Andy Martino of the Daily News, spoke to a person with direct knowledge of the team’s thinking who said that the Mets are more likely to keep Marlon Byrd this summer, rather than trade him before the Trade Deadline on July 31.
We can debate the pros and cons of that, but I want to discuss Byrd in a different context for now.
When you think about a player that deserves to be MLB Comeback Player of the year, you think about an athlete that was once touted as the next big thing, or has had a string of good years and then something happened, either he just lost it, it was mental or just his mechanics. This player can’t find what it is that caused his sudden decline, so he struggles for a season or maybe even two, or maybe it is so bad that he never recovers and his career is never the same.
In my knowledge only one player has fit that bill and I can remember Phillies Closer Mitch Williams being greatly affected by the 1993 Series-clinching three-run home run that he gave up to Blue Jays outfielder Joe Carter that propelled the Jays to World Champs. After that game Mitch was never the same and his career spiraled in the wrong direction. In 1993, Williams saved 43 games but the years to follow he never recovered from that home run and he would never find his dominance again. If Williams would have come back even in 1995 and been somewhat as dominant as he was in 1993, he definitely would have won the award.
Experts and critics always look at what propelled a player not to be able perform at a level he had been accustomed to. Bleacher Report ran an article by MLB Lead Writer Jason Martinez on March 20, 2013 that listed the Top Candidates for the 2013 MLB Comeback Player of the year. Lance Berkman, Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Howard, Ubaldo Jimenez, Tim Lincecum, Victor Martinez and Troy Tulowitzki all made the cut.
All these players are certainly worthy candidates heading into this season. The one who stands out to me is Red Sox outfielder Jacob Ellsbury who in 2012 and only 74 games, batted .271 with 4 home runs, 26 RBI’s and 14 stolen bases. The sudden decline from his 2011 stats when he posted a .321 batting average, with 32 home runs, 105 runs batted in, and 36 stolen bases, was because of shoulder issues that forced him to the disabled list. Now in the first half of 2013, he is batting .306, 7 triples, 36 stolen bases and 57 runs scored. He has helped propel the Red Sox into first place in the American League East. If he continues this trend, he can be a viable consideration for Comeback Player of the Year.
One player that no one seemed to have on their radar is our very own, Marlon Byrd. Yes, even in the first month or so of this season, Mets fans were not impressed with his production and were basically calling for him to be traded or even waived. He wasn’t the power hitter that the fans hoped the organization would have picked up in the off-season. Byrd’s best year was in 2009 while playing for the Texas Rangers when he batted .283 with 20 home runs and 89 RBI’s. Since then he has not come any where near those numbers and even served a 50 game suspension in 2012 for testing positive for Tamoxifen, which is a medicine that blocks the effects of the estrogen hormone in the body.
As reported on ESPN.com on June 25, 2012, Byrd issued a statement through the MLB Players association when he stated:
“I am mortified by my carelessness and I apologize to everyone who loves this game as I do. I will serve my suspension, continue to work hard and hope that I am given an opportunity to help a club win later this season.”
Well Byrd was given that chance but it came with the 2013 Mets and if his play of late is any indication that he is ready to make a comeback, it is with a team that desperately needs this type of player. Byrd is batting .268, with 15 home runs, 49 RBI’s and 14 doubles. He leads the Mets in home runs and RBI’s and as of late has become the go to guy when a big hit is needed. Byrd is the sudden surprise to a team that only a month ago was looking for answers as to who can they put in the outfield that can stay and make a difference, well Byrd has stepped up and assumed that role. He is on pace to smash his 2009 stats with the Rangers and hopefully help the Mets to save a lost season.
I chose Byrd as my candidate for MLB Comeback Player of the Year, because of where his career had been heading and how it all came crashing down after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. But he worked hard to build up his reputation in the game and especially with the fans.
People will never forget what he did and he will never live down what he did, but because he loves this game, he put the work in that was needed to save his career, even if it is just for one season.
Byrd is what the Mets might have hoped he would be and even better. If he finishes as strong as he is ending the first half of 2013, then he should be given the award. Baseball awards are not handed out based on half-seasons, but from what we have seen so far, Marlon Byrd is a great candidate for the award.