A regular reader of the Byrnesblog emailed us to say that Byrnesie did an interview with Bay Area sports reporting legend Gary Radnich on Thanksgiving Friday
CORRECTION: I’ve been told that Eric subbed for Radnich. That is the second time that he’s done it. This requires him to hold forth for 3 hours by himself (other than whatever interview guests he can line up). No problem, as he loves to talk, and is willing to prepare the stats so he can speak intelligently. Anyway…
and that Eric said two big things:
1) He and long-time girlfriend Tara are now engaged. (Congrats!)
2) He thinks it’s now in his best interests to sign only a one-year deal with the Diamondbacks. (We couldn’t agree more!)
Byrnesie has expressed interest in an multi-year deal with the Snakes. But they have waffled on the idea. Given that the contracts signed by Soriano and Lee raise the market for everyone, and given that Byrnesie clearly wants to be an everyday player, it does not make sense for him to tie himself down to a team that would relegate him to the bench in 2008, assuming they even wanted him.
News of his engagement, (see Item 1 above), and desire for a multiyear deal, are further indications that Byrnesie is looking for more stability in his life. But there is a difference between settling down and settling for. We are glad to see he recognizes the difference.
Now, if the Giants would just forget about Bonds and Ramirez and bring Eric home for an outfield of Byrnes, Roberts (rumored to be signing with SF soon) and Winn, …
I have just released my poetry book, "Near the Ragged Edge of Earth." For the astrologically inclined, the release data are November 25, 2006, 9:10 pm PST in Oakland, CA. My data are July 31, 1955, 9:15 am EDT in Manhattan, NY.
I went the online, self-publication route, but you will find that "Near the Ragged Edge of Earth" has the things you would expect to see in a book bought at your favorite brick and mortar shop, such as an introduction, a foreword, even an ISBN number. This 178-page paperback, which is available through my online store, contains three baseball poems that have been on the Byrnesblog since its early days: Down the Left Field Line, Home, and Young Girls with Gloves.
I’ve written a lot of poetry but it wasn’t until soon after writing Down the Left Field Line that I decided it was time to get serious about publishing a book. That was over a year ago. The process is not an easy one, and book design issues have held up the release, which was originally scheduled for June 10. But, at last, here it is.
The three baseball poems are all there are for sports in this book. As I stated in the store description, "Near the Ragged Edge of Earth" is an example of what happens when a socially-conscious investigative reporter turns her hand to verse.
Here’s an excerpt from the Foreword, by Susan Stone, former Director of the Arts and Humanities (now Arts, Humanities and Public Affairs) Department at KPFA:
Kéllia Ramares finds her voice as a radio and print reporter and public affairs journalist in progressive media, and as a poet writing from the front lines of deeply felt personal experiences. Her poems move from inside out: intimate musings on daily life interwoven with chronicles of political action and insight. Even seemingly commonplace topics –-baseball, housecleaning, answering machines–take on unexpected configurations in startling haikus, searing verse.
But this collection is not just a record of one woman’s experience; it’s also a plea, a rant, a protest against public complacency. The impress of social justice upon both her life and poetic imagination gives her writings their pulse, and urgency. She believes that something must be said about so much, and in doing so here, in the poems you hold in your hand, she reveals a clear eye and an indomitable spirit.
"Near the Ragged Edge of Earth" is dedicated to two people. One is a political activist in Oakland. The other is a baseball player. If you have to ask who the baseball player is, you just haven’t been paying attention.
The cover design, by Bev Conover, is based on photos taken by fine art photographer Katherine Westerhout. Now that the book is out, I have added to this blog an album of some of the other photos we took that day. They were taken on May 3, 2006 at the Sutro Bath Ruins in San Francisco, right along the shore of the Pacific Ocean. We call the group showing me climbing out of a ruin "The Whale Sequence" because Katherine thought that this particular ruin looked like the carcass of a beached whale.
(Poor Byrnesie! Someone blogs about him on MLB.com and it’s not some young hottie, it’s only me. What can I say, EB? It be’s that way sometimes. And that’s "La Verdad").
Aside to Mark Newman: Now you can add me to the MLBlogosphere Book Authors list!
Kéllia "Publishing a poetry book can now be crossed off my lifetime ‘To Do’ List" Ramares
The Prince of New York has just written a fine analysis of the San Francisco Giants, as part of his series on each of the 30 MLB teams. In his essay, the Prince said:
The Giants as currently constructed (again, with or without Bonds) are going to lose close to 100 games with little hope of immediate improvement. They haven’t been prominently mentioned as avidly pursuing the free agent pitching available; they’ve apparently severed ties with their own star free agent pitcher Jason Schmidt; and they were publicly rebuffed by Matthews Jr. in favor of the Angels. Things do not look promising right now.
The Giants have been openly ambivalent about Bonds’s return to chase Henry Aaron’s home run record. If the trend continues as it has for the Giants, they will have little choice but to bring Bonds back for his assault on the record because as of right now, it appears that a home run record is the only thing the Giants will have to attract fans to the ballpark; because this team with this roster is going to collapse into last place and stay there for a long time.
The Giants can start to turn things around, and bring some excitement to the fans, by making an astute trade this off-season: The Giants can (and should) bring Eric Byrnes home.
The only reason the Giants should not go after Byrnes now is if they decide to keep Bonds another year AND new manager Bruce Bochy can persuade Dave Roberts to follow him from San Diego to San Francisco. Then they should wait for the 2008 season, when, if Byrnes’ head rules his heart, he’ll be a free agent. But if Roberts turns the Giants down or if Bonds does not re-sign/is not re-signed, they should get Byrnes ASAP.
Getting the Bay Area native would be advantageous for a rebuilding Giants team:
Youth: Byrnesie will turn 31 in mid-February, just as Spring Training 2007 begins. If that sounds old to you for a team that needs to get younger, consider last year’s Giants outfield: Steve Finley, whose option was refused by the Giants, will turn 42 in March ’07. The Giants let Moises Alou sign with the Mets. Alou will turn 41 in July ’07. Later that month, Barry Bonds, whom the Giants are not sure of re-signing, will turn 43, and he’s had three knee operations. Byrnes is even younger than Randy Winn, who turns 33 in June ’07. And DLTFL notes that Byrnes is a young 31, i.e. he hasn’t been worn out by making 150 + starts for the last 8-10 years, and he hasn’t required surgery or otherwise been on the DL.
Experience: Although Byrnes represents a significant youth movement compared with last year’s Giants outfield, he has valuable experience, including now a year in the Giants own division. He even has had experience in the Ballpark by the Bay, not only with the Diamondbacks, but during his years with the Oakland Athletics, when he played the pre-season Bay Bridge Series and in interleague games during the regular season. So he not only knows how the game is played, he knows how it’s played in the Ballpark by the Bay. Also, he’s been to the playoffs, so he knows about winning.
Versatility: Byrnes can play all three outfield positions (and he did so in Arizona in 2006). He prefers center, which is where he was most of the year with the D’Backs. But he has significant experience in left, and thus can be Barry Bonds’ successor there, either in 2007, if the Giants decide not to re-sign Bonds, thus putting money they would save into filling other holes, or in 2008, by which time Bonds should hang up his spikes.
Speed and Aggressiveness: Byrnes can cover a lot of ground in the outfield and knows how to dive into the gap or crash into the wall without ending up on the operating table. He stole 25 bases last year, (and 17 in 2004, with Oakland, a team that didn’t like to run). He’s not in the Jose Reyes (64) / Juan Pierre (58) class when it comes to absolute numbers of bases stolen. But he’s a smart baserunner with a very high success rate when he does take off. Last year, Reyes was 64/81 (.790) and Pierre was 58/78 (.744). Byrnesie was 25/28. That’s .892. (Dave Roberts was 49/55. That’s .891. The Giants would do well to have both these guys!)
Pop in the Bat: OK, he’s not Mo Alou, but few guys are. Still, Byrnes hit 26 homers last year, making him the HR leader for the D’Backs. That same total would have tied him with Bonds and Durham for the team lead on the Giants last year. (Byrnes hit 20 HRs in ’04). He had 66 XBH in ’06; his XBH/H for ’06 was .440. He’s always been good for a high percentage of XBH. Even in abysmal, aberrant ’05, when he got only 93 hits, his XBH/H was .398. (10 HRs, 24 DBs, 3 TRs).
Personality and Fan Base: Anyone succeeding Barry Bonds in left will have a hard row to hoe. Despite the steroids controversy, and his reputation for having a surly personality, Bonds is still popular in San Francisco. Byrnes can handle the psychological aspects of being San Francisco’s next left fielder. In Arizona, he is expected to succeed to (and succeed in) the job held by another, more generally likeable, left fielder/face of the franchise: Luis Gonzalez. Byrnes has already displayed in Arizona the graciousness needed to deal with such a situation. Moreover, he has a built-in fan base from his not-so-long-ago days in Oakland, and he is well-known to Bay Area fans who have been watching or listening to him on sports talk programs since his days with the Triple A Sacramento RiverCats. Eric Byrnes can draw more people to the park than would a call-up from the minors or a lower-tier free agent with no Bay Area connections.
Desire to Play for the Giants: He has publicly stated that he would love to play for them. The Giants are Byrnesie’s hometown team. As a kid, he and his friends sat in the bleachers at Candlestick. He wears 22 in honor of Will "the Thrill" Clark. At a time when the Giants are going through a big transition and may be down for two or three years while they complete the change, Eric Byrnes can be trusted to be "all out-all the time" for the orange and black. That’s his modus operandi wherever he is anyway, but DTLFL imagines that he would be especially charged up to live out the dream many men have had: to play for the team he rooted for as a kid.
Eric Byrnes is looking for three things that the Giants should be able and willing to provide:
Opportunity: Byrnes wants to be an everyday player and indeed his two best years, 2004 and 2006, were also the two years in which he appeared in the most games, 143 a piece. Note that these are appearances, not STARTS. DTLFL thinks Byrnes would love to start 150+ games and that he has a shot at 30/30 if he can be given that opportunity.
Stability: Byrnes, who has now played for 4 teams in 12 months, would like to settle down to a multi-year deal, and we think he’s earned it. A five-year deal would take him through age 35. He likes the Diamondbacks, in part because of their Bay Area connections in the front office and on the field, but the D’backs will be hard pressed to offer him anything beyond 2007, and if they do, he will likely end up being a part-timer in 2008 and beyond. That is a waste.
Respect: Repect can be expressed partially in the length of and money in a contract, but it is also expressed in how a player is treated on the field. When Byrnes signed with the Diamondbacks and several times since then, including during a radio show on KNBR shortly after the World Series, he described the D’Backs as a team that had half the confidence in him that he had in himself. This was actually praise. The Houston Astros drafted him, but he went back to college after they gave him a lowball offer. He never played as much as he wanted with the Oakland Athletics. And even the Diamondbacks, or at least their manager, Bob Melvin, didn’t have the faith in him that they should have had. Examples: after going 3-5 Opening Day, he did not get the start for Game 2, even though he signed with them to be the everyday CF. After wreaking havoc on the Mets at Shea, he was barely seen when the Mets played in Phoenix. Had Jeff DaVanon not sustained a season-ending injury on August 5, Byrnes would not have appeared in as many games in ’06 as he did in ’04.
DTLFL would like to see Eric Byrnes with a team that has AS MUCH confidence in him as he has in himself. We want to see him with a team that will not platoon him. (We really hated seeing Jeff DaVanon’s April ’06 hot streak accommodated largely through benching Byrnes while both Gonzalez and Shawn Green were batting below or near the Mendoza line!)
If the Giants can give him a multi-year deal at fair money (which would be significantly less than what they would have to pay Bonds), and with the sense that he is their guy for X years, and not just a placeholder ’til they can get whom they really want, DTLFL thinks Byrnes will be a very positive addition to the team. With the sense of security that would come from those conditions, he would not feel the urge to over-try and end up doing badly as a result. (This is what DTLFL saw in Baltimore. Former big-league manager and part-time Orioles announcer, Buck Martinez, said in 2005 that Byrnes looked like he was trying to squeeze sawdust out of the bat handle and that this was not good because a hitter needs to relax. But how could Byrnes relax when he ended up playing for 4 managers, 3 teams and 2 leagues in the course of a month?) Even now, though he did well in Arizona, the Diamondbacks are not exactly tripping over themselves to give him the stability he craves.
After 324 runs scored, it’s time Eric Byrnes finally reached home.
Friday, November 24th, 6:30 – 7:00 pm. Pacific Time. KPFA 94.1 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area, 88.1 KFCF Fresno (Central Valley) and online at KPFA.org. It will also be archived on KPFA.org as part of the Evening News hour for that date.
"Eating Fossil Fuels" is my interview with Dale Allen Pfeiffer, about the unsustainability of industrial agriculture and the need for agrarian reform.
Kellia "Sorry it’s not Hot Stove talk, but check it out anyway" Ramares
This seems like an upset to those to were rooting for Derek Jeter of the Yankees or David Ortiz of the Red Sox. And for people who don’t especially follow the Twins, like us, but who know of the exploits of Cy Young Award winner, Johan Santana, or AL batting champ, Joe Mauer, Morneau seems to be strange pick.
But Twins fan John Nemo, author of The King’s Game and the eponymous MLBlog explained it well:
Morneau not the best player on his own team? With all due respect to Torii Hunter & Joe Mauer, Morneau WAS the Twins offense for most of 2006. Jeter apologists: Consider he plays on a team loaded with superstar talent, where 30-home run hitters and 100 RBI guys are basically in every slot – Giambi, A-Rod, Matsui, Abreu, etc. Morneau did it BY HIMSELF this year – literally carried the Minnesota Twins on his back from June 8 through the end of the season. Numerous articles – including the MVP one – point this out, that Morneau basically led MLB in several critical offensive categories – batting average, RBI, etc. – from June 8 on, and, funny, that’s EXACTLY when the Twins turned around their season, caught fire and went from dead and buried to division champs.
Sounds like an MVP to us. Morneau, who is the Twins first baseman, says he loves Minnesota and would like to play his whole career there. He’s only 25. If Soriano can get an 8-year deal, it would behoove the Twins to give Morneau 10.
Free agent Moises Alou, 40, has signed on with the New York Mets to play left field and bat behind David Wright. It’s a one-year deal worth $8.5 million, with a club option for $7.5 million for 2008.
Frankly, we’re surprised. We thought that Alou, most recently with the San Francisco Giants, would retire.
In 2006, Alou achieved three milestones: 300 homers, 400 doubles and 2,000 hits. But he suffered leg injuries that for the second year in a row limited his playing time and his ability to protect Barry Bonds. There was no doubt that when Alou could play, he was effective at the plate, but in 2006 he couldn’t stay in the lineup long enough to really make a difference over the course of the season. He was limited to 98 games and 345 ABs in 2006; leg injuries in 2005 limited him to 123 games and 427 ABs.
With his father, Felipe, not re-signed to manage the Giants, and with the younger Alou claiming that he wanted to spend more time with his own kids, we thought he would hang’em up. But he didn’t.
A full season should allow Mo to eclipse his father’s hit total; Felipe ended his career with with just over 2,100 hits. But we think the lure of the post-season is what is bringing Moises Alou to Shea, despite age, injuries and growing kids.
A 6-time All-Star, Mo won a championship ring with the 1997 Marlins, batting .321 with 3 homers and 9 RBI in that Series. He made other post-season appearances with the Astros and Cubs. If the Mets can solve their pitching problems, they have to be favored to be playing in October again.
Good health and good luck, Mo!
One of your big fans in the Bay Area sent me this a few days ago:
Outfielder Eric Byrnes, who is arbitration-eligible, expressed his displeasure Tuesday about not having received an offer for a multiyear extension to remain with the Diamondbacks.
"I’m not sure it’s in the plans," said Eric Byrnes, who led the team with 26 home runs and 25 stolen bases in 2006. "The only thing I’ve heard has to do with a one-year deal, and you know as well as I that if it’s one year and we’re not in the pennant race by August, then I’m not going to be here. I’ll be trade bait.
"But I want to be here and I want to be part of the building process for at least the next three years. Don’t get me wrong, if I have to sign a one-year deal, I’ll play my (expletive) off for them. But hey, I’m not looking to break any banks here. I’m just looking for a fair deal. Hopefully, we can work something out, but the whole thing is up in the air."
Told of Eric Byrnes’ feelings, Josh Byrnes said a multiyear deal isn’t out of the question.
"It’s possible," he said. "But in everything we do, we’re very careful about going long on deals. It has to make perfect sense for it to work."
We know you are not looking to break the bank, Byrnesie, but with everyone figuring that you should be able to get 3.5 to 4 million for next year through arbitration, chances are that keeping you past 2007 doesn’t make "perfect sense" to the D’Backs. Would you pay $4million for a product you weren’t going to use very much after a year?
The bottom line is that the Diamondbacks don’t have a place for you in their long-range plans; they never did. If they kept you after 2007, it would only be as a part-timer. They don’t want to spend what they would fairly have to spend on you for three years if they consider you, at best, only a part-time player. After all, you are a right-handed outfielder, less coveted than, say, a lefty specialist relief pitcher.
Every nation has its myths, and the cruelest myth in the United States is the one that this nation is a meritocracy, that those who achieve will be rewarded. And you certainly achieved this year. You were the team leader in homers and stolen bases (both in terms of absolute number and success rate), one of only three major leaguers to collect at least 25 homers and 25 stolen bases in 2006. You also led the team in slugging percentage (400 or more ABs) and total bases. And you were among the top three in RBI and doubles. You struck out only 88 times compared to 111 times in 2004, which had previously been considered your career year. In the field, you were charged with only 1 error in 303 total chances. (At that rate, you might have gotten some serious Gold Glove consideration if you had had more total chances. Of the 6 Gold Glove outfielders in MLB in 2006, the one with the fewest TCs was American Leaguer Vernon Wells with 340. The National League Gold Glover with the fewest TCs was Carlos Beltran with 372).
Your good year will entitle you to a raise, either through negotiation or arbitration. And raises carry their own risks. In baseball and in other fields, we are urged to achieve and to collect more money as a result, only to be later deemed too expensive for the present or the future because of the rewards we have earned in the past. But even if money were no object, and it is an object to a small market team like the D’Backs, they would still be reluctant to give you the reward you really crave, a multi-year deal, because you are not part of "The Plan."
Indicating your desire to stay, showing your ability to contribute, the manager saying you have fit in, and even your popularity with the paying customers will not make you part of "The Plan." This is where the myth of meritocracy fails you; you are not going to get what you want and what you think you have earned. Your playing well will not make you part of "The Plan"; it only makes you more attractive as trade bait.
Doing well is not enough in this world. You also have to fit into "The Plan." If doing well were enough, who you know and how you look wouldn’t matter. There would be no such things as racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia or any of the other multitudinous forms of discrimination that keep qualified people away from the recognition, jobs and money their talents deserve. It’s like that in many fields, and baseball is certainly no exception.
Every team has its "Plan," both for next season and further into the future. Those plans vary from team to team. If they were all alike, and all based purely on accomplishments, all the teams would have competed for Alfonso Soriano. But they did not.
Fitting into a team’s "Plan" does not only mean fitting in as contributor and as a personality on the team. It also means fitting into the schedule and budget of the front office. And even though you aren’t out to break the bank, you don’t fit into the D’Backs "Plan" "for at least the next three years."
The Diamondbacks’ "Plan":
I am convinced that the D’Backs are pointing to 2009 for a serious bid to go deep into the playoffs, and they are building the team now for then. If they were serious about a playoff run in 2007, they would not have let Miguel Batista walk into free agency. Here is a guy who ate over 200 innings and who ended up with a winning record despite all the no-decisions. At a time when MLB is pitching-thin, a small market team that needs pitching and just doesn’t have the bucks to throw at someone like Barry Zito doesn’t let go of a guy like Batista if they are thinking about the playoffs next year. But if they are thinking about the playoffs in 2009, by which time Batista will be 38 and making something well north of the $4.75 million he made in 2006, they don’t try to keep him now.
Sure, Arizona put in a bid for the rights to D-Mat. But that bid was just show for the benefit of some stupid people. There was no way that a small-market team could win that bid.
Of course, I could be wrong about the D’Backs not looking to make a run at the playoffs in 2007. But it would take a big move for them to disabuse me of the notion that they are building for 2009. A move like making the Marlins the offer they can’t refuse: Chris Young for Dontrelle Willis. The Marlins need a centerfielder, but they are not going to let go of their ace for just anybody. Chris is a year younger than D-Train, and as a rookie, he’s hella cheaper than the $4.35 million Willis made in 2006, a matter of no small import to the lowest budget team in MLB. Moreover, Young is projected to be a star, and thus a worthy tradeoff for Willis. But the D’Backs are not going to make that offer because "The Plan" is for an outfield of Young in LF, Justin Upton in CF and Carlos Quentin in RF. They are expecting Upton, who they think is the next Ken Griffey, Jr., to make the big club in 2008, which is why they are only talking about a one-year deal for you. They’ve got some time to find the pitchers for 2009.
You have talked about how so much is not under your control. That’s true. But the one thing you can control is what happens to you in 2008. However, the only way you can do that is by signing a one-year deal with the D’Backs, having another season similar to or better than 2006—what I see as the key to that will be the subject of a subsequent post—and be prepared psychologically for the possibility that you will be traded come August.
And that is actually not a bad thing, as Shawn Green can tell you. Teams looking to add a player in August, especially a player who will be a free agent at the end of the season, are teams making their final charge for the playoffs. You haven’t been in the post-season since 2003. It’s time you had the opportunity to go back.
I know you would like to stay put. The Diamondbacks were your fourth team in a 12-month period. Ball teams are like military units, they are supposed to bond. The day Cory Lidle died, you interviewed Barry Zito on The Best **** Sports Show Period and said "Z., we lost a brother today." You and Zito last played with Lidle in 2002, but he was still a brother. So all that shifting around has got to be very hard, and no doubt was a contributing factor, perhaps the most significant contributing factor, to 2005 being so abysmal for you. But you are going to have to move again if you want your career to thrive. Arizona is not home.
You and the D’Backs made a marriage of convenience for 2006. They needed a placeholder in CF while Chris Young seasoned in Triple A. You needed an opportunity to show MLB that the aberration was 2005 not 2004, and you wanted the opportunity to play CF. Both sides got what they wanted. Now Chris Young has arrived and Justin Upton is coming, not as the shortstop he was when they drafted him, but as the center fielder to which they converted him, even though they already had Chris Young in Triple A. What do they do with Chris Young when Upton is MLB ready? As I said before, I think they move him to LF. And before they make that move permanent, they will need to get him some experience. At whose expense will Young’s experience in LF come?
So far, it has been your fate in MLB to be the guy a team used until they could get whom they really wanted. In Oakland, they wanted Kotsay as early as 2000, and they wanted Jay Payton when he signed instead with the Padres. You had a fine year in 2004, yet all we heard about during the off-season was trade talk about you. Once they got Kotsay signed to an extension and Payton was DFA’d by Boston in 2005, the talk became action.
We are seeing it again now. Arizona wanted you because Chris Young wasn’t ready. It’s convenient to keep you another year because Justin Upton isn’t ready. You did well enough that they could let go of Gonzo, put you in left for 2007 and, even by bumping you up to $4 million from $2.25 million, they will save 60% over what it would have cost them to pick up Gonzo’s option. Imagine what they will save in 2008 when Young bumps you out of a job again, to make room for Upton in center?
I think you had the opportunity to have as fine a year as you did in part because two of your teammates suffered misfortunes. Scott Hairston seriously injured himself during his MLB debut in June, and Jeff DaVanon suffered a season-ending injury in August. I think the D’Backs decided in June that they were not going to bring Gonzo back even if he offered to return for something significantly less than the $10 million option everyone figured would probably not be picked up. They wanted to see if Hairston could be the left fielder in 2007. Hairston is 4 years younger than you are and with only two years of MLB experience, he’s a long way from free agency. I will bet the F.O. saw you as quite expendable then. After a fabulous May, you had a lousy June, like the rest of the team. I still shudder to think about the night in late June when you went 0-6 with 4 punch-outs and 2 missed diving catches, the second of which resulted in a bloody nose. CRINGE! And you have the habit of having a big drop in OPS after the All-Star Break. So big, in fact, you got mentioned in a July edition of Sports Illustrated for it.
Yet by the end of July, you and Chad Tracy were running neck and neck for the team’s homer lead. But you had bageled in your previous appearance against Clemens, and even though a lot of guys have had o’fers against the Rocket over the years, it was all Melvin needed to get DaVanon back in there that fateful August 5 when he split a tendon trying to steal in the first inning. Melvin likes Jeff DaVanon’s ability to bat left-handed and his greater willingness to work the walk than you. Early in the season, in response to a fan query about DaVanon getting so much playing time when you had signed on to be the everyday centerfielder, Melvin said:
[DaVanon]‘s a very good on-base percentage guy, makes the pitchers work and was probably one of the biggest surprises for us. He definitely profiles to be the type of hitter that we’re looking for here." [My emphasis. The word "profiles" means Melvin was playing DaVanon instead of you, despite his weak throwing shoulder, for reasons beyond accommodating his hot streak].
I think that if Hairston had not been injured and had been gang-busters instead, and if DaVanon had not been injured, you would not have had the opportunity to reach 26/25. You were on the verge of not appearing in as many games as you did in 2004 when DaVanon got injured. You ended up appearing in the same number of games as you did in ’04, but with 7 fewer ABs, even though you played the entireties of 3 long games (13, 18 and 15 innings respectively), and you walked 12 fewer times in ’06. With pure lefties Gonzalez and Green no longer available, I expect Bob Melvin to make as much use of DaVanon as he can in ’07, assuming a full rehab, of course. And I expect that Jeff’s time will come out of your hide mostly, not Chris Young’s or Carlos Quentin’s. He’ll sub for them on occasion because Melvin has shown a propensity for nursing his rookies. DaVanon is billed as someone who can play all three outfield positions. But I’m figuring that most of the time when DaVanon’s in the lineup, we will see Young moved to left, which is where he is headed anyway once Upton arrives, so that DaVanon can play center and Quentin, who has a stronger arm than DaVanon, can stay in right.
If DaVanon has another hot spring, you can bet that you will be sacrificed in the desire to accommodate that hot streak, even if your batting average is higher than Young’s or Quentin’s, just as in 2006, a hot DaVanon subbed mostly for you in April, even though you were batting higher than Gonzalez or Green for the first three weeks of the season. Last year, the emphasis was on Gonzalez and Green. In 2007, it will be on Young and Quentin.
Arizona kept your rights for 2007 for a contingency: if Young got seriously hurt or had a bad year in Triple A and looked like he needed another season in the minors, or if they could use you for trade bait in ’07. But the only way they will keep you long-term is to talk you down in dollars in return for length of contract. Let’s say you got the multi-year deal you want. Don’t be suprised if they offered two years instead of three. If all goes according to "The Plan," Upton makes in the team in 2008 and you get relegated to the bench as a "veteran presence." This has the makings of disaster for you because you are not at your best coming off the bench. Some guys are better off being part-timers. Catcher Sal Fasano discovered this in Baltimore when Javy Lopez got injured and Fasano played 34 straight games. Others, like Mark Sweeney of the Giants, are great pinch-hitting talents. Still others, and you are one of this group, need to play everyday to stay sharp. If you get relegated to part-time status and then do poorly, you will be labeled as a journeyman part-timer who had a couple of decent years, but is more personality than ability. Who knows where and in what capacity you will end up then.
The other not very pleasant possibility is that you get the three-year deal but are traded anyway. A multi-year deal, in and of itself, will not prevent you from being trade bait. Just ask Bronson Arroyo. You would have no control over where you ended up and could end up far from the playoffs and still riding the bench. You could demand another trade if AZ traded you in the first year of a multi-year deal, but again, you wouldn’t have control over where you would be sent.
You are really better off with the one-year deal. Your situation is a lot like that of Frank Thomas. He had something to prove after injuries limited him in 2004 and 2005. He signed a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the A’s, reached the incentives to move him from $500,000 to $2.5 million and just inked a two-year deal with the Blue Jays for $18 million, with a vesting option for a third year. You had something to prove after an abysmal 2005 and you proved it. I’m only sorry you are not a free agent now. But don’t make that bad situation worse by looking for two or three years with the D’Backs, however much you crave stability. Their front office doesn’t have you in "The Plan."
Arizona was hoping for you to turn in the defensive performance that you did. If you had done that with a .250 batting average with 15 homers and 60 RBI, that would have been an improvement over 2005’s .226 with 10 homers and 40 RBI, but nothing that would have raised any eyebrows if Arizona then quietly traded you or non-tendered you this off-season. Yes, you bring energy to the team, but so does Orlando Hudson, and so does new bench coach (and possible 2009 manager?) Kirk Gibson. Carlos Quentin’s aggressiveness in the field also makes him look like he’s a sparkplug in the making.
You gave them more at the plate than they were expecting. Even Bob Melvin said that you exceeded expectations. The D’Backs weren’t looking for you to be the team homer leader; that was supposed to be Chad Tracy. They weren’t looking for you to set the franchise record for combined homers and stolen bases. They weren’t looking for you to be in contention for the team lead in RBI on the last day of the season. But it’s still not enough that they would re-write "The Plan" for you. You are better than a lot of people will acknowledge, even now. But both Young and Upton are projected to be superstars. They are younger, cheaper, and can be under D’Backs control for longer, than you. Even if you really come into your own next year—and I’m convinced you can be a 30/30 man given enough starts–your upside diminishes each year.
A trade this off-season could be a good thing. Specifically a trade that would send you home to the SF Giants. Moises Alou has gone the free agent route. Steve Finley’s option was not picked up, and there’s a good chance that Barry Bonds will not be re-signed. In Arizona, you are considered a "veteran presence." But at 31, nine years younger than Mo Alou, you would be part of the "youth movement" the Giants are obviously looking for. You would be the everyday player you want and need to be. I know you prefer CF, and with the Giants that would be possible, but I am thinking right now of an outfield of you in LF, Gary Matthews, Jr. in CF and Randy Winn in RF. (Go DH in the AL, Barry!) That’s sweet. Three Bay Area products, all quite capable of covering a lot of ground out there. You have the added advantage of having the strong personality and already-established Bay Area fan base to handle being Bonds’ successor in left field.
The best trades benefit both sides. The D’Backs need pitching, as most MLB teams do. With Lowry and Cain among their starters, the Giants have a stronger starting rotation than the Snakes, even without Jason Schmidt. So maybe they can part with one of their relievers. I nominate Kevin Correia. But maybe they’ve got someone in the minors who will be MLB-ready by 2009, and some cash they can spare by not re-signing Bonds.
But if a trade that gets you to the Giants for 2007cannot be arranged, again, I say the best thing you can do would be to sign a one-year deal, have a fine 2007, even if you are traded part of the way through, and move into free agency next off-season. With two good years in a row and three out of 4 good years, and no desire to break the bank, it is possible that even more teams will seek your services for 2008 and beyond than did for 2006; you could control your destiny. (And if Barry Bonds stays in SF to set the new homer record, the Giants will definitely be needing a new left fielder in 2008).
I understand that the thought of moving one or two more times is depressing, Byrnesie. But tie yourself down now to a team that is more interested in its twenty-somethings than in you, and you will find that what you thought was security was in fact a rut…and that the only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.
Kellia "Visualizing 150+ STARTS for Byrnesie in ’07" Ramares
It’s been quite a year for the man who was the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year. He also won the ASG Home Run Derby, and was the MVP of the recently concluded Japan Series.
DTLFL was hoping he would hit 60 homers, but with pitchers reluctant to throw him strikes in September, he ended up with "only" 58.
We were rooting for him to win this award. As great as Albert Pujols is, the Cardinals were expected to make the playoffs. The Phillies didn’t make it, but we figured Ryan Howard kept them hanging around longer than they would have without him. We thought the Phillies, at least their front office, not the guys on the field, threw in the towel on 2006 when they traded Bobby Abreu to the Yankees. But the team had a big bounce after that and Ryan Howard was a part of it. That’s an MVP to us.
The Chicago Cubs have landed the biggest fish in this year’s free agent pool, signing the 30 year-old 40-40 man, Alfonso Soriano, to a deal reported to be for 8 years and $135 million. They have also held on to Aramis Ramirez and Derek Lee, which suggests that Lou Piniella will field a formidable lineup.
MLBlogs says, "it’s time for bloggers to ask: Could the 2007 Cubs be next in the anything’s-possible era?"
DTLFL says "No. Not without the pitching." Of course, the Hot Stove season is still young and the Cubs may yet find the arms. They have already traded for reliever Neal Cotts, and he could be turned into a starter. But they have also re-signed Kerry Wood, and he’s dicey, given his injury history.
With Soriano, A. Ramirez and a healthy D. Lee, the Cubs should be significantly better than they were in 2006. But they are going to have to go a lot further in bolstering their pitching staff if they plan on playing well into October ’07. As the Mets, Yankees and Red Sox have discovered recently, feared lineups don’t win without the pitching.
Pending a physical, lefty specialist Jamie Walker is expected to sign a 3-year deal worth $11.5 million with the Baltimore Orioles. According to Spencer Fordin’s report on the deal, "Walker has mostly been used to face just a few batters and only worked in 12 games last year where he recorded more than three outs."
And for this he’s going to get almost $4 million a year.
If starters have to face all comers for 5 innings to get the win, why can relievers be such specialists and still make a fortune? How many position players will be expected to play 9 innings for more games than a lefty specialist and do it for less than $4 million?
Has relief pitching has gone over the top?