The Arizona Diamondbacks, who were batting below .200 as a
team during the last six games-they won 2 and lost 4-went back to the
formula that led to their early success in beating Atlanta 11-1. They scored early and often, handing Doug Davis a 5-run lead
before he threw the first pitch in his comeback from thyroid cancer
surgery. Davis then cruised to victory, giving up only 1 run in a 7
inning, 5-hit, 89-pitch effort. (Max Scherzer pitched the 8th and Doug
Slaten the 9th).
The five-run barrage in the first inning started with a solo
homer by Stephen Drew, batting second. They got another homer later in
the inning-a two-run shot by Eric Byrnes, batting seventh, for the
100th of his career. If he managed not to hurt himself today, let’s
hope that this gets Byrnesie going; sometimes hitters slow up as they
approach a milestone. Next time up, he singled and eventually scored
from third on a single by Chris Young. So Byrnesie had two hits, two
RBI and he also scored two runs.
Homers were the name of this game for the D’Backs. In
addition to Drew and Byrnes, Conor Jackson, Chris Young, and Mark
Reynolds went yard. Chris Snyder had a 2-run double.
Welcome back, DD!
It’s been a long time coming. And it barely made it, hitting
the top of the wall in left field and bouncing in the good direction.
But there it was in the fifth inning, Eric Byrnes’ first grand slam.
And it came off of Tom Glavine, of all people. Only the second grand
slam the future Hall of Famer has given up in his long and illustrious
career. It changed the score from 3-2 Braves to 6-3 Diamondbacks, and
the Snakes never looked back. The final score was 9-3, giving Micah
Owings his 6th W of the year.
True Elation? More than that really. But if I call it
something else, it will ruin my numbering system. More than redemption
for the pop-up with the bases loaded in his previous at-bat and the 5
LOB on the day. Two homers in 3 days! Maybe he is coming out of his
slump. Or maybe there is something extra he reaches back for every time
people start asking again if he should be on the DL.
Eric Byrnes has been on a very steep roller coaster ride
this year. And he’s still got a long way to go to get the batting
average back into respectable territory. It will be interesting to see
what happens now with the bases loaded. He finally cleared them. Now he
should approach a sacks-full situation in a different way. It has often
looked like he was trying to be too careful, trying not to make an out,
instead of trying to get a hit. Or he was being desperate, swinging at
anything, like the junk off the plate that Glavine threw him the time
before. This time Glavine threw it in Byrnesie’s wheelhouse and
Byrnesie sent it out. And I hope that any and all anxiety and
self-doubt he’s had with the bases loaded in the past went with it. Of
course, not every time up with the bases loaded will have this glorious
result. But now, Byrnesie knows he can do it because he HAS done it.
And I look forward to him doing it again.
Four beautiful RBI. The game-winner. (And let’s not forget
two walks after the grand slam, one of which resulted in his second run
scored. He needs better plate discipline to get out of the slump, and
walks are indicative of better discipline).
Beyond True Elation. A new level of achievement for Eric Byrnes.
Many knowledgeable baseball people, including Eric Byrnes,
consider the 2001 World Series one of the best, if not THE best World
Series ever. Seven games between the storied New York Yankees, winners
of the previous three World Series, and 26 championships overall,
versus the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks, in existence for only four
years and playing in their first World Series. And Game 7 was an epic
pitchers’ duel that went down to the wire.
On April 29th, A&E Home Video (aetv.com) and MLB
Productions make a DVD set of this series available. Buy it. Unless you
win the one I have available as a giveaway on this blog. Details about
that further down.
The DVD player I have attached to my TV is not working for
some reason. So I was pleased to find that the DVDs will play on a PC
with DVD playing software. I’m running Windows XP Home Edition and NTI
DVD software on a 2 GB system with 512 MB Ram of which only 448 MB is
working properly; but the DVD’s ran perfectly despite the RAM problem.
The mouse substitutes for TV remote control and is much easier to use.
The pictures, basically the Fox broadcast of each game, are
crisp and clear. The games are edited to bring you the best shots…and
no commercial breaks! You just go from one inning to the next and
through the pitching changes with all baseball. The only non-baseball
information is in the form of the graphics that were part of the game
broadcast that day. For example, Game 7 updated the viewers on the Emmy
Awards that were presented that night. That’s a nice historical touch.
Bonus features include highlights of the NLDS and NLCS,
trophy presentations, and several on-field post-Game 7 interviews with
the winners. Each of the seven games comes on its own DVD, in its own
jewel case with a liner that provides the box score, an
inning-by-inning summary and tidbits that will satisfy any trivia buff.
The set comes in a box that easy to store; It’s 18 hours and 49 minutes
of material for only $69. Even though the set emphasizes the Arizona
Diamondbacks, it’s a great addition to the libraries of Yankees fans
and anyone else who enjoys great baseball.
For those of you who are interested in the one I’m giving
away, the way to get it is to send me an Eric Byrnes story from
anywhere starting with his college days to the present. Keep it
family-friendly as I want to post the entries here. What was it like to
meet Byrnesie? Did you go to school with him, see him as a minor
leaguer, banter with him in the stands in the majors, or meet him in
the supermarket? Did he visit your school, hospital or Little League?
My stats reports say that a lot of people visit, but only a
few people ever
comment. My usual commentators, the guys who run the AZSportshub
& MLB.com websites, members of Byrnesie’s family and current social circle,
professional journalists who have interviewed Byrnes, and anyone who
has ever been featured on The Eric Byrnes Show are not eligible to win
the DVD set but are welcome to contribute a story to enrich the
visiting experience for my readers.
I’m looking for Byrnes fans who have never commented here
before. I’m hoping a chance at this wonderful DVD set will entice some
of you into joining the discussions. Don’t be shy. You don’t have to be
a literary genius to enter, but the winner will be the story I find
most interesting, so don’t just say you were there when Byrnesie did
Send your stories to byrnesblogger1 [at] azsportshub.com by May 15th. The decision of the judge (me) is final.
Eric Byrnes doubled to lead off the 7th inning!!! (Hmm, 7 seems to be his lucky number these days). This was off the Blue Jays southpaw starter Chacin.This is the extra-base hit I’ve been waiting for. I hereby declare that ol’ batting slump officially over!!!
AND HE SCORED! Yup. And Daryl, (of the MLBLog Daryl’s Place), I know you don’t like the idea of trading two outs for a run, but Byrnes moved to third on a sac bunt and scored on a sac fly, with the Baltimore TV announcers remarking all the way about his hustle, dedication, speed, running style and all the other things THEY said make Byrnesie easy to root for, and while someone in Oakland was getting very excited at the prospect and finally the accomplishment, of a Byrnes run scored! The Orioles were clicking on all cylinders tonight. Gibbons and Tejada homered earlier. Then Byrnes was driven in a la small ball.
AND THEN HE CAME UP IN THE 9TH AND PUT A BELT-HIGH CURVE BALL INTO THE SECOND DECK OF THE ROGERS CENTRE!!!! (A two-run jack, so here come the ribbies!!) 🙂
Byrnesie had flied to left and flied to center his first two times up. I thought there was too much twist in his body and uppercut in his follow through, as if Tiger Woods had been his hitting instructor, instead of Terry Crowley. But I could see the confidence. I could just tell when he was going to swing and he swung like he meant it. And a side view of the home run that I saw on a reply showed that there was less uppercut in the follow-through than had appeared in the earlier outs. So he can produce the fly ball with the more level swing; it just goes farther .
Pitchers who doubt me are more than welcome to conduct their own experiments on Byrnes. I especially recommend them trying out those belt-high pitches that are middle to outer part of the plate to test hypotheses on how far Byrnes’ relatively skinny arms can drive a ball if he gets fully extended. Curveball, change up, fastball, take your pick.
AND BTW, that jack in the 9th was against a RIGHTY reliever…Batista. I’m going to have to get around to writing an article about Byrnesie’s HARP. (Hits Against Right-Handed Pitchers). It’s music to my ears.
But now I have to quibble with managerial strategy. It’s 7-0. Bruce Chen has pitched lights out. You would think he was Barry Zito or something. 🙂
Why bring in Ray to close? Ray had a great 1-2-3 inning. But how about giving the bullpen a rest with a huge lead and let the starter try for a complete game shutout? If a run scores, then you pull him. But let him try. It’s a feather in his cap to do it, and overworked bullpens blow up.
But today was a great day when the Orioles played like a contender. And you know my new philosophy of life: Any time Eric Byrnes gets a hit, or makes a great defensive play, is cause to be of good cheer. He wasn’t called on for any outfield heroics today, but he went 2 for 4 with two extra-base hits, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored, and the power to keep me from crying all day about New Orleans.
Yes, sometimes things are just out of our hands and the best we can do is to do what we do the best we can. Off to teach news class with my 15 hat on my head and a big smile on my face.
Radio Internet Story Exchange
It was one of those days where everything seemed to be just a little bit off. Here I was, going to a Wednesday game, having also gone on Monday. I had to keep reminding myself it was Wednesday, not Sunday. On the way to the train stations, I stopped at a drug store to buy a single-use camera. I didn’t realize until I was on the train headed to the Coliseum that I had purchased an indoor flash camera. Oh, well, I thought to myself, it will be foggy before the game. Maybe the flash will help.
Here on the Left Coast, we call the fog Nature’s Air Conditioner. If it’s sunny early in the morning, you know it’s going to be a broiler. But that doesn’t mean it is necessarily cold because it’s foggy. By the time I bought my ticket and got on line to wait for the park to open—a record early appearance for me—I taken off my sweatshirt and tied it around my waist. That revealed my Byrnes 22 T-shirt. On Monday, someone was wearing one everywhere I looked. But today, I saw only one person wearing one: me. There were a lot of Crosbys and still some Tejadas. Later in the day, I would see someone wearing a beautiful Chad Bradford A’s jersey. Some folks might remember Mr. Chadwick Lee Bradford of Mississippi, a sidearmer shipped to Boston as soon as he had recovered from his back surgery, in exchange for Jay Payton, the new A’s left fielder, who, I acknowledge, has been doing a bang up job for his new team.
While waiting for the gates to open, I wrote a little poetry, some of which is already on this blog: "Young Girls with Gloves" and "Home." The latter dedicated to Byrnes.
It being a day game after a night game there was no practice. So you would think that the players could or would mingle with fans and sign stuff. But that was not the case. Some of the A’s were stretching and jogging by the left field bullpen where a few pitchers were warning up. But only one of the A’s, wearing his jacket over his number, so I don’t know who it was, signed a few things in front of the A’s dugout along the third base line. I waited with my clipboard just behind the visitors’ dugout hoping that Eric Byrnes would show up and sign my latest "Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Report." Next to me was a boy with an Eric Byrnes baseball card. I used to collect baseball cards as a kid, but I haven’t seen one in a long time. The photo appeared to capture Byrnesie in mid-swing, staring at the barrel of his bat with all the intensity we know he has. It was a great shot. Kudos to the photog.
But there would be no Eric Byrnes, Miguel Tejada, Sammy Sosa, or just about anyone else folks were lined up to see. Orioles reliever Jason Grimsley walked from the bullpen to the dugout and was asked to sign one thing when he reached the dugout corner nearest home plate. Starter Bruce Chen exchanged waves with us as he went to the outfield for a light game of catch with someone else wearing a jacket that covered his number. I was surprised to see Chen assume a catcher’s crouch to take some tosses from the other guy. Gee, isn’t that dangerous? What if he gets hit in the face? I thought. Fortunately, there was no need to worry about that. Chen signed a whole bunch of things when he got to the homeside corner of the dugout.
Former catcher and now Orioles coach Elrod Hendricks passed by. He would later become accidentally involved in a play. A foul fly was hit toward the Orioles bullpen. David Newhan, playing right field, went after it at full speed. Hendricks, on the bullpen bench, stood up and tried to get out of the way, but he and Newhan collided and Newhan missed the catch. It was a very mild collision, nothing like what happened to Mets’ outfielders Cameron and Beltran a few weeks ago. Still, Newhan was lucky. Hendricks may sport gray hair, but he’s still straight-backed, broad-shouldered and solid as the brick wall at Wrigley. Crashing into him, even slightly, is cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
The sky was clearing by the time the security personnel told us folks hanging out at the dugout to go to back to our seats. By the time I reached my seat, up in the next to the last row of a third deck section between first and home, it was time for the sunscreen. I thought of the Bud Light commercial that "paid tribute" to "Mr. SPF-80 Sun-block-wearer" and his "Coconut-Scented Force Field." I was wearing only SPF-45…unscented. Others were donning similar stuff. White goo was definitely the order of the day in the third deck at the Coliseum.
Candlestick Park, where the SF Giants used to play until the 2000 season, had the reputation of being windy and cold. One season they gave out the Croix de Candlestick, a commemorative button for anyone who stuck it out until the end of an extra inning night game. Years ago, someone visiting Candlestick for the first time—I’m sorry, I don’t remember who it was—was aghast at the wind conditions. And this was during the day, before the wind really kicked up. He is reported to have said that if Willie Mays had played anywhere else, "The Say Hey Kid" would have hit 800 homers.
The Coliseum in Oakland is near enough to San Francisco Bay to receive the wind coming off the water. Opening Night 2004, which marked the first time I ever went to an Opening Night, was football weather, and the veteran fans were dressed for such, blankets and all. But game three of the Orioles series was a day game, and it was great to have the sun on my back. I had gotten chilled at the Monday night game, and I think a little fluid built up in my lungs. The Wednesday afternoon sun baked that out during the game. And the wind kept the sun from being oppressively hot. But that alternation of hot and cold is weird and may have contributed to the tiredness I felt at the end of the game. But, then too, the tiredness may have come from the energy I expended in openly rooting for the Orioles to complete their sweep of the A’s. No sense trying the scholarly dispassion bit I did in Game 1, when the nearest people to me were new parents who spent more time taking digital photos of their baby than they did watching the game. On Wednesday afternoon, there were more people around—two dollar admission will do that for a team—these folks were into the game, and a few of them were also rooting for the O’s.
Byrnes’ name was still warmly greeted when the Orioles’ lineup was announced. The strange thing today was that Daniel Cabrera was announced as the Orioles’ starting pitcher, but then suddenly it was announced that Eric DuBose would start instead. This caused a number of changes to the announced A’s line up. The PA guy announced three changes and said we’d get caught up on the rest later. It turned out that Cabrera felt back stiffness while warming up and was pulled at the last minute. (I wouldn’t find that out until I visited KPFA after the game and one of the guys in the newsroom told me). Du Bose would go on to baffle the A’s, new lineup and all.
Ever feel like you are carrying just too much to the ballpark? I have a small black shoulder bag with too many compartments that I take to park because it’s the smallest bag I own, but it allows me to carry money, ID, ATM card, train ticket, tissues, sunscreen, pencils and a pencil sharpener. Turns out that it also fits my radio and ear buds and that indoor, single use camera I now had not a single use for at the Coliseum. But I also had my now unnecessary sweatshirt, my clipboard with the scoresheets and the Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Report. And a cardboard tray containing two "dollar dogs" and a cup of soda for which there was no straw or lid. The report suffered a couple of small mustard stains early on as I tried the wolf down the "dollar dogs" before Byrnesie’s first plate appearance. I managed to get the report cleaned up in time. The mustard stains are very small and barely noticeable now.
I thought Byrnesie’s hitting slump was going to end in his first AB, when he ripped a line drive down the left field line. But instead of a double, all he had was a foul ball. As they say: "Baseball is a game of inches." Byrnes struck out.
Danny Haren, the young A’s pitcher, had a rough 2nd inning, and a rough 4th inning. Two runs on 4 hits each time. But the indicator that this was not his day came in the third, when it cost him 25 pitches to get a 1-2-3 inning. Ten of those pitches went to Eric Byrnes. Yeah, Byrnesie struck out again, but it was a good AB that contributed to the earliest exit Haren had had in quite a while.
(Danny Haren trivia: he came to the A’s from the St. Louis Cardinals in the deal that sent pitcher Mark Mulder, one of the A’s "Big Three," to the Cards. I think former A’s manager Tony La Russa, who now manages the Cardinals, keeps an eye out for any old A’s he can use. (Eckersley and McGwire finished out their careers in St. Louis). Anyway, Haren’s father was concerned about his son’s ability to adjust socially to the new team. Seems Danny’s a bit shy. So Danny’s dad asked Cardinal player John Gall to let his cousin on the A’s know that Danny’s a good kid, it just takes him time to warm up to a new situation. Gall relayed the message and Danny Haren was welcomed by, and became fast friends with, Gall’s cousin—Eric Byrnes).
Throughout the game, a small girl was sitting directly in front of me. She was maybe about four or five and quite fidgety. In the 5th inning, she turned around and stared at me, clearly wanting some acknowledgement of her existence. I usually try to be nice to such small fry, but "not now!" I thought. I was too busy nibbling on my clipboard, muttering "Ribbies, Ribbies Ribbies," and staring at home plate. Eric Byrnes was up with the bases loaded.
Justin "The Duke" Duchsherer was pitching. Byrnes took a ball. Then he took a strike. Then he hit a grounder to second for a double play.
But hey, there still was a bright side…sort of. Unlike the time in the first game when Byrnesie popped foul to the catcher with the bases loaded, this DP scored a run. No official RBI for Byrnes, but that run counted just as much as a run scored by a sac fly would have. Except that now there were two out instead of the one a sac fly would have created. But when a player is in a horrible batting slump, fans and teammates alike have to be grateful for small things.
Ultimately, the Birds won 5-3, completing the sweep.. Byrnes went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts and that double play. He had a quiet day in the field, making one put-out in the first inning. And by the time he came to bat in the 8th, the announcement of his name drew no special reaction from the crowd. At the end of the day, Eric Byrnes had become just another player on the other team.
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You would think I’d be a gregarious sort, what with the Sun, Jupiter and Mars conjunct in Leo and Gemini on the Midheaven. But really I’m not. I guess that Capricorn Moon, Virgo Ascendant, and Saturn in Scorpio squaring the Sun, Jupiter, Mars conjunction are indicators that I’m not the jolliest clown in the circus.
I was a policy wonk as a kid. While my elementary school classmates could tell you the Number One song in the Top 40, and some of them knew the whole Top 10, I could tell you the name of the US Ambassador to the UN. (I could tell you the name of the US Ambassador to the UN now, but I don’t want to waste space on him!)
I could even put my interest in baseball to serious purposes. In high school, Latin was a required course for all freshmen students; and we called them freshmen back then, even though it was an all-girls school. I just wasn’t getting those Latin declensions down. (Declension is a strange word. The verb form is "decline," which should mean, "I decline that noun. Show me what else ya got." But it doesn’t).
I suppose you could call declensions a way of conjugating nouns. And those declensions just weren’t sticking in my brain until I realized that the first declension nouns ended in "a," and so did Swoboda. I found Mets mnemonics for all the declensions. Word spread, and the school newspaper wrote, "Looks like Julius Ceasar has finally MET his match."
My workplace is in political turmoil. The larger world is wrapped in war, global warming, peak oil, and other things that may add up to a perfect storm making concerns about stats in the steriod era a tempest in teapot. (The issue of athletes taking steroids, per se, IS serious). There are only so many of these things I can put up with simultaneously and for so long, even though, as a journalist, I’m supposed to put up with all of them all the time in order to report them to my listeners. So I’ve decided to try to be a little bit more of a happy camper, at least during the baseball season. And I’ve found a method of being happier that’s way cheaper than therapy.
I’ve adopted a new philosophy of life: Any day Eric Byrnes gets a hit, or makes a great defensive play, is not a total loss. Any time Eric Byrnes get a hit, or makes a great defensive play, is an occasion to be of good cheer. Even if having to work during the game means that I see the two strikeouts and the two missed diving catches but not the base hit. (Byrnesie! Three missed diving catches in two days? What’s wrong?) Even if the computer won’t give me the replay. Even if the base hit doesn’t drive anyone home. Even if the base hit loads the bases with only one out but nobody scores–ACK! Even if the great defensive play comes in during a terrible batting slump. Even if after one class and one lab in video editing, I’m falling behind because I’m learning the basics of the MAC as well as the editing program, and reading tutorials has never been my cup of tea. Even though I am falling behind on everything, including this blog, because there’s just so much to do and not enough time in which to do it. And even because, while a alot of people complain about lack of time, I feel the time crunch because I think Neocons, Dominionists, bird flu, Peak Oil and climate change may get us all well before anyone has to vote on whether Raffy Palmeiro should get into the Hall of Fame.
ANY DAY ERIC BYRNES GETS A HIT, OR MAKES A GREAT DEFENSIVE PLAY, IS NOT A TOTAL LOSS. (I’ll remember that, too, if he plays winter ball this year). ANY TIME ERIC BYRNES GETS A HIT, OR MAKES A GREAT DEFENSIVE PLAY, IS AN OCCASION TO BE OF GOOD CHEER. (My blood pressure appreciates that, really).
He went one for three today. (And for an added bonus, and something I am sure made Byrnesie happy, the Orioles beat the geographically-challenged Angels 2-0. Meanwhile, back in the Southland, 700,000 Southern California Edison customers were experiencing rolling blackouts. In utility talk, a customer is the person or entity whose name is on the bill. So they figure one customer stands for three people affected by a blackout). Three times 700,000? You do the math, I’m having too good a time recalling the latest Eric Byrnes base hit.
The O’s play the A’s at home this weekend. Please, Byrnesie, not another 0 for Series. Hitting well is the best revenge. And it’ll make my days.
Radio Internet Story Exchange
August 22, 2005 was the 5th Anniversary of the Major League debut of Eric Byrnes. Sorry I’m a day late. But as much as I would love to watch and write about baseball all day everyday, life sometimes demands other things, and yesterday it was my first video editing class.
But Happy Anniversary, Byrnesie! Becoming a Major League Baseball player is a dream relatively few men get to realize.
Byrnes came up with the Oakland A’s and I have heard the story both ways, but either then manager Art Howe, or the GM, who I think was Sandy Alderson at the time–I don’t keep track of the front office–maybe it was both–told the regular broadcasters that they brought Byrnes up because "he plays like his hair’s on fire." And he still does. That’s why I like him. We should all play life like our hair’s on fire.
But I have been thinking the last few days that if the A’s front office had had its druthers, we might not have seen Eric Byrnes in Oakland at all. It took them two years to land Mark Kotsay, their current centerfielder, who has been with them for three years now. (A fine player, but no way would I have traded an All-Star catcher for an outfielder). Two plus three equal 5. If the A’s had gotten Kotsay when they first wanted him…well, you do the math.
Now Byrnes is a Baltimore Oriole and I’m glad. Really. The baseball gods work in mysterious ways.
Byrnes has not reached his full potential yet, though certainly not for lack of effort. I know that, and I think Baltimore does, too. Sometimes home is not where you always were, or where you hoped you’d always be.
And now I have to stop writing about baseball and take myself and my Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Report to KPFA to board op the Evening News. Byrnes has been dropped from 2nd to 8th today. No surprise given the slump. Mora’s batting second. Let’s hope that means his ankle’s better. He likes to beat out bunts, but hasn’t been able to run well lately.
Level swing, Byrnesie, level swing, and you’ll be back in the 2 hole before long. And that’s just where a guy with your speed should be.
Here’s to the next 5 years, Byrnesie! No. Make that: here’s to the next 15!
The official MLB Eric Byrnes page is now linked to this blog.
Radio Internet Story Exchange
August 20, 2005–Flash! ERIC BYRNES HIT A SINGLE!!!!
He hit it with one out and none on in the top of the 9th against Cleveland’s RIGHT-HANDED reliever David Riske. The count was 1-1, the pitch was belt-high and a little bit on the outside part of the plate, but certainly not one of those paint-the-black, finesse deals. Sorry, but I seldom know what kind of a pitch is thrown. It looked pretty straight to me, so it could have been a fastball, but then it could have been a straight change. Doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that Riske threw a strike and Byrnesie hit a sharp grounder through the hole between short and third and into left field. No infielder came near it. And the long hitless streak was over!
I didn’t get to see it live. At KPFA, I’m the news department’s technical utility player and I was subbing for someone this evening. I left after Byrnesie popped to second in the sixth on his first pitch, making him 0 for 3 on the day; the notes on "The Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Report" say "Out in the blink of an eye. High pitch."
By the time I got home, the game was over. But I checked the box score and there it was: a 1 in the H column! Nothing else happened. He was erased on a double play that ended the game. Cleveland beat Baltimore 6-1, the second straight loss after the sweep of the A’s. But Byrnes’ long hitless streak was over! And that means a lot. Enough for me to struggle with the computer to get the replay. You should have seen the grin on Byrnesie’s face at first base. I mean, you knew the hit had to come sometime, but when! There must have been moments when Eric wondered if he would ever get a hit again. I know I felt that way on occasion as I watched Byrnes’ batting average sink. He’s lost thirty points off the season high he reached about a month ago in the early days of his exile in the cellar of the NL Worst. If slumps like these were diets, one could make millions selling them.
The single was also a vindication of my attempt to figure out what went wrong after that 11-game hitting streak that began when he first joined the Orioles. Hey, I may not have the answers to dealing with Peak Oil, treating AIDS in Africa or ending Middle East conflicts, but maybe I could figure out, to my satisfaction at least, why Byrnes had gone into such a horrendous batting slump, and what could be done about it.
So before work today, I poured over my Eric Byrnes Pitch Count Reports in an effort to see if the record bore out what I had been seeing in the couple of weeks since I subscribed to MLB TV and attended two of the three games of the recently concluded Oakland series. Sure enough, the reports showed that he had popped out, fouled out, or flied out in 12 of his last 31 at-bats, not counting tonight’s game. (And in tonight’s game he flied out twice and popped out once). What I had been seeing was that Byrnes was consciously or unconsciously swinging under the ball, lofting it. His follow-through angled up in a way characteristic of a fly-ball hitter. But Byrnesie is a natural line-drive hitter.
My reports also showed that in 15 of 31 AB, including the double that was his last hit before this disaster started, he had hit to the middle of the field, i.e. to the pitcher, shortstop, second baseman or center fielder. But he’s at his best hitting to the left side of the diamond. Many of his doubles are straight down the left field line, which was one of the inspirations for the name of my blog. I thought he was going to get such a double in the first inning of Game 3 of the Oakland series. But the drive was called foul. You know what they say: baseball is a game of inches.
A tiny shift can make the difference between fair or foul, a hitting streak or a hitting slump. Who knows why we humans are so variable in our performances as we are, even at the elite level of professional sports. Athletic performance, and perhaps all performance, consists of the making and breaking of habits, good and bad. Byrnesie had slipped into the bad habit of swinging in a manner that would produce popups and fly balls and too many balls hit to the center of the diamond, instead of line drives hit to left (or the occasional opposite field hit that keeps fielders honest). Of course, having a swing that produces a lot of fly balls is not inherently bad. It’s a bad habit for Byrnes because it is untrue to who he is: a natural line drive hitter. To paraphrase Shakespeare: "To thine own swing be true, then thou can’st be false to any pitch."
Byrnes hit the single with what I called in my report notes a "beautiful level swing." I replayed it several times just to enjoy it. So don’t keep it up, Byrnesie. Keep it level. And watch your average go up as you get on base in the blink of an eye.
<enormous toothy grin>
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