I was on the scene for the Bonds arraignment. Hear my podcast at http://byrnesblog.azsportshub.com/
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
Tracy, who had microfracture surgery on his right knee on Sept. 20,
experienced a blood clot in the calf area last week. He is currently
taking blood thinners to help alleviate the problem and will stay away
from working with the leg for a week or so.
The entire Steve Gilbert article is here.
Get Well Soon, Chad!
The news that Alex Rodriguez was opting out of his contract with the New York Yankees broke during the fourth game of the World Series. (MLB has a rule against major announcements during the World Series, but it applies to teams not to individual players). The news made me think that A-Rod suffers from a peculiar kind of attention deficit disorder: he has to inject himself into the news when he feels a deficit of attention. Really, did we need to know his contract status exactly then? He had 10 days after the World Series finished to opt out. In fact, had he waited two days he probably would have had centerstage all to himself. So why the hurry? Could he not stand the idea of not being Topic A for several days? (Don’t blame agent Scott Boras; I’m sure a Rod knew what Scott was doing when he made the announcement. Those two are made for each other).
Hank Steinbrenner, the son of owner George, told the New York Daily News,"It’s clear he didn’t want to be a Yankee. He doesn’t understand the privilege of being a Yankee on a team where the owners are willing to pay $200 million to put a winning product on the field. I don’t want anybody on my team that doesn’t want to be a Yankee."
According to Boras, Rodriguez was concerned about the status of Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettite, all eligible for free agency this winter. He didn’t want to commit to a contract extension, which the Yankees were apparently preparing to offer him, without knowing if any of those players were coming back next year. Hank Steinbrenner said Rodriguez could have called him to get that information. I assume he also could have called the players themselves. (Of course, whether or not those players would want to talk to Rodriguez about their contract situations is another story). Contract talks are a volatile thing; what seems to be going smoothly early on can break down later and vice versa. But it seems to me that the picture might have been clearer nine days from now than they were with the World Series going on. At least he could have gotten an idea as to whether or not the Yankees wanted to keep the other players and whether the other players indicated a willingness to negotiate with the Yankees. So that excuse simply doesn’t hold water.
Maybe A-Rod doesn’t want to pay the price that comes with being the highest-paid player in history of the game and a member of the most storied franchise in sports: the price of media scrutiny of his behavior both on and off the field — remember the stripper incident? — in the crucible of American media — New York. Of course, sports heroes often have clay feet. But A-Rod, a married man, being seen with a stripper, and allegations that he has attended some shady gambling venues, would be quickly forgotten if he managed to be something more than a shell of his regular-season self during the playoffs.
The thing that amazes me the most about the A-Rod saga is the fact that he’s looking for an even bigger contract. He’s already the highest paid player in baseball by a longshot. And he’s at the point where the money itself has little meaning. He has more than enough to ensure his family’s prosperity for several generations. He can buy anything anyone wishes to sell. His fame also brings him investment opportunities off the field, so he gets money that way as well as through the contract. In short, Alex Rodriguez is a very, very rich man. So when is he going to say, "Enough!" and play for some other reasons?
Of course, I’m not talking about something as utopian as playing for no money, but how about sticking to the contract he signed and trying to figure out why he goes bust in the postseason? How about helping the team with 26 championship rings to get 27, 28, 29, and 30? (Whoops! What am I saying? I want the Diamondbacks to win two or three rings in the next few years). For a guy who wrote a children’s book, Alex Rodriguez is not a very good example for children. He seems much more self-involved, more interested in his own stats, than he should be in a team sport.
A-Rod does not function in a vacuum. He’s doing nothing illegal by opting out of his contract; the opt-out clause is in there, so the Yankees are partially to blame for allowing such a thing anyway. Scott Boras is considered a heavy in all of this drama. He is the agent a player signs with if money is the first consideration. And everybody knows that. He only takes players who are the cream of the crop and he is an excellent negotiator who knows how to press the right buttons in the owners. They could say no; no one is holding a gun to their heads. But if they want his players, they say yes. And for all the complaining about Boras, it’s not as if the owners have put him on a blacklist. There is some reticence among teams when they’re dealing with a Boras client who has just turned professional, but even then there is very little of that.
I’ve heard it said that baseball players ask for these outrageous salaries because they are competitive people. Thus, you have, for example, Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui insisting on making more than his fellow countryman, Ichiro, so that he would be the highest-paid Japanese player in MLB. There are various players who want to be the highest-paid in their position. Barry Zito, who left another agent to sign with Scott Boras prior to negotiating his free-agent contract with the Giants last off-season, is now the highest-paid pitcher of all time. On a team that finished last in its division in 2007. He turned in a 10-13 record and admitted later in the year that the pressure of the contract affected his performance. Is that much money really worth it if it stresses you out and it hurts performance, no matter what kind of work you do? Again, I’m not putting down the idea of being rich, but there comes a point where the money is more trouble than it’s worth. And I don’t think players like A-Rod or Zito, agents like Boras, or the team owners of clubs like the Giants, and the Yankees until last night at least, pay enough attention to that fact. Another "attention deficit," as it were.
Of course, if the team owner were to suggest to a player that there is a limit to monetary satisfaction, the player would think the owner is just trying to lowball him. And depending on the situation, he might be right. If an agent were to make that suggestion, he might lose a client. So it’s really up to the player to discover for himself the "enough" point: that point at which all material needs are met and money is more of a burden than a pleasure. If you are in that place financially, so what if someone else is making more? There are no exhibits in the Hall of Fame honoring record contracts.
The players should also consider the balance between his own individual reward and team rewards. Is the size of his contract hindering the team’s ability to acquire the talent it needs to win? (Players are more likely to consider this factor in a sport that has a salary cap. Every now and then we hear of the veteran making a big salary offering to restructure his contract so the team can afford adding a certain other player to their roster). What are the rewards, psychologically and financially, of winning championships? Of even getting to compete for a championship? I feel certain in saying that when Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies retires, he’ll think more about the fact that he played in the World Series than that he was the Rockies’ highest-paid player.
But let’s put the issue of inflated contracts into proper perspective. How many tim
es have you heard an athlete say, "It’s a business" in response to his release, trade, or a contract negotiation? Everyone who goes into business, no matter what the field, wants to make money, even a lot of money, and that’s to be expected. But is business just about making money? There ought to be a purpose to the business and achievement of the purpose should bring money. A business climate in which making money is the primary goal, rather than fulfilling a need in the marketplace leads to business owners and workers who think that what they do to make that money, and how they go about doing it, is far less important. And that leads to a lot of negative consequences, not the least of which is poor quality workmanship and business ownership that takes unfair advantage of its customers and its workers.
Sportswriter Buster Olney just wrote an article for ESPN magazine in which he said of A-Rod,"He has the right to make as much money as he can." I think most people in the world, including most pro athletes have that right. But some people don’t. I don’t think Bill Gates does. I don’t think A-Rod does. I don’t think anyone whose financial demands can warp his industry has the "right" to make as much money as he can. Interestingly enough, the title of Olney’s article is: A-Rod putting himself above the game. If we are going to call ourselves "civilized", we’ve got to stop thinking that we are above the game.
The atmosphere that we live in these days, the one that prompted Olney to make that remark, probably with as little thought as he would have given the remark that "the sky is blue," has high school pitchers and their parents looking for Tommy John surgery as the route to college scholarships and pro contracts. It leads to players using performance-enhancing drugs, and it feeds the bloated egos of people like Alex Rodriguez. He may get a $300 million contract when all is said and done, but that money won’t secure a number of things that are also important in a ballplayer’s resume: the admiration of fans, the respect of teammates and opponents, and a piece of jewelry that money can’t buy — a World Series ring.
"People talk about the run differential, people talk about the numbers
that don’t make sense. But there’s a
reason why it doesn’t make sense. It’s because this is a team. I don’t
think that in professional sports you’re not going to find more of a
team than what you’ll find here."
–Eric Byrnes, fracturing the English language a la W, but you get the point.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have clinched a playoff berth with tonight’s 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies, coupled with the Mets 7-4 loss to the Florida Marlins. They will make their first playoff appearance since the 2002 season.
I admit that my doubts were running wild going into today’s game. First of all, the D’Backs had just dropped 2 of 3 to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. Then, although most times the thought of Brandon Webb starting is a comfort, I knew that he’s had a rough time with the Rockies this year. To top it off, the Rockies had won 11 straight.
But then, just before the game started, I heard that 7 of the 11 victories were against the Dodgers who used the occasion to audition a number of not-ready-for-prime-time MLB hopefuls. The whoever-it-was sports host I heard on KTAR (a Phoenix radio station) was just livid about it, accusing the Dodgers of tanking. Suddenly, the Rockies streak didn’t seem indicative of a team of destiny.
And they weren’t. Brandon Webb turned in a quality start — 2 runs in seven innings. Augie Ojeda, Conor Jackson and Stephen Drew drove in the runs, with CoJack hitting his 15th homer. It came off Rockies starter Jeff Francis; CoJack has his number. Then on came Brandon Lyon for his 35th hold in the 8th and Jose Valverde for his major league leading (and uniform matching) 47th save. The D’Backs victory was their 90th of the year.
Eric Byrnes doubled off the third baseman’s glove (30th double, 179th hit), with one out, then stole third with two out. (That’s called taking a big chance. One is not supposed to make the first or third out at third base). The D’Backs loaded the bases then. But they did not score. This is not good going into the playoffs. In October, you can’t load the bases and not score and expect to win. So the Snakes should use the next two games to iron out the kinks.
But for tonight, they can enjoy their first step into the post-season. Just don’t do anything dumb while you’re partying!
"Micah’s offense is a joke. He takes
[batting practice] twice a week and steps up and rakes big league
pitching. It seems like he’s on [every pitch]. It’s fun to watch."
— Eric Byrnes, who could stand to take some hitting instruction from the Diamondbacks pitcher.
Micah Owings and Stephen Drew led the Diamondbacks in a slugfest win over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-0 at PNC Park earlier today. Brandon Webb was supposed to pitch for the Diamondbacks. However, with threatening weather, the D’backs brain trust decided to hold Webb back so that he wouldn’t end up pitching a few innings, be taken out after a long rain delay, and be unable to come back during the Colorado series, which closes out the season.
Owings was lights out on the mound, pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings before a rain delay forced him out. He was also on fire at the plate, going 4-4, with three doubles and three RBI. Nothing like a pitcher who can help his own cause, especially when the team has not been hitting. But offense was not the problem today. Fellow Georgian Stephen Drew joined the hitting party, going 3-5, with three RBI and two runs scored. His solo homer in the first inning got the Diamondbacks on the board. Augie Ojeda went 2-4, with a walk, and three runs scored. Tony Clark contributed a home run.
Eric Byrnes finally remembered what it’s like to get an RBI (83), when he singled (178) home Stephen Drew in the second inning for his first RBI since September 12. However, he got picked off first on the third pickoff attempt, after taking very aggressive leads off first. To make matters worse, he hurt himself sliding back into first on the second pickoff attempt. I don’t know exactly what was the problem, but the camera showed him grimacing. His other at-bats were anything but memorable. He stranded 4 runners. One time he struck out after running the count to 3-0. It looked like he swung at ball four. And while we’ll take an RBI single any day of the week, it would be nice if he remembered once again what it’s like to get an extra-base hit. Diamondbacks broadcaster Daron Sutton mentioned the dipping back shoulder that Mark Grace pointed out during the last homestand. That it’s still there means that either no one has brought it to Eric’s attention, or he hasn’t been able to break the habit. His batting average is now down to .288. Maybe Byrnes needs to get Micah Owings to give him some tips on hitting doubles. Why not? They’re both right-handed hitters.
Arizona and Pittsburgh played the first game of the day in the major leagues. So their results are known to the Padres, Rockies and Phillies as they go into their contests.
The bad weather in Pittsburgh now allows Arizona ace Brandon Webb to go up against the Rockies. He starts the first game of the series tomorrow against Jeff Francis.
Do you need the Heimlich Maneuver?
You haven’t won since Saturday. The lead is only one game over the Padres and two over the Rockies with four to go, including three with the Rockies.
You are not supposed to be losing to a team that has lost 90 games and is in last place in its division, 15 games out.
There might be a tendency on the part of some people to say that this young team just didn’t learn to close it out. But I won’t buy that. At this time of the year, the rookies aren’t really rookies anymore. And some of the blame for you guys folding like origami this week lies with the veterans.
Livan staking the Buccos to a 4-run lead doesn’t help. Two games in a row where you were faced with scoring at least 6 runs to win. Not good. Especially when your bats are A.W.O.L.
This means you, Byrnes. In the high summer I would have been fine with what happened yesterday: another single (177) stolen base (49) run scored (103) sequence, and an outfield assist (12 a new personal best). But you left four men on base, including Chris Young at third. I wish that Young could have read the throw into the infield a but better, but there I will chalk it up to inexperience and he was better off being careful. But you could have made things easier by at least hitting a fly ball deeper.
It was a game the Diamondbacks might have won had they been in the American League. Starter Doug Davis allowed only 2 runs in his 5-inning, 69-pitch outing, both of them in the first inning. But manager Bob Melvin lifted him for a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth in an unsuccessful bid to score a run in a game that was 2-1 Pittsburgh at that point. Pinch-hitter Jeff Cirillo struck out.
Then in the 7th inning, Tony Pena gave up 3 runs.
The Diamondbacks tied the score with 4 runs in the top of the eighth, but failed to get more when Eric Byrnes ended the rally by grounding out to third with runners on first and second. He also flied out, struck out, and GIDP in this game. (Chris Snyder GIDP twice). When Byrnes singled (176) and stole 2nd base (48) with two out in the third, he was stranded as Mark Reynolds grounded out.
Brandon Lyon gave up Pittsburgh’s winning run. A 1-out double, a balk that moved the runner to third, and a ground ball single to left made the score 6-5 Pittsburgh, and Pirates’ reliever Matt Capps pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save. (Saloman Torres got the win).
And thus the D’Backs continue the disturbing habit of losing the first game of a road trip or home stand. This one was a particularly bitter loss because a) the Pirates entered the game with a 9-game losing streak; b) the Diamondbacks left 10 runners on base so this wasn’t a case of the Pirates pitching lights out and c) the Padres, who were down to their last strike, came back to beat the Giants and the Rockies earned a come-from-behind victory against the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks therefore failed to lower their magic number; it remains 4.
With the Rockies so hot, the Diamondbacks cannot afford to lose either of the next two games in Pittsburgh before they close out the season in Colorado.