a game that won’t be played until the second week of July. You are giving up instead of shooting for it. You are saying that Tony LaRussa should just forget about you even before he starts to think about how he should fill-out the balance of the team not voted by the fans. That’s not the Byrnesie I’ve been rooting for. It makes me wonder what else you’re giving up on.
Yeah, the Mercury News is right; it’s never too early to start thinking about the next step. But there is a difference between thinking about it and being so invested in it that you trip on the current step and land flat on your face.
Be careful, Byrnesie. This is the most critical year of your baseball career. The 26/25 and 79 RBI season of last year can be the foundation for a 32/35 and 100 RBI season, or you can sink back into a mediocre 15/15 and 60 RBI season. The first type of year will give you the chance to test the free agent market from a position of strength, and get the lucrative, multi-year contract you want, with a team (preferably the Giants), who will want you as DA MAN in center or left. It will also enhance your cachet as a broadcaster. The second type of year will brand you a journeyman who had a couple of decent years, but who is now on the wrong side of 30, and at 4.5+ million, rather expensive. And on the tube? Bring on Vernon Wells; he’s a star!
Be careful, too, Byrnesie, of not frittering away precious time. Because while you can be a broadcaster when you’re old enough to collect Social Security, (assuming we still have such a thing by that time), a baseball career is relatively short. Although, as the newspaper said, you still figure to have plenty of baseball left in you, it is also true that you are a full-fledged veteran. Mother Nature will make you half a step slower before you know it. Your stolen base/attempts ratio will decline. Balls you used to catch on a dive will skitter off your glove or hit the ground an inch in front of it. Someday the time will come to hang ’em up. And when that time comes you, and folks like me, will want to know that you were the best baseball player you could be. Becoming distracted during the season will detract from that. You’ve laid the groundwork for the next career and that’s good. But don’t make the transition too muddy or too early.
I know baseball players have other things in their lives besides baseball. One of the reasons people thought Zito would end up with the Mets was that with his interests in photography and music, he could be part of the arts scene there. Bernie WIlliams has played guitar in Carnegie Hall. Miguel Batista has written a novel. Lots of players, Luis Gonzalez is one with whom you are familiar, are active in the community. But this somehow seems different. You can choose when to schedule a concert, and when to rehearse for it. You can choose when to research a novel and when to write it. You can choose which community events you will attend and you don’t have to be there three hours in advance to prepare. But you have to hew much more to someone else’s deadlines in broadcasting. Make sure they’re not demanding too of your time during the season. I’d still rather see you on the field with a bat in your hand than a microphone.
It was a better off-season for you as a broadcaster than as a baseball player. On Oct. 23, you did an interview with Ralph Barbieri and Dave Fleming of KNBR, and Ralph said, "…I agree with Bruce Jenkins and I agree with Dave. We both think you have a brilliant future as a broadcaster. In fact, I don’t think there’s any denying it." (I still have the interview on my .mp3 player). And offers have been coming in backing up the fact that other people feel the same way. On the baseball side, the GM of the Diamondbacks told the AP when you signed your contract that "Eric played great for us in 2006. He’s a rare player who can impact the game in a lot of ways — with his power, with his baserunning, with his defense and certainly every day with his energy." But you had to settle for less money than you wanted, even though you weren’t asking for an outrageous sum, and more importantly, despite your desire to stay in AZ, they were totally reluctant to give you a multi-year deal. You wisely declined the year and a club option for a second year that they offered. They are clearly more interested in the rookies. And you don’t need to be anybody’s "just in case" anymore.
After what happened with the A’s after the good season of 2004, you must be wondering what you have to do to stick with a club as an everyday player. It hurts. (Though the size of the raise you just got, no doubt, cushions the blow). So you are looking to where people believe in you more. That’s only human.
But don’t forget: you are still a good major league baseball player. You can still get better. (I’ll get into that on your birthday). Don’t stop believing you can find your true baseball home. Another good year and you’ll have your pick. So stay focused.
"Visualizing 150+ STARTS",
Eric Byrnes and the Arizona Diamondbacks have agreed to a one-year contract worth $4.575 Million, thus obviating the need for the arbitration hearing that was scheduled for Feb. 15.
When the two parties exchanged salary figures in January, the D’Backs came in with $4.25 Million while Byrnesie asked for $5 Mil. He earned $2.25 Million in 2006.
We’d been hoping our homer-hitting, base-stealing, diving, leaping, and not-being-afraid-of-the-wall favorite baseballplayer would get the $5 Mil. If Gary Mathews, Jr. could get a 5-year contract averaging 10 Million a year, EB was worth 5 million. But with the D’Backs up to their eyeballs in outfield prospects, they weren’t going to hand it over voluntarily.
He might have won it at the arbitration hearing, but even when you get what you ask for at such a hearing, there is a heavy psychological price to pay. The arbitration hearing is an adversarial process in which the club will put forward all its "reasons" why they don’t think you’re worth that much money. Do you really want to hear all this negative stuff about you on the cusp of spring training?
Some players can file all the unpleasantry under the term "it’s a business" and let it fall like water off a duck’s back. They just want to try to make every penny they can and will do what they have to to make it, including putting up with arbitration hearing unpleasantness. But, based on all we’ve heard from and about Byrnesie, we think he’s got too much heart not to be affected by that negative stuff. Byrnesie is not shy about wanting to make a good living–and his remarks in a phone interview with the AP give us the impression that he is a bit disappointed–but as long as he can see some respect in the money offered, it’s about the opportunity to play first, and the money second.
And so the Diamondbacks did well by coming up to a figure that is slightly more than double EB’s ’06 salary. $5 Million was a figure based on where he thought he fit in the current market. But $4.5 was the bottom line on respect. There was something not right about their not wanting to double Eric’s salary after the year he turned in.
So now that the business is done, it’s time to focus completely on the work ahead. Work hard, do your best always and have fun, Eric. But forget about wanting to stay in Arizona. Stay focused on the now. Enjoy being there while you are. But let go. In that same AP article, GM Josh Byrnes said, "Eric played great for us in 2006. He’s a rare player who can impact the game in a lot of ways — with his power, with his baserunning, with his defense and certainly every day with his energy." With most other clubs, that kind of assessment would mean a 4 or 5-year deal that would have you making at least $10 Mil by the end of it.
Josh Byrnes is not walking the talk, Eric. Have another big year and go into next off-season from a position of strength, able to pick a team that will want you for 4 or 5 years for your talents and not just as a placeholder till the hot prospect they want is ready for The Show. True success is being wanted for who you are, not just because you are the best of those available at the time, given the circumstances.
Mr. Sabean, are you keeping an eye on Eric Byrnes? Surely you’re not going to keep Barry Bonds after this year!
P.S. We are not going to be around much during spring training in order to deal with some exciting new opportunities that we hope are going to give us less stress, more time to enjoy live baseball, and more money to afford these outrageous ticket prices and the [fake] fur parka we think should be de rigeur at the Ballpark By the Bay. But we will be in to check for, and sometimes respond to, comments, so please leave them. We will resurface from time to time in spring; we’re pondering our 2007 "Benchmarks for Byrnesie" and will post them on Feb. 16th–Eric Byrnes’ Birthday.