Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In the twilight of your career, my love for you no longer Byrnes so brightly

I fell in love with you, dearest Eric Byrnes, in the year 2003. In our first year of love, nay, enrapture, you hit .261 with 12 home runs and stole 10 bases in just 121 games, and we were happy. Remember? Sure, it took us forever and a day to get to the big leagues, but we said to ourselves, nobody knows how good we can be, or the sheer volume of pluck, spunk, grit, and intangibles that flow through our veins. We will astonish the world.

In 2004 our relationship grew, as you suddenly could hit for decent average (.283), and your games played (143), home runs (20), and stolen bases (17) all increased. You were so toolsy! But we were greedy lovers, weren't we? We wanted more. We needed more. We throbbed with neediness.

Just when it seemed like our relationship would be easy, things became rocky. We moved to Baltimore and you lost your focus. You hit .226 in 2005, but I never once doubted you, even when Baltimore did and released you. I was a loyal lover and you rewarded me in 2006 when you hit 26 home runs, stole 25 bases, and had a passable .267 average.

But then something changed. At night, before we fell asleep together, you talked of having a career year in 2007. I nodded, of course, but deep down I was certain that I had already seen the best that Eric Byrnes had to offer. Your less-than-stellar .313 OBP in 2006 worried me, and for the first time in our long relationship, I began to doubt you.

And so in 2007, when you smashed all expectations with your 50 stolen bases, your 21 home runs, and your .286 average in a career high 160 games, I felt somewhat distant and emotionally detached. You had done this without me, without my fandom pushing you on to greatness. You had done this while my heart had moved on to other potential 20/20 players. So when you came home each night, flush with your own achievement, the best I could do was pretend that I cared. But the truth was I was a little bitter. You had become a fantasy baseball superstar, while I was still the directionless smudge of a person who posted pathetic emotional rants on his teensy-weensy baseball blog each night.

We both used to be so similar: underdogs in love. But once you got that shiny new ADP in 2008, I began to openly mock you by avoiding you in mock drafts. A few months into the season, I literally cut you down to size: I sliced your hamstrings with a pen knife while you were sleeping and then watched you try to play baseball through the pain. Your 2008 stats were predictably terrible: a .209 batting average with six home runs and four stolen bases in just 52 games. Sometime after the season ended, we separated, citing irreconcilable differences.

But now, as the 2009 season approaches, I find myself once again thinking about all the good times we had together. Sometimes I dial your number, only to hang up after the first ring. I worry that I pine for you only because I am lonely and you are dirt cheap and easily had. But even if that is the reason, isn't that okay? We are only on this earth for a short period of time, so shouldn't we spend the rest of our time together, even if it hurts sometimes?

I read everything they say about you. They say you will be paid $11 million dollars to be a reserve, that you are about to turn 33 years old, and that you will be no better than the 76th best outfielder. Others say that you are the 46th best outfielder, but that you should be avoided. And yet, you are somehow getting drafted in the 15th round, which seems quite high for a reserve. Others are taking you in the 12th round, which seems—nay, is—even higher. Confusing me even more is Bill James, who says you will get 540 at bats and hit 18 home runs and steal 20 bases. I don't know what to believe, but I'm beginning to think that this Bill James character (see also: Davis projection) is perhaps the most optimistic person in the galaxy. Why can't I open myself up to the possibility of hope as freely and easily as Bill James?

I heard you say in early November that your hamstrings were fully healed and that you're feeling the best you've felt since "tweaking" them early last spring. "Nothing has ever come easy for me in my career," I heard you say to that reporter. "I've had to battle for everything I've gotten in this game." I was hoping you'd mention me, how I had made your difficult times easier, and that now that you didn't have me, you were scared. But you didn't utter my name.

All this is to say that I am surprised to find that the very mention of your name both hurts and confuses me. Maybe that means I still care about you. I know we will never have what we once had, but I'm willing to get back together with you...if you let me draft you in the 18th - 20th round range. But, if you decide to let someone take you in the 15th round, our relationship is officially kaput. And yes, that is an ultimatum, but I reserve the right to change my mind depending on how you look in spring training.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

2003? Wow. You guys fell in love early. I only had a brief affair with Byrnes for the 2008 season. He wasn't on my radar much before that, and he hasn't been on it much since.