The Mets finally have a legitimate MLB outfielder on their roster. Sort of.
By signing Marlon Byrd, the Mets have someone reporting to Port St. Lucie who played at least one full season as a starting outfielder at the Major League level.
I know, I know — experience is overrated. And in this specific case, I agree. Other than the experience of 1100+ games as a Major League outfielder, including a handful as a starting center fielder, the 35-year-old Byrd doesn’t have much to offer. He had an adequate season in 2011 with the Cubs, but after a rough start in 2012 was dealt to the Red Sox on April 21. He played in 34 games for Boston before being released in mid-June. Though he hit .270 for the Bosox, it was all singles — 24 to be exact (out of a total of 27 hits). His OBP was .286 (he walked only twice) and his OPS .606. Once the owner of above-average speed, he was caught stealing twice without swiping a base.
Interestingly, not even PEDs could help keep him in MLB; shortly after his release, it was revealed that he failed a test, testing positive for Tamoxifen.
Byrd’s statement went like this:
“I made an inexcusable mistake,” the statement said. “Several years ago, I had surgery for a condition that was private and unrelated to baseball. Last winter, I suffered a recurrence of that condition and I was provided with a medication that resulted in my positive test. Although that medication is on the banned list, I absolutely did not use it for performance-enhancement reasons.
I believe Byrd when he says he did not use Tamoxifen (a.k.a., Nolvadex) for performance-enhancing reasons. He probably didn’t — at least, not directly. Tamoxifen / Nolvadex is a drug used primarily for two reasons: by women in treatment for breast cancer, and by bodybuilders for maintaining various chemical levels when cycling off steroids. It’s similar in that latter way to Clomid and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG); some of you may remember hCG was the banned substance for which Manny Ramirez tested positive (the first time).
I suppose it’s possible that Byrd’s “private condition” was breast cancer, and it’s his business to keep such a thing private, but, color me pessimistic. Maybe it’s the fact that I know all too well about why muscle heads at Gold’s Gym use Nolvadex. Maybe it’s because Byrd worked closely with BALCO founder Victor Conte — and was the only MLBer still under his “care” as recently as 2011. Maybe it has something to do with that blip in his career — 2009, in Texas — when he doubled his previous career-high homerun total. Hmm … Nelson Cruz and Pudge Rodriguez were also on that ’09 team … and Sammy Sosa and Jerry Hairston, Jr. were his teammates in ’08 … ahh, probably just a coincidence.
By testing positive, Byrd was suspended from MLB for 50 games. However, he had already been released, and didn’t catch on with another club. If he happens to make the 25-man roster out of spring training, does that mean he must serve his suspension for the first 50 games of 2013? Or is the fact he didn’t play after June of last year considered “time served”?
Also, is it just a coincidence that the Mets announced the signing of a PEDs user on a Friday night? That’s the PR person in me; it’s standard, in any industry (other than possibly the NFL), to release news you want to get “buried” on Friday night, knowing that less people are paying attention and by Monday, when people are checking news again, will have several more headlines sitting atop whatever happened on Friday night.
Beyond my wild conspiracy theories, I wonder if Byrd’s signing means the Mets won’t be pursuing any other outfielders — such as Michael Bourn. My guess is that Byrd’s presence is irrelevant, and if another decent outfielder wants to join the fun in Port St. Lucie, the Mets will welcome him with open arms (if closed pockets).
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.