Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hit The Road, Byrnsie

Eric Byrnes f@#$% up, again
Originally uploaded by wonderbread74.
The A's GM, Billy Beane, was back to improving the A's from the bargain rack by trading Eric Byrnes, Chad Bradford and a once highly-touted minor leaguer for pitchers Joe Kennedy, Jay Witasick and outfielder Jay Payton. We'll get to the trades in a moment.

Despite overwhelming support from most A's fans for Byrnes I have disliked his baseball acumen ever since the 2003 playoffs against Boston when he clearly missed touching homeplate and proceeded to play it off. Here's how ESPN's Jim Caple recounted the event that year:
Begin with the Eric Byrnes play in Game 3 of the Athletics-Red Sox series, when the Oakland rookie made Fred Merkle look like Derek Jeter. Everyone involved in the play screwed up, but none more so than Byrnes. He failed to touch home plate on a close play. But rather than go back and touch it while catcher Jason Varitek chased the throw to the backstop, he decided to limp after Varitek and deliver a petulant, blindside shove. You rarely see such a blatant display of idiocy and poor sportsmanship at one time, at least not unless Mike Tyson is involved.

And where were his Oakland teammates? Why didn't on-deck hitter Eric Chavez yell at him to touch home plate? Why didn't anyone in the dugout notice? Were they all too busy reading "Moneyball''?

Varitek, meanwhile, was alert enough to tag Byrnes but not alert to actually tag him with the ball. Replays showed that Varitek had the ball in his right hand while he swiped Byrnes with his empty glove. Home-plate umpire Paul Emmel completed the trifecta by calling Byrnes out anyway, which I guess is a good thing, because otherwise Byrnes and Varitek would still be scrapping around home plate.

Pete Rose was a simple blue-collar type player. What is Eric Byrnes then? A mininum wage type player?

Granted, Byrnes did not have Major League talent when he slowly rose through the A's system, but he is a testament to hard work and where it can lead you. He's also one of the dumbest players I've ever watched daily.

I once heard Ken Korach, the A's radio announcer, tell the perfect Byrnes story. He was so wild in college that he dived into a swimming pool without any water.

Sure, Byrnes constantly hustled on and off the field and on the basepaths, but he's mind-blowing outfield acrobatics had more to do with poor reads on flyballs and hustle than skill. He may well thrive in the thin air of Denver, but again he may wilt in a clubhouse that is far more stringent and where accountability is more pronounced than it is in Oakland.

When the Payton trade was announced this morning, everyone had a sense that the other shoe would soon drop. Either Byrnes would finally be traded or despite the new contract, Kotsay might find himself in pinstripes.

This trade may end up being a wash or a way to fill an outfield spot. Think about it. Boston traded Payton for a guy coming off the 60-day disabled list.

The Byrnes trade is far more substantial and revealing to Beane's current thoughts.

With Joe Kennedy, the A's picked up the perfect fifth starter. With a rotation of Zito, Harden, Haren, Blanton, Kennedy and Saarloos shuttling between the rotation and bullpen, the A's have a legitimate strength over the other teams vying for the playoffs.

As for Witasick, I agree with Blez from The addition of the former A's reliever gives the impression that Beane is thinking as much about '05 as he is '06.

With Huston Street, Justin Duchscherer, Kiko Calero, Ricardo Rincon, and Witasick, the A's just may boast the best bullpen they've had since the late 80s with Dennis Eckersley, Rick Honeycutt, Gene Nelson, Todd Burns and Matt Young.


MrYosemite said...

Another great posting, again, it should be sent to the papers. It actually changed my opinion of Byrnes. I was one of the many that liked his hustle and attitude but as you've pointed out, he certainly isn't the sharpest tool in the shed.

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Anonymous said...

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