A recent stats report for the Byrnesblog shows that someone in Washington, D.C., using a Department of Justice computer, submitted the following query to Google: chase field gates open for WBC.
Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is the site of the games for Pool B of the WBC.
Search engines like Google and Yahoo give many overinclusive results. So, since I have written about the WBC, have included on the Byrnesblog a poem that has the line "waiting for gates to open," and I am sure I have used the word "field" a number of times in the 7 months I’ve had this blog, it showed up among the search results.
And it looks like Mr. or Ms. DoJ didn’t stay long, which makes sense. The information sought by the query is not on my blog. Since I think the WBC is still a BAD idea, I’m not keeping track of such details as the time the gates open. But I wondered about the query, in my typical cynical journalist fashion: Is the F.B.I. planning some operation in Phoenix, in connection with, or coincidental to, the WBC? With what other agencies might the F.B.I. be planning an op? Or do we just have a DoJ employee with enough money and time off to plan a trip to the WBC, who needs to know that gate opening time prior to making personal flight plans?
In my effort to not be overly political on this blog, I won’t get into what I think some of the possible answers might be. But I leave you to think up your own answers. In this day and age, little is far-fetched, including the possibility that some DoJ employees are baseball fans, just like the rest of us.
Patromerocal, one of my regular readers, posted to the Byrnesblog on Feb 22nd, "Now I’m waiting to see a picture of my favorite centerfielder in his new uni." To which I replied, "I will have a picture up as soon as I can find one!"
Turns out that the more precise answer would have been: "I will have a picture up as soon as I can find one that the copyright holder doesn’t want me to pay for."
Pictures of Byrnesie as a D’Back have been hard to find. Tuscon hosts three teams in the spring: the Diamondbacks, the 2005 World Champion White Sox, and the Colorado Rockies. And, of course, in early spring training, the emphasis is on pitchers and catchers. So, they keep the pro photogs busy. And since I’m in rainy Oakland pounding on my keyboard, not in sunny Tuscon with a digital camera in hand, there haven’t been many pix of Byrnesie. The two that I have found are from local papers that want to be paid for public display, even by someone like me who is not looking to resell them or otherwise charge for viewing them. (I have kept one of those for display on my home computer desktop. Byrnesie, like the rest of the D’Backs in early spring, is sporting the BP jersey).
Red Sox Chick has an array of spring training pix to display from the gallery on the Red Sox web site. But here it is, Feb 27, 2006, and the Diamondbacks gallery is still full of photos from 2005! C’mon, Diamondbacks, I like history as much as the next person, but can we join the current year here? And Owen Perkins wrote an enjoyable column titled, "Note: Byrnes Brings Energy to Desert" as a special to MLB.com, but the picture that accompanies it is a John Miller/AP photo of ALEX CINTRON! Huh?
Does this mean I have to look for an Alex Cintron article to find a picture of Eric Byrnes? Here’s a wild but not so crazy idea, MLB.com: let’s have pictures of Alex Cintron next to articles on Alex Cintron, and pictures of Eric Byrnes next to articles on Eric Byrnes.
If any fans visiting D’Backs spring training want to send me photos of Eric Byrnes to post here, please email them to email@example.com. I don’t have money to pay–If I had money, I would buy a digital camera and head to Tucson myself–but I will happily credit you with taking the photos; I will even list what type of camera you used, if you want to share that information.
In the meantime, MLB.com and AZ Diamondbacks, we fans are in that wonderful time of hope called spring, when we look FORWARD, not backward. Let’s see more 2006 pix, especially of my and patromerocal’s favorite centerfielder in his new uni!
I do not keep a list of "Things to Do this Lifetime," (which may explain how I "forgot" to have children). But if I were to keep such a list, I would now add to it a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, NY. That’s because I managed to see the bit of Cooperstown that came to Oakland, CA, in the form of the BASEBALL AS AMERICA Exhibition just a few days before this road show folded its tent on January 22, 2006.
I’m no museum maven; I can count on one hand the number of times I have been to museums in the quarter-century I’ve lived in the Bay Area, and still have fingers left over. But as I left the exhibition for work, I was sorry I caught it so late in its showing that I knew I would not have time to visit it again. Yet I probably saw it when my mind was most open to baseball’s past; by the time I went to the Oakland Museum of California, I’d watched my recently purchased video of Tommy Lee Jones’ gripping portrayal of the dying Ty Cobb several times, and I was about a third of the way through Billy Martin’s autobiography.
BASEBALL AS AMERICA, an exhibition of artifacts from Cooperstown, is billed as "[t]he first major exhibition to examine the relationship between the national pastime and American culture." The exhibition was organized according to cultural themes ranging from racial and ethnic discrimination, to baseball in entertainment and in the American lexicon, to "American ingenuity" in the development of baseball equipment. But I experienced the exhibition as more about the relationship between the national pastime and me, my interest in the game’s early history, and baseball in my time, in the places were I have lived, and the players and the teams for which I have rooted. Perhaps this is why it would have been great to see the exhibition a second time: after experiencing it on a personal level, I might have been able to experience it on the thematic level intended by the curators. It didn’t work out that way for me, but I would recommend that baseball fans see this exhibition at least twice.
BASEBALL AS AMERICA is on a four-year, ten-city tour, and people in each city have gotten or will get a slightly different experience because part of the exhibition is focused on local baseball. The exhibition will be in Detroit from March 11 through September 5, 2006. (Thanks to Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson for that detail). No doubt Detroit will get an extra measure of the exploits of Tiger greats such as Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, and Al Kaline. In Oakland, the entranceway to the exhibition was flanked by two homeplate views of an interleague game between the A’s and the Giants at the Coliseum. On the right, Eric Chavez was swinging at a Noah Lowry pitch in the bottom of the third with the A’s leading 3-1. On the left, Moises Alou was swinging at a Danny Haren pitch in the top of the fourth; the score was still 3-1. This set the stage for the part of the exhibition that was all A’s and Giants.
Here was where I learned that baseball first came to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1858, with the first clubs formed in San Francisco the following year. The Pacific Coast League (1903-1958), of which the Oakland Oaks and the San Francisco Seals were members, was known as the "Third Major League." (The Oaks moved to Vancouver BC after the 1955 season. The Seals disappeared when the PCL disbanded in 1958). The Bay Area has produced, either through birth or later residence in the area, quite a number of notable baseball players: Early 20th Century Red Sox Hall of Famer Harry Hooper, and other better-known names, Paul Waner, Frank Crosetti, Joe DiMaggio, Ernie Lombardi, Billy Martin, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Curt Flood, Willie Stargell, Joe Morgan, Glenn Burke (first openly non-straight player), Dave Stewart, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, Randy Johnson, Barry Bonds and Dontrelle Willis.
There was also this Louisiana product who made his name as a pitcher with the Oakland A’s while still too young to drink or vote and who also pitched for the San Francisco Giants later in his career. To get an idea of what it might have been like to face Vida Blue, all I had to do was to step into one of the batter’s boxes painted on the floor of the museum and stare up at the cutout of Blue in his A’s uniform (mid-leg kick) that was down the hall. Even in this static simulation, I could see what a tough task it was to pick up the ball from Vida’s delivery. (I didn’t realize how BIG batter’s boxes are until I stepped in. And now I really am convinced Eric Byrnes was standing too far away from the plate to reach those low and away strikes last year!)
I went back to those batters’ boxes another three times during my visit, and on a couple of those occasions, there was no one walking between me and the Vida cut-out. Sixty feet, six inches looked like a long ways away. Of course, in real life, the distance was quickly bridged by Vida’s fastballs.
As I showed up at the plate for the fourth time that day, an elderly couple was leaving. The woman told her husband, "No one is throwing a rock 95 miles an hour at me!" They must have thought there would be a pitching simulation. There wasn’t, but I wish there had been. I would have liked to have experienced facing a laser simulation of Vida’s fastball. Could I have even seen it?
I got a close-up look at the World’s Championship trophy won by the Oakland A’s in the 1989 "Earthquake" Series against the Giants. It was exciting to see it. I have never seen one close up before. It brought back memories. That World Series may have saved my life. In those days, I worked in the Marina district (though not near the fire everyone saw on TV) and drove home to Oakland via the Bay Bridge. The Oakland direction is the lower deck. But for my decision to work late and listen to the game in my office, I would have been on the bridge, and possibly quite near the collapsed eastern section, when the earthquake hit at 5:04 p.m. I also remember driving to the downtown Oakland business district, with a broom visible from my back windshield, after the A’s took Game 4.
In addition to the batter’s boxes, there were two other parts of the exhibition I would term "interactive." One let us handle bats modeled after those used by Babe Ruth, Rod Carew, Mark McGwire and Edd Roush, a contemporary of the Babe who played primarily for the Cincinnati Reds. I liked Carew’s bat, which, at 32 ounces, was the lightest of the four. I found it strange that McGwire’s bat seemed much heavier than Carew’s, even though it was only one ounce heavier and half an inch longer (34.5"). I did not actually handle the Roush and Ruth model bats, which I knew I would find too heavy. But I could see that the Sultan of Swat had a scepter befitting his stature and that Roush was probably telling the truth when he said he did not break a bat in his big league career. His thick-handled model could stand up to a fastball without breaking.
The other interactive part of the exhibition let us try four pitching grips: for a curve ball, a change up, a fastball and a knuckleball. Above each ball was a picture of the appropriate grip and a quote. Two of the quotes I noted down, finding them amusing. Charles W. Eliot, President of Harvard University from 1869 to 1909, said of the curve ball, "I understand that a curve ball is thrown with a deliberate attempt to deceive. Surely that is not an ability we should want to foster at Harvard." And as for the knuckleball, Charlie Lau said, "There are two theories on hitting a knuckleball. Unfortunately, neither of them works."
Catching a knuckleball is hardly easier. As I was taking a break from writing this article, I wandered over to the "Inside the White Sox" blog, where Scott Reifert, White Sox VP of Communications, is writing about spring training. He said, "Charlie Haeger is a knuckleball pitcher. Yesterday, Man Soo Lee tried to catch him as everyone stood, watched and laughed."
This was among several areas of the exhibition that were a humorous counterpoint to presentations about serious issues, including racial and ethnic discrimination, the marginalization of women, baseball in wartime, and the commercialization of the game.
"…sentiment no longer figures in the sport, it is now only a battle of dollars." No, you did not read that comment in your hometown newspaper this hot stove season. But maybe your great grandad read it. Cooperstown culled that quote from an editorial in the New York Evening Journal, October 1, 1908.
The BASEBALL AS AMERICA exhibition is quite comprehensive. There’s something in it for everyone, from people interested in baseball’s place in American culture, to baseball’s place in one’s local community, to baseball history, to the current game. I was less interested in Billy Martin’s cowboy boots and Berkeley High School letter jacket, Harry Caray’s eyeglasses, or Andy Warhol’s portrait of Tom Seaver than in things that were intimately connected with what goes on between the white lines: the evolution of catcher’s gear (which would have been the subject of my final project had I been able to stay in my video editing class), Ty Cobb’s spikes, Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander’s 1926 World Series ring, that 1989 Oakland A’s World’s Championship trophy, and the glove used by Brooks Robinson when he played the role of "Human Vacuum Cleaner" at third base in the 1970 Fall Classic. (His answer to my question about that glove is on his blog, Brooks Robinson’s Hot Corner).
If you can see BASEBALL AS AMERICA, do it. And whether you can or you can’t see this exhibition, put a trip to the Hall of Fame on your lifetime "To Do" List.
Today is February 22nd, reporting day for Arizona Diamondbacks position players! Of course, a number of them, including their new center fielder, Eric Byrnes, arrived early. <big toothy grin> Byrnesie was part of a group that showed up on Monday. (D’Backs’ pitchers and catchers reported on Feb. 17th).
Manager Bob Melvin likes the fact that a lot of his players reported early. He told MLB.com’s D’Backs beat reporter Steve Gilbert:
"I am really excited to see that these guys are out there working out themselves. I got fired up to see all these guys out there. It looked like a full squad workout out there. Guys are enthusiastic, getting to know each other even before we get out on the field Thursday."
Meanwhile, back in Oakland, daytime temps are getting back to what is normal for us in late February: low 60′s. But, oh, to be in Tucson, now that spring (training) is here!
It’s February 17th – Pitchers and Catchers Day in Tuscon for the Arizona Diamondbacks!
Position players report on Feb. 22nd. The first full workout is on the 23rd.
The first exhibition game is on March 2nd against the White Sox, who also train in Tuscon.
Oh, to be in Tuscon, now that winter’s here in the San Francisco Bay Area. We will have highs in the low 50′s today–that’s 10 degrees below average–with "pockety" showers that might have some snow mixed in, and some of that snow might stick in the higher elevations. I won’t have to worry about that in downtown Oakland, but BRRRRRR!!!!! If I want winter, I have the Olympics on TV. In California, we usually put our snow up in the mountains and say "Don’t call us. We’ll call you."
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ new center fielder is 30 today. He was born in Redwood City, CA, a suburb of San Francisco.
Byrnesie, may age 30 and the 2006 baseball season be everything you want them to be, PLUS a few pleasant surprises. (Life would be dull if everything were predictable, right?)
Someone asked me that question at the KPFA Arts and Crafts Fair on December 10th. (I was wearing my Byrnesblog jersey, so that’s how the subject came up). My first reaction was "Why NOT Eric Byrnes?" which made the questioner laugh and back down. As "My Friend, the Yankees Fan" has said, the choice of a favorite player is a very personal one. (Actually, I think that was her polite way of saying "There’s no accounting for taste" when she found out that my blog is partially dedicated to a player who is neither at the top of the statistical heap nor "drop-dead gorgeous").
When I started this blog, I subtitled it "because in a team sport, it’s not just the superstars that count." The ace doesn‘t pitch every game; the slugger isn’t up every time the team needs a hit. To wit: the 14th inning of Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. Geoff Blum, who had the least playing time of all the White Sox, made the difference. We also know that sometimes superstars go bust in the clutch. A-Rod and Vlad Guerrero are the most recent examples, but baseball history is as full of those stories as it is of tales of unheralded guys who rose to the occasion, or the regulars who did something special but unexpected. I mean Bill Mazeroski was a fine player, but did anyone really think of him as a homer threat when he went up to bat in the 9th inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series?
Still, that doesn’t per se answer the question "Why Eric Byrnes?" And neither does the Audrey Hepburn quote I used in my November 15th article "Why Does Eric Byrnes Matter?" That article was one of several I wrote in an attempt to come to terms with Byrnesie’s abysmal and aberrant 2005 season. My use of the Heburn quote
more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and
redeemed; never throw out anyone…"
was a cri de coeur born of my sense of what might happen, and actually did happen about 5 weeks later: the Orioles’ non-tender. But it really didn’t answer the question "Why Eric Byrnes?"
While I offered a more precise answer to the guy at the Crafts Fair, it has always struck me as odd that I could not really articulate well why I chose Byrnesie as my favorite player. It’s not that I didn’t know why, but I wasn’t as eloquent as I expected to be, words being my bread and butter. Then I read the answer to the question as stated by Tina Harris on her fan site EricByrnes.com and I knew immediately that she had succeeded where I had failed. She’s been watching him since his minor league days and has had the site for several years. You should visit. She’s also got great pictures of him. Tina said "It’s hard to put into words what a great guy and great ball player Eric is" but she was quite detailed in her fine explanation. I will only quote her summing paragraph here:
I made an Eric Byrnes web site because he’s a great ballplayer, exciting to watch, hard-working, has a positive attitude about pretty much everything, and is a great all-around guy. You’ve just got to respect a guy who plays all out, all the time and looks like he’s having a great time doing it. I also love the high socks.
I love the high socks, too. Reading what Tina wrote, with which I agree entirely, I was finally able to articulate what was so special to me about Eric Byrnes. In one sentence, it’s this: I trust Eric completely. I’m a journalist and that work, plus life experience in general, has made me very cynical. Trustworthiness is no small thing in a world full of politicians on the take, businesses that exploit workers and shaft consumers, athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs, and students who cheat on exams. I know when I watch Eric Byrnes that he’s always giving his best. One of my favorite Eric Byrnes moments is a game against the Cleveland Indians in 2005 when Indians starter C.C. Sabathia was throwing 97 mph aspirins. He pitched a three-hit shut out against the Baltimore Orioles that day. One of the three hits was an infield single by Eric Byrnes. It should have been a simple 6-3 ground out. But Jhonny Peralta non-chalanted the play and Eric, who never non-chalants anything, was safe at first. Byrnes doesn’t give up and he doesn’t give in…ever.
The passion and the joy with which Byrnesie plays baseball, on which Tina also elaborated, are the other major reasons "Why Eric Byrnes" for me. It would be a better world if we all could feel about our jobs the way he feels about his. How many of us are doing something we just fell into because we needed the money? How many of us are bored with what we are doing? How many of us are frustrated because what we are doing isn’t making the difference we want it to make, whether in our workplace, in our locality, or in the world at large? How many of us do give our best and get ridicule instead of respect? I’ve experienced all of those things. Perhaps you have as well.
Eric Byrnes is a lucky soul; he makes great money doing what he loves. But you can make great money, work in a creative field, be respected, be famous even, do something you think you were meant to do, rather than just something you fell into because of the way things were at the time, and still not be a happy camper. Look at the Hot Stove League season just concluded. While some guys, some way richer and more famous than Byrnes, were playing ego games, some of which backfired on them, Byrnesie was looking for the best place to play baseball. "More than anything coming into this season I just needed to find the best situation for me as far as playing baseball is concerned," he said, in an article by Steve Gilbert that appeared on MLB.com on December 30th, the day Byrnes signed with the Diamondbacks. "That’s what ultimately was the deciding factor more than money, more than location, more than anything else."
Byrnes has his head on straight, knows what his priorities are, and he’s not just a lucky soul, he’s a joyful one. I’m quite the serious type, all too serious at times. I’ve a seriousness that typically leads to burn-out rather than the seriousness of purpose that leads to even more work being created. I don’t enjoy enough of what I’ve accomplished. Byrnes appreciates where he is and what he’s done. I watch Byrnesie, turning 30 today and still struggling to be an everyday player; the guy who was standing on third as the potential tying run in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2003 ALDS—I was there—unable to score as two teammates took called third strikes; the guy struggling through abysmal and aberrant (and bewildering) 2005, and I know that even in the dark times, there’s this joy about him, this sense that he’s comfortable in his own skin, that makes watching him fun. So he’s a big life lesson to me.
And yes, there are the on-field tools. Let’s not forget those. At least five teams were interested in signing him this December, and not just because of the joyful attitude, the great work ethic, the willingness to try to improve, and the high-energy, although those qualities all factored in. Byrnes has performed well in the past and can do so again. As the Diamondbacks GM stated when Byrnes was signed: "I think he’s a player that can impact the game defensively and with the bat in his hand." I look forward to 2006 being the season no one asks me "Why Eric Byrnes?" because "Why" will be self-evident to all.
I don’t get very many comments to this blog. But most of the ones I get tell me a wonderful bit of news I already know, but never tire of hearing: Eric Byrnes has fans all over the country. Ppeople who root for teams other than the one on which Byrnes is playing, even people who would name someone else as their favorite player, are won over by Eric’s sunny personality and his all-out style of play.
It’s delightful to hear from these folks, so I have decided to aggregate the comments on one post so as to most conveniently share them with you. I will also include pro-Byrnes comments I find on other MLBlogs. May it be that by the end of the 2006 season, I will have as many pro-Byrnes comments as The Baseball Collector has baseballs, despite his huge head start. (My collection will be easier to store!) I’ll get started here and then update this entry from time to time. I have also gotten a few pro-Byrnes comments via email, but I consider the use of email rather than the blog to be a request for privacy. So I won’t repeat those comments here. But know that I’ve gotten them.
02.16.06 Here are a couple of updates to the original post:
01.09.06 In response to the post "Eric Byrnes: What once was good and could be again" Christel, author of the blog "It’s all in the Cards," wrote:
Byrnes: Glad we have him in the NL. I look for good things from him this year.
01.11.06 And in response to the same post, Dave, author of the blog "365 Days of Baseball," wrote:
I, too, am a fan of Mr. Eric Byrnes (thought for a few minutes there he was comin’ to Boston to replace Johnny D) and I’ll tell you why: he plays hard, gets the uni dirty, has no regard for the safety of outfield walls, and is scrappy hitter/baserunner.
Here’s what I’ve aggregated so far, starting with the most recent, which celebrate his signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Some will be edited for brevity:
01.01.06 In response to the post, "Happy New Year!", chadlebeauaz wrote:
Im a HUGE fan of Arizona and I think that they have made a great deal of improvement in signing "Byrnesie".
Eric Byrnes rocks!
On his own blog, on December 31, 2005, Evans wrote an article called "Snake Charmer", about the dealings of Arizona’s new GM Josh Byrnes (no relation to Eric). In that article, Evans said of Eric Byrnes:
Just today, word became official that Eric Byrnes (no relation) was signed to a one-year contract. This Byrnes is appropriately named—he is due for a few burns, and scrapes and bruises, as he plays all out in center field for the D-Backs this year. He hustles like no one since Pete Rose—and if you’ll pardon the pun, you can bet that you will see him diving into several Sportscenter highlight reels.
After the holiday, Hendry better get busy with the non-tendered list, Eric Byrnes in particular.
12.07.05 In response to the post, "An Eric Byrnes Quote About Steroids," Ben of Wooster, Ohio wrote:
Hey! Just thought I’d tell you that I got Eric’s autograph at an Orioles/Indians game at the Jake last year. That’s pretty cool!
11.19.05 In response to the post, "Stats – The Ups and Downs of Eric Byrnes", 10danielg of Maine wrote:
eric byrnes is a really cool guy! id like to see him in boston, personally.
11.17.05 In response to the post "Eric Byrnes – Making Sense of 2005", patromerocal wrote:
Kéllia, thank you for taking the time to address this topic. I too am a fan of Byrnes. He brought me back to the game of baseball after many, many years of being away from it with his joyful manner of playing the game. I hate to see the game give up on him before he has the chance to show that he can make the adjustments needed to continue playing sucessfully for many more years to come.
10.27.05 In response to the post "Chicago White Sox –You are the World’s Champions!" Rorie, a big White Sox fan, wrote:
I too, will cheer on Eric Byrnes next year wherever he is playing.
10.08.05 In response to the post "Congrats to the White Sox," Rorie wrote:
As for Eric Byrnes…I really admire how hard he plays. The game that really comes to mind this season was when he was traded to Baltimore and played in his first game there. He plays so hard – the way the game should be played. I remember thinking…"The Baltimore fans must be pretty happy with this trade." I hope to see him play for many more seasons.
10.04.05 In response to the post, "To Eric Byrnes", Susan of Sacramento, CA wrote:
I just read your letter to Eric Byrnes and my gosh! It was amazing. The letter brought tears to my eyes. As a diehard Eric Byrnes fan, I was so mad when the A’s shipped him out. Luckily, here in Sacramento he makes a weekly appearance on a local sports talk show. Also, it helps to have Extra Innings so I was still able to see my Byrnesy. I hope he finds a home somewhere where his spirit and talent are appreciated. [I]f a GM out there is smart they will take Eric.
Photo of Eric Byrnes by Cyn "Red Sox Chick" Donnelly, taken at Fenway Park in September 2005.
Go Byrnesie! (And Byrnes fans, please keep the comments coming my way!)
Here are a few of my opinions on the Hot Stove League season:
MOST IMPROVED: The Toronto Blue Jays, with their acquisitions of starter A.J. Burnett, closer B.J. Ryan and first baseman Lyle Overbay, and the New York Mets, with their acquisitions of closer Billy Wagner and first baseman Carlos Delgado, have shown that they are serious about contending for the division titles and beyond in 2006. I fully expect the Blue Jays to make a three-way race out of the tough AL East and the Mets to end the Atlanta Braves NL East winning streak at 14. Sorry Braves fans, but your team bores me. Sure they have topped the NL Eastern Division for 14 years…but then what?
HEAD SCRATCHERS: The Oakland Athletics’ acquisition of Milton Bradley and the Mets’ acquisition of Jorge Julio. Why do these teams want these head cases?
SIGH OF RELIEF: (Or should I say sigh of starting?) The Oakland A’s did NOT trade ace lefty Barry Zito. There was a little talk of it over the winter, but no deal. Of course, he may still be gone before the 2006 season is over, especially if the A’s, contenders for the AL West crown, stumble this year. Zito is a free agent after 2006 and Moneyball philosophy suggests the FO will want to get some value for him rather than just let him go, like they did Miggy Tejada after 2003. Of course, they could re-sign him to a nice multi-year deal, 4 years would be about right for Zito, who turns 28 on May 13th. But the A’s have a lot of even younger pitchers and are always crying poverty so they an get a new stadium. Don’t let last year’s 14-13 record fool you; Zito’s better than that, but a pitcher needs run support to get W’s and he didn’t get much the first half of last year.
MOST DRAMA: The Boston Red Sox, who else? First their GM quits and leaves his office on Halloween in a gorilla suit. Then ten weeks later he comes back. In between, the team does Winter Meetings by committee and their centerfielder/lead off hitter signs with the one team in MLB Bostonians don’t want him to sign with, the hated New York Yankees. And then the self-proclaimed "Idiot" shows that this title is justified by his trying to make nice with the Boston fans, even to the point of taking out a rather late full-page newspaper and thanking them. Red Sox Nation understands the business side of the game as well as anyone and would have understood Damon’s signing for more money anywhere else but the Yankees. A little respect for tradition on Damon’s part would tell him not to go to he NYY directly from Boston.
Replacing Damon was a bit more dramatic than perhaps a lot of people on and off Yawkey Way would have wanted. What was it going to take to pry CoCo Crisp from Cleveland, especially after Guillermo Mota flunked his physical? Boston finally got Crisp who, it appears, will still have Manny Ramirez playing next to him in left. Manny seemed more earnest than usual about wanting out of Boston, even to the point of David Ortiz saying Man-child would not be back, and Damon using the potential departure of Ramirez as one of his excuses for leaving Boston. There was even some talk about a Manny Ramirez-for-Miggy Tejada swap with Baltimore, after Miggy supposedly expressed a desire to leave Crabcake City. That move would have made sense for Tejada, who would have gone to a contender. But it made no sense for Ramirez, who claimed to have wanted a trade to the West Coast. And speaking of the West Coast, the next bit of drama for the Red Sox may be whether or not they can trade pitcher David Wells, who would like to finish his career on the West Coast, preferably in San Diego. And let’s not forget that Boston is in the hunt to be the final landing pad for Rocket Roger Clemens, who is tied with Cy Young for most wins in a Red Sox uniform.
ERIC BYRNES: The Orioles non-tendered Byrnesie the day after signing up outfielder David Newhan, who had an even worse 2005. Go figure. The news certainly made an already rainy Winter Solstice a dark day for me, but four days later I was told "lots of teams" were interested in Eric. Before Old Man 2005 faded into history, Byrnesie inked a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks and I placed an order for an authentic Diamondbacks road cap. Eric Byrnes had choices and he picked what he thought was the best baseball situation for himself. This means a return to center field, where the speedy Byrnes will have the right-of-way to run down every ball he can, and the home season in what is considered to be a hitter’s park. He has the potential to replace the offense the Snakes lost when they traded Troy Glaus (37 HRs and 97 RBI) for Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson. And if the D’Backs are willing to play "small ball," Byrnesie can swipe some bags, too. I’m really looking forward to Byrnes having a career year (and the D’Backs making the playoffs) in 2006!
The typical signs of the seasons get a little confused in the San Francisco Bay Area. Late last December, one of the KPFA news anchors noticed that a tree outside the station was growing buds while still hanging on to some of last summer’s leaves. I have seen robins in January. And by the end of that month, the wood sorrel starts blooming. The kind we have here has flowers as yellow as any Easter chick. We have some trees in full bloom by Valentine’s day, while other species are totally bare.
We were enjoying low 70’s while the North East was getting socked in by snow. But over the last two days, a cold wind has blown in and knocked our regional temps down 20 degrees. The weather forecasters are talking about 20’s in some places in the Bay Area tonight, with snow as low as 2,000 ft. when it starts to rain (again!) on Friday. That means some folks who live up in the hills might get a dusting.
But here’s one sure sign of spring: Baseball caps are popping up like wood sorrel. There are always some A’s caps around, and once in a while you see Yankees’ and Giants’ caps in the East Bay in the dead of win–, uh, I mean, in the middle of Hot Stove League season. But there have been more of those Giants caps turning up in the last couple of weeks.
I’ve been wearing my Arizona Diamondbacks road cap around Oakland and Berkeley since early January. Now, as pitchers and catchers start reporting to spring training, I’m being joined by others sporting foreign hats and other paraphernalia as well. Recently, I’ve seen caps representing the Dodgers, Padres, Mariners, Twins and Tigers, a Boston Red Sox No. 21 home jersey, a Mets warm-up jacket, and a Cubs backpack.
Before we know it, it will be time for the regular season. Smart A’s fans going to the Coliseum for Opening Night will bring blankets as if they were prepping for a football game. April really is too early for night games. But that’s getting ahead of myself. Right now, it’s just great to see all the baseball caps with actual baseball logos instead of the names of colleges, businesses or bands. We are all 0-0 and everybody is full of hope, even as we turn up our collars against the wind, or dig out from under the snow.