Monday, August 27, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #15

Overall: 65-67 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last Week: 4-3 (3-0 vs. Blue Jays, 1-3 vs. Devil Rays)

A's fans don't exactly have the best reputation.

About three years ago, there was this wee little fracas involving Oakland fans, a Texas Rangers reliever and a steel folding chair. (Scott Keith gave the whole thing ¼* and he doesn't usually review battle royales!)

The year before that, an A's fan threw a cell phone off the dome of Jurassic Carl Everett. And, try as I might, I can't come up with a better "dinosaur" gag than that.

A few years ago, I was at the Coliseum when the A's played the Mariners and saw fans wearing bootlegged "Ichiro Wok'd My Dog" t-shirts. You stay classy, Oakland.

It's quite the contradiction when one considers how the A's franchise is often labeled as one of the most intelligent in the game. And, all it took was one hopelessly lost season for all the idiots to come out and offer their own ill-formed opinions on everything with the team.

One of the most popular comments making the rounds on just about every A's blog and message board is that the team never should have gotten rid of OF Eric Byrnes.

Even if you're just a casual baseball fan, you've probably seen the guy. He's a regular on Baseball Tonight and their "Web Gems" highlight reel. His unkempt hair and glib, self-deprecating tone turned him into something of an overnight media sensation as he offered "expert" commentary during last year's playoffs on Fox TV.

And, he just signed a 3-year, $30 million extension with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Amazingly, he's only been out of Oakland for two years and, already, the locals have forgotten why we got rid of him.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should let all of you know that I never liked the guy. Even when he was hitting for the cycle or pinballing himself all over the outfield walls, my one response to anything he did in an A's uniform was: "He's still not an everyday player". And, he wasn't…until his age 27 season in 2003.

That year, Byrnes hit a respectable, if unspectacular .263/.333/.459. More disturbingly, though, is that those numbers included an off-the-cliff drop off after the All Star Break (.168/.242/.310) and a stark platoon split, overall (.752 OPS vs. RHP, .864 OPS vs. LHP). Byrnes also contributed one of the biggest baserunning gaffes in playoff history.

In Game #3 of the 2003 ALDS vs. the Red Sox, Byrnes attempted to score from third on a groundball from Miguel Tejada. Instead of tagging home plate, Byrnes inexplicably sought contact with Boston catcher Jason Varitek, missed the plate entirely and then was tagged out as he walked back to the dugout, because the throw home got away from Varitek, who chased it down.

In 2004, Byrnes put up almost identical numbers in the first and second half, but his platoon differential became more pronounced (.741 OPS vs. RHP, 1.005 vs. LHP) and his defense – always an adventure – became outright unacceptable.

He took routes like a Little Leaguer, regularly threw to the wrong base, missed cutoff men and, because he was occasionally capable of outrunning his own late jumps, gained a wildly undeserved reputation as "good". Finally, in July 2005, the A's got rid of the Kamikaze Crash Test Dummy (no, that really is his nickname) and let him stink up two other teams (Colorado, Baltimore) after the All Star Break (.191/.255/.282).

So, why do so many A's fans want him back?

Well, for one, he's a nice guy. I'd argue that there are a LOT of fans who truly believe that a team full of Eric Byrneses and David Ecksteins would be better (and more fun to watch!) than a team full of A-Rods and Bonds. I'll take my chances with the assh*les, thanks.

Secondly, and along the same lines, don't ever discount the "Hustling White Guy Theory". Perennial offensive mediocrities like Darin Erstad and Eric Owens built entire careers on the foundation that they run hard to first base. Hell, Pete Rose extended his own career for seven years past its expiration date because of…hustle. And, check those numbers: save for a fluky spike in 1981, Rose should've hung 'em up after the '79 or '80 season.

Finally…our old friend, "the recency effect". A's fans see Byrnes having a career year at the age of 31 and are all too willing to overlook the guy's litany of limitations. Thankfully, the D-Backs have saved the A's from themselves.

Make no mistake: This is a terrible, terrible contract for Arizona. They've got some great kids who are cheaper and better than Byrnes, but are now blocked by a guy who isn't nearly as good as he's looked this year.

Besides, we've already got Shannon Stewart, who's filling that particular description quite nicely for the A's. And, if Beane gives him a three year contract…

This Week: vs. Blue Jays (3), vs. Tigers (3)

1 comment:

Chen Ming Wang said...

NY Yankees Week 15

WILD CARD.....MAYBE, sort of.

Mussina Old
Clemens Old
Pettitte Old
Hughes Young and Injured
Chamberlain he can shut ANYONE down for one inning

No rike this pitching staff. I induce groundballs good. #1 Blue Jean.