Former Diamondback Released by Seattle

“Designated LF Eric Byrnes for assignment.” With this brief statement the Arizona Diamondbacks cut ties with outfielder Eric Byrnes who during the 2007 season they had awarded a 3-year $30 million contract. This was not a decision to be taken lightly.

The Diamondbacks were still on the hook to pay Byrnes $11 million for the 2010 season. It wasn’t as traumatic as when the team ate the financial losses to get rid of pitcher Russ Ortiz but it was still a lot of money to be paying someone you didn’t want to play for you.

It is not that Byrnes is a bad guy or even a terrible player. He gives his all on the field and you could not ask for him to do anything more than he does.

After the 2006 season the Diamondbacks cut ties with fan favorite Luis Gonzalez. This caused a tremendous amount of fan backlash. At this same time the Diamondbacks turned over the left field position to the wild haired energetic Byrnes.

Byrnes quickly became the new fan favorite as everyone cheered his diving catches, running into the outfield walls, and frantic base running. In the 2007 season the Diamondbacks came out of nowhere to capture the NL West pennant making it deep into the play-offs finally losing in the NLCS to the Colorado Rockies. Byrnes was a huge part of the team’s success and was rewarded with a long-term contract.

The next two years saw Byrnes spend more time on the disabled list than he did on the playing field. Where he was once a fan favorite he quickly became the poster child for greedy players who did not live up to their contracts.

This was an unfair assessment. The only thing Byrnes was guilty of was accepting the contract that was offered to him and trying to play through injuries when he should have been rehabilitating.

In the end the Diamondbacks needed to go a different direction with their outfield. With the return of Conor Jackson and the emergence of Gerardo Parra there just was not a spot on the roster for Byrnes forcing them to make the difficult decision to release him.

During Spring Training Byrnes caught on with the Seattle Mariners where he would try to become their fourth outfielder and a right-handed bat off the bench. It appeared as though Byrnes had regained his enthusiasm for the game and was again playing with reckless abandon.

When the season started Byrnes struggled to find his rhythm and struggled mightily at the plate. In a tie game against the Texas Rangers Byrnes found himself at the plate with Ichiro on third representing the winning run.

The Mariners called for a suicide squeeze bunt. Byrnes squared around to bunt with Ichiro racing down the third base line. Inexplicably Byrnes pulled back his bat and took the pitch. Ichiro was tagged out ending the inning.

Within a day of that incident the Seattle Mariners like the Diamondbacks cut ties with Eric Byrnes releasing him. Within three years of signing a contract with the expectation that he would become the face of the Diamondbacks, Byrnes would be out of baseball.

He is now back home in California where he is surfing and playing in a recreational softball league with his friends. It is probably a safe statement to say he is the first person and hopefully the last person the Arizona Diamondbacks will pay $11 million to play beer-league softball.


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