Oh Byrnsie, Where Have You Gone?
10 days ago, it seemed like sending Eric Byrnes to the DL would be the cure that the team needed. Now, without him, the team has only won two games. At the earliest, Byrnsie won't be back until June 11th in New York. Can the struggling outfielder really be making that big of a difference even on the DL?
It would seem that Bob Melvin is partially to blame for the struggles of the team. Managers always get too much heat when things go poorly and not enough credit when things go well, but Bob Melvin is actually the opposite. He rarely gets criticized when the team is playing poorly and is lavishly decorated with awards when the team does well. When he ruined a 93-win Seattle squad and brought the team 99 losses, struggling old players were blamed. Bret Boone, John Olerud, Edgar Martinez, Randy Winn, Rich Aurillia, and Dan Wilson were all blamed and most were removed from the team as was Bob Melvin.
He was then brought to Arizona where, despite having a Pythagorean W-L of 79-83, Melvin was lauded for doing the statistically impossible and finishing with the best record in the National League. Fans said that it was his great maneuvering that made the difference. Perfect pinch hitters in the perfect situation, the right pitcher for the right batter, etc. He could do no wrong. On a team that once saw Augie Ojeda pitch a perfect inning during one game and then, a week later, saw Jeff Cirillo throw for another inning, Bob Melvin was the Mad Scientist behind this aberration of a great team. The awards came, as did the long term contract, and no one said differently.
Now that we see last years statistics catching up with us, the blame has fallen squarely on one man's shoulders: Eric Byrnes. And why shouldn't it? Despite not even being the highest paid player on the team (Johnson) or owning the lowest batting average (Burke), Eric Byrnes had a giant target painted on his back. He struggled through a huge slump and was even booed by the Chase Field crowd. Unacceptable performance from a man making $10M a year was the claim. It had to be the claim because Mark Reynolds, Justin Upton, and Chris Young were all wallowing in similar slumps at the same time and no one said a word.
Now that Byrnes is on the DL (a legitimate cause for his poor performance), the fingers don't know where to point. The city has turned a blind eye to the performances of the team because they have been on the road for much of this snuff fest. No one cries out when Alex Romero gets called up to replace Byrnes instead of professional hitter Trot Nixon. No one bats an eye when Chris Burke stands in left over defensively and offensively superior Jeff Salazar sits on the bench.
The bullpen has passed the buck in each and every loss showing flaws in Qualls, Pena, Cruz, Slaten, and Lyon. This has made it hard on the fans to groan and point when one of them comes in. One night Cruz will be lights out but Qualls will blow it, the next night Pena will mow them down before Cruz walks in a run. It is just the way they have played this year.
But Bob Melvin has sat quietly. John McClaren-style tirades are not going to happen in this kid-gloves organization. Josh Byrnes is not going to put on his best Hank Steinbrenner impersonation and threaten mass firings. No, there is a plan. The group believes in the plan and believes that it will work. They have exhibited patience beyond that of a saint with their plan. They stick to their guns and wait.
If someone doesn't come to their senses before the trade deadline, there will be a lot more time to wait in the off season. Chase Field is going to be awfully lonely this October.
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